Despite vaccine, travel industry will suffer for years, tourism expert says

Vaccinations could mean the beginning of the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, but one expert said travel and tourism will continue to feel damaging effects.

“This pandemic will be remembered for centuries — it will become a landmark,” said Mahmood Khan, professor and director of the Department of Hospitality and Tourism Management at Virginia Tech’s Pamplin College of Business.

Though most people have said they can’t wait to be freed from safety restrictions related to COVID-19, Khan doesn’t think travel will return to what it was.

“As we look to the new year, it’s unreasonable to expect that a flood of tourists will emerge once vaccines are available,” Khan said. “People are more hesitant to travel.”

Initially, Khan expects consumers will observe before deciding to travel.

“They will be looking at others, to see how they’re doing,” Khan said. “It will take some time for them to recover from all the psychological effects that have taken place.”

Since the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. accelerated in the spring, and was followed by the stay-at-home orders and advisories to physically distance from others, Khan said it will be important for tourism professionals to acknowledge the toll it has taken on potential customers.

“They have to deal with a different kind of clientele now,” Khan said. “Empathy and patience will be the two most important things all service providers have to take into account, whether it’s the travel or restaurant industry.”

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Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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