Coronavirus pandemic changes holiday travel season after dire warning

WATSON ISLAND, Fla. – With Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations approaching, not everyone is measuring the risks of the holiday travel season during the coronavirus pandemic in the same way.

The travel and tourism industry, which is a vital part of South Florida’s economy, has adapted with enhanced cleaning and safety guidelines, but it won’t fully bounce back until the coronavirus vaccine is distributed.

“As long as people are following the rules if you are wearing a mask, that is going to help us to get over this hurdle,” said Tori Emerson Barnes, the U.S. Travel Association’s executive vice president of public affairs and policy.

Doctor Aileen Marty said that it is important for South Florida residents to avoid crowds and not travel at all. The Florida International University infectious disease expert has been asking people to increase hand washing and wear face masks to reduce their risk of infection, as the coronavirus pandemic is worsening,

Coronavirus infections have surpassed 11.7 million nationwide — including more than 923,400 in Florida. This is why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a warning on Thursday pleading with Americans not to travel for Thanksgiving. But despite the warning, more than 50 million people still plan to fly commercial to visit relatives around the United States.

“Many of the plans for Thanksgiving travel, I would imagine, are already in place. I don’t know to what extent that may influence people to cancel what they already had in place,” said Rolando Aedo, the chief executive officer of the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Some of the universities that reopened classrooms in the fall are increasing access to coronavirus testing to help students decide whether or not it’s safe for them to go back home for the holiday season. Some are asking students to finish the semester online if they decide to go home for Thanksgiving.

Marty and other infectious disease experts said it’s not safe to travel during the holiday season and virtual reunions are the best way to celebrate. Barnes, Aedo and other experts said the travel and tourism industry is focusing on social responsibility to help restore consumer confidence.

“The only way the economy is going to get better is if we can get folks moving in a way that they are practicing these safe processes and really thinking about the greater good,” Barnes said.

About the Authors:

Christina returned to Local 10 in 2019 as a reporter after covering Hurricane Dorian for the station. She is an Edward R. Murrow Award-winning journalist and previously earned an Emmy Award while at WPLG for her investigative consumer protection segment "Call Christina."

The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013. She wrote for the Miami Herald for more than 9 years and won a Green Eyeshade Award.