What are you afraid of?
Travel seems way too dangerous now, but you'll never guess why
Blame it on the media. Or Facebook. Or just good old-fashioned paranoia. But for some of us – and you know who you are – travel seems just too dangerous now.
Setting a new daily record for COVID-19 infections this week didn't help. And neither did wave upon wave of flight cancellations and the horror show on I-95 in Virginia. I imagine some of you just feel like staying home forever.
With good reason. It's been a long pandemic. With “fluona” and “deltacron” out there now, it could be even longer.
Actually, it doesn't look like it will ever end.
But these events aren't happening in a vacuum. We're surrounded by voices that tell us every day that this is bad, the worst it's ever been, and that we should probably never travel again.
So who are the fear-mongers encouraging these cancellations? The list of suspects is long, and includes news organizations, social media and businesses themselves.
You can probably guess the identity of the real culprit. But let's break it down.
Who do you blame?
I’d love to get your thoughts on the COVID media hype. Who is whipping you into a frenzy of fear? Push the red button to leave a comment.
Did the media do this?
It's one of the most common comments: The media is "overblowing" the COVID-19 threat and scaring people away from traveling again. Normally, when I see a comment faulting the press, I give it a "like" or an "amen," but that's self-incriminatory because I am part of the media. I even published a newsletter in which I warned against some (but not all) travel.
But when I saw this week's headlines, I wasn’t proud of my profession:
Exhaustion, fear, and resignation: Welcome to Covid-19, 2022 edition (Vox)
Wow, so much to look forward to!
The Covid-19 case surge is altering daily life across the US. Things will likely get worse, experts warn
Worse than what? A million new infections a day? I think we're running out of people to infect.
‘Sheer Madness:’ Agencies Scramble to Implement New Policies for COVID-Positive Employees (Government Executive)
It's not COVID! It's actually Mad Cow disease. RUN FOR THE HILLS!
You get the point. The headlines, which are the only thing some people read anymore, are filled with hyperbole. When people read them, their blood pressure rises, and they reach for their phones to call their travel insurance company, which they have on speed dial. Is it too late to cancel that trip?
But is the COVID angst all the media's fault? Um, no.
We sure do like to sell a story with a sexy headline. I've written clickbait now and again. But to blame the entire media for our reticence to travel is painting with too broad a brush. The media amplifies what's already there, but it normally doesn't report fiction. So there's more to this than a few journalists trying to write something that will catch the search engine's eye.
There are other villains.
Please share this newsletter
If you love the discussion on this newsletter, please share it with a friend. The Sunday commentary is free — and the debate is priceless.
Blame it on Twitter
Social media is also stoking the fears of travel.
I mean, who wants to travel when you're treated like this?
Or feel like this?
Social media is filled with horror stories of travel companies treating their guests like trash. But should we blame social media for making us afraid of travel?
Well, maybe. Like the mainstream media, social media focuses on our fears. If you read enough horror stories, you may feel like you should just stay home. I have to admit, I do.
Social media provokes questions that can seem unfair. For example, a TV producer asked me if cruising was dead. I passed that question along to readers in our Friday Forum. We had a lively discussion.
Now, do I believe for one minute that cruising will end – that there's even a remote chance that will happen? No. It's hyperbole. But during the discussion, some readers said that they were so afraid of cruising that it was dead to them.
Even if you remove social media and the mainstream media, you would still have fear. And there's one reason for that.
Want more? Here’s how to upgrade your subscription.
There’s more to Elliott Confidential than this weekly newsletter. You can get the famous Friday Forum, the new podcast and the Monday Briefing. It’s just $60 a year — a 40 percent discount! Here’s how to sign up.
Did they do this to themselves?
Maybe the people are afraid to travel in 2022 is the travel industry itself. The pandemic was the travel industry's moment of truth. Airlines, cruise lines, car rental companies and hotels could have shed their customer-unfriendly policies and taken common-sense steps to bring their customers back at the right time.
Instead, they sprayed down their cabins and cars with foul-smelling sprays. They dressed their employees in double masks, face shields, gloves and goggles. But did they do it for the safety of their workers or just to make make us feel safer?
Still, rates climbed higher, rules tightened and it felt like the travel industry had learned nothing from the pandemic.
I think we're afraid to travel because the travel industry, for the most part, thinks safety is more of an amenity than an essential part of the experience. Many cruise lines will keep running their ships as long as they're allowed to, even if it's unsafe. Planes will keep flying. Hotels will stay open. After all, they have a business to run.
Remember Gartner's survey of customer service and support leaders that I mentioned last week? It found almost two-thirds (64 percent) say their top priority for 2022 is "growing" their business. Not helping customers – making more money.
I think we're afraid because travel businesses – indeed, many companies – have lost their way. For them, COVID is a situation to be managed, not an opportunity to improve.
We're afraid because an attitude like that could cost us our lives.
Who is to blame for stoking the fear of travel? The comments are open.
About the art
Artist Dustin Elliott found inspiration for this week's illustration in old science fiction comic books. "The alien invades Earth and wreaks havoc and devastation on bystanders, who flee for their lives," he says. But this monster is special: It incorporates media into its arsenal of death. "It wears a helmet of legacy media's primary message. This helmet preys on our basest instincts."