The first to be hit during the pandemic was the travel industry. Travel bloggers are cooling their heels at home and working out survival strategies
Anshul Akhoury, an award-winning travel blogger from Patna, was visiting Kerala to cover a festival in February, when Covid-19 cases in India were not high enough for it to be seen as a public health emergency. Aware of the travel advisories issued at the time, he had planned to return to his residence in Dharamsala before any restrictions were announced by the government.
Like many others, he failed to do so and is now stranded. “I was hoping to reach Dharamsala, but I couldn’t. I am stuck in a room with limited inspiration,” .he says.
In fact, being trapped inside a place is often part of horror stories in films and in the human imagination. It gets even more challenging when you are used to travel and depend on it for your livelihood.
The announcement of the quarantine is tough for travel bloggers as there are a lot of uncertainties around its length. Mohd Danish, a Delhi-based travel blogger and photographer, last visited Nandgaon, UP to cover the festival of colours, Holi. After returning home, he saw news of the lockdown. He is now waiting for this period to get over so he can get back to work.
He says, “We all are facing a difficult time sitting at home during summers instead of monkeying around. I am a traveller, so for me it is tougher to stay at home, as for two or three months I can’t explore new destinations. I can’t even express my feelings of how tough it is but I plan on staying at home till the threat from Covid-19 dies down, which is definitely not a good state to be in. But, it is the only solution and is definitely better than going out and risking trouble for us and our loved ones.”
Danish, despite facing difficulties, is making the most of the lockdown. He is also utilising his time by learning new techniques, reconnecting with school friends and spending time with his family.
Rajat, an independent travel blogger from Mahendergarh, Haryana feels the same. Rajat, who fancies visiting offbeat locations says, “I am used to it, except for the inability to step out for day-to-day social activities, I don’t find difficulty in sitting in front of my laptop and working all day. I often visit historical places and writing about them requires rigorous research, so I am using this opportunity to do that.”
For Rajat Kumar, traveling is an act of quarantining himself as he looks for places that few people visit and have not been commercialised yet. It is the very solitude of such places that attracts him. The lockdown has helped him work creatively.
However, not everyone is so complacent. Some travel bloggers view the future with a sense of unease. “The solitude travellers choose give the opportunity to socialise with mountains, rivers and natural beauty around them but this lockdown due to Covid-19 outbreak is frustrating. Of course, as a responsible citizen, I know that staying home is the best and only option,” says Nibedita Saha, Delhi-based journalist and avid traveller.
Anshul Akhoury is also facing difficulty dealing with the lockdown as travelling is an important part of his lifestyle. “A world where we are not able to go out is not going down well with me as I am used to travelling and experiencing diverse environments,” he says.
On the same note, Delhi-based travel blogger Radhika Sharma says, “Personally I feel very calm. I needed this time for introspection after back-to-back travels. However, professionally I have been impacted since my work is promoting tourism boards and travel companies, part of which have completely stopped for now and might take a while to recover!”
The Coronavirus outbreak has also given an opportunity to think and act to those working for the cause of responsible tourism. Since travel bloggers are important in terms of creating an information bank, they become even more important now. Rajat Kumar says, “Blogging is a responsibility. Whether in terms of maintaining the sanctity of a place or traveling in a time of emergency, travellers need information.”
Radhika agrees that the responsibility of travel bloggers is immense. “The travel bloggers I know are very responsible. They stopped traveling way before the lockdown was announced. All of us were collectively spreading information and asking people not to travel, even though traveling is, at the end of the day, our full-time job.”
The lockdown has affected many industries and professions, travel and tourism being one of the most obvious ones. As per government data, Foreign Tourist Arrivals (FTA) had come down by about 67% annually in the January-March quarter.
As per the Federation of Associations in Indian Tourism & Hospitality, the tourism industry is now heading towards closure of businesses and mass unemployment. It is believed that around 70% of the total estimated workforce (direct and indirect) may get unemployed. These estimates are giving nightmares to those who depend on this industry for their livelihood.
The slowdown in the economy had already affected these travel bloggers. “It has directly affected my work as I collaborate with resorts and travel-related companies for content and photography assignments,” says Anshul. But he is hopeful that the increase in the productivity of employees who are working from home will help create more opportunities for those working remotely.
Radhika believes that until the threat from Coronavirus dies down completely, the industry will be at a standstill. “I think travel bloggers would have to wait until the Coronavirus dies completely! Post lockdown, the industry shall pick up but very slowly. However, I am positive that we will recover soon.”
Danish is also hopeful about the future, he looks to deal with this challenging time with alternative planning and experimentation. “Economies around the world are in trouble and it will also affect us: less brand collaborations, less photo-shoots because obviously everybody will try to do what is necessary to keep afloat. I will try new options in my career; maybe I will explore new avenues in social media and travel experiments to cope with this, so that everything remains stable and I contribute at my level to the economy,” he says.
Travel bloggers will resume work as soon as this outbreak ends. It might not change the way these bloggers work. But it will definitely add a sense of responsibility towards reinvigorating the industry. More optimistically, it will spur travellers to finally getting down to visiting places on their bucket list as they have all the time to think wistfully of those dream destinations.