The hope had been that international travel would become more restored by the summer of 2021, even if international economies were still heavily affected by the pandemic. Central Florida, in particular, is dependent on tourism from all over the world in order to maintain its economic fortunes. However, with the new strains of COVID-19 striking fears globally, it seems that hope might be farther off than desired.
I remember about this time last year, maybe a few weeks more. I was working out one weekday morning, listening to my podcasts and reading the news as I like to do between various exercises. One story caught my interest and I read it with some degree of uneasiness. It was the story about how a city in China I had never heard of was in lockdown for an epidemic and that the skies had allegedly become polluted with the smoke of mobile crematories that had been brought in. This was something to be concerned about. I noticed that a member of the US congress was beginning to bring attention to this unknown disease, and I started reaching out to contacts in Asia to see what might be taking place. Was this as serious a threat as I was noticing, or was it a nothingburger as many in the US were treating it?
I have that same sort of feeling as I report on these various strains of COVID-19, which Prime Minister Boris Johnson of the UK has now declared could be more virulent and more deadly than the Wuhan strain we’ve experiencing in the past. Indeed, it’s likely that the strain we’ve experienced in the United States was already different than the original Wuhan strain, and now it’s becoming difficult to keep track of the various strains and which ones pose more of a danger. One thing is for certain, however, this virus mutates faster than we’d all like to be the reality. As of now, we’re told that current vaccines are effective against all the known strains, but one has to wonder how long it will be until a new strain emerges that breaks the mold.
In response to these new strains – one of which is known as the UK strain and another a Brazilian strain – the Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, has announced significantly increased restrictions on international travel for his country. The United States is specifically targeted with travelers from the USA needing to self-fund various COVID-19 tests while strictly quarantining during their first weeks in Canada. The cost in money and time will be significant for anyone traveling from the states to the great white north.
Already, the tourism industry for Daytona Beach had been heavily impacted by the loss of Canadian winter tourists seeking warmer weather and a non-frozen ocean. With the understanding that these various strains are continuing to change over time, Central Florida may now be looking at an extended duration of mostly domestic reservations. Aunt Catfish’s restaurant may be okay with just the locals, but some hotels could really suffer if travel restrictions extend or are increased for Spring Break and beyond.
— Rusty McCranie (@RMcCranieWFTV) January 28, 2021
For Disney and Universal, this is unlikely to do great damage since their capacity reduction limits seem to be met almost every day. But for the businesses and economies that surround them, the dragging on of the pandemic is problematic. However, even for the major companies and their theme parks, the hope that the pandemic would end quickly after the vaccines were distributed seems to be dissolving. How much longer the global economy can handle heavy restrictions without a significant downturn is unknown, but it was be helpful for Orlando and surrounding areas if people still had plentiful money to spend sans hyper inflation once the pandemic comes to a close.
Even at our current trajectory, it doesn’t seem that the state of Florida expects tourism to return to fully normal until at least 2024. That’s a long, dreary time to wait. And while growth will almost certainly occur in between, it may be longer than some anticipated before the good ole days are back again. In the meantime, we applaud Disney and Universal on mostly making guests feel safe with precautions that seem to have prevented any mass outbreak from occurring for those who move past their turnstiles.
Of course, states like California are in a totally different situation than Florida. When we’re discussing Florida’s tourism economy, we’re actually talking about a downturn in their economy that may take years to recover. California and other states that have completely locked down for months on end are a type of category that we’ve never seen before. It’s difficult to say how their tourism industries will perform considering they’ve been completely shuttered for almost a year.
When do you think international travel will resume like before the pandemic? Let us know in the comments below.
Pirates & Princesses (PNP) is an independent, opinionated fan-powered blog that objectively covers Disney and Universal Theme Parks, Themed Entertainment and related Pop Culture from a consumer's point of view. Opinions expressed by our contributors do not necessarily reflect the views of PNP, its editors, affiliates, sponsors or advertisers. PNP is an unofficial news source and has no connection to The Walt Disney Company, NBCUniversal or any other company that we may cover.