There are hundreds of industries that have been impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic, and one of those dearest to my heart is the tourism industry. Not just because I myself am trying to start a business that is largely based on tourism and the ability to walk around a city freely, but also because I am an avid tourist who tries to travel whenever possible. I, like many others, had plans to travel locally and internationally this year and those plan have been impacted. I’m also thinking about those businesses who depend on tourism and how much they’ve suffered. As DC starts to slowly reopen, and I begin planning for the launching of Off the Mall Tours in earnest, I’m also thinking about how things will be different.
Will hotels limit their occupancy? Will museums start instituting crowd control and putting all exhibits behind glass? What will be the limit on the number of people in a group outdoors? What about modes of transportation? I’m planning to fly back to California in a week to see my family, and the thing that makes me the most nervous is being in a metal tube with a bunch of strangers for hours at a time. Even if I wear a mask, and have an arsenal of disinfecting wipes and antibacterial liquid with me, is it enough? More locally, from what I’ve heard from other DC townies they won’t be taking the metro any time soon. If people continue to be cautious and choose not to travel at all period, will it be worth it for certain tourism activities to reopen? All of this is on my mind, as well as the safety of continuing these activities. As a walking tour operator, I can do all I can to calm fears by offering masks and limiting the number of people on a tour, but will that be enough if people aren’t coming to the capital in the numbers they used to? Not to mention the availability of restaurants that have become one of the attractions of the city.
One thing that I have seen grow first-hand in DC over the past 17 years is the food scene here. I wanted to eventually offer a food tour, and with so many restaurants possibly not making it by the time all of this is over, that industry might be gutted in the near term. The number of small ethnic restaurants will undoubtedly be smaller. Some were able to jump on the carry-out and delivery business model bandwagon quickly, but not all of them. So will we be left with nothing but the chains that were able to survive? The city will inevitably be changed by all of this, and I hope it doesn’t lose what little cultural edge it has gained in the last decade.
Despite these fears and worries, I do honestly believe that the tourism and restaurant industries in DC will find their footing again, but with different procedures and norms. My hope is that the overall uniqueness won't disappear. I guess all we can do is what we need to to feel safe, hope for the best, and show DC some love. Raising a glass to optimism. Cheers to all.