Have you abandoned all hope of taking a main two-week vacation this year?
It would be entirely understandable if you have. For many of us, the ability to look forward to a good holiday is one of the things that helps us put up with the drudgery of our jobs – if we still have a job, that is, thanks to Covid-19!
For me, the ability to afford a decent holiday was one of the perks of being employed. It was something I pretty much tried to insist on. But my wife during the period of my highest earnings was not so keen. We would go away, enjoy (I think) the experience but, nearly always afterwards, my wife would bemoan how much we had spent. “We could have had a new kitchen for what we spent,” was among the typical comments. At the time, I thought she had her priorities wrong. She felt the same about me. The marriage didn’t last. Funny that.
We had been with our children to places such as the Bahamas, Florida (a few times) and Portugal. But there was always an element of regret afterwards on my wife’s part. Strangely, since we separated, she seems to go somewhere at least twice a year and, by all accounts, gets ratty if she can’t have a breakaway. She went for a short break to Spain for her birthday at the start of the coronavirus crisis and was disappointed to have to come back a day early because everywhere was shut. At least she got back!
This year, I have a little more than a fortnight booked in September. My children are long out of school so I am able (and keen) to avoid the high air prices of the school holidays. I had planned to go to my favourite place – Thailand. But I am not overly hopeful.
Thai Airways is looking knackered and (as I write) I think there is still the need to self-quarantine at your own expense for two weeks when you get there. I had planned to go for 16 days. So, two days of freedom – just not worth it. And that is without maybe having to self-quarantine for two weeks when I get back in the UK. But that is not such a problem given I now can work from home using the power of the Internet and look like doing so for several months to come. The way things are shaping up I am not sure I will ever be asked to go back to the office five days a week. If I could work from home all the time maybe I could be based in Thailand and still do what I do for an English company. But, let’s not get carried away here.
With each passing day, I read of one airline or another experiencing difficulty. The virus, of course, also impacts on airports. London’s Heathrow Airport is handling just a fraction (about a fifth) of the passengers it usually does and it is not as if we are going to see a magic wand waved over the situation any time soon. Many believe that its plans for a third runway are dead – or, at the very least, mothballed. Business travel may take many years to recover – if ever – as we are being forced to discover that video conferencing work pretty well, thank you. Plans for a second terminal at my second favourite airport – Suvarnabhumi in Bangkok – are still going ahead. The officials who made the decision are either inspired or have their collective heads in the sand. Come back to me in a few years for a hindsight evaluation.
I believe that Thailand has handled the coronavirus better than the UK in terms of the numbers that have been infected and/or died. But, I do wonder how accurate the Thai figures are. No conspiracy theory, I just doubt the efficiency of its reporting systems. But, let’s just say that the figures are right and that coronavirus in Thailand is not such a threat to residents or holidaymakers. If that is the case, I can’t help wondering why it is okay to re-open shopping malls while the beaches remain closed.
Could it be a case of who will profit from the malls versus who will profit from open beaches?
Or am I just being very cynical here?
But, back to holidays. I feel very sorry for those who, as is traditional, booked their break at the start of the calendar year and paid a deposit. For many, the “please pay the balance” time is either here or not very far off.
Work colleagues I have spoken to (via Microsoft Teams, no contact, of course) are divided. Some say they will cut their losses and not pay the balance; others feel that if they pay the balance they may get all their money back from their holiday insurance. It’s one of those “do you feel lucky punk” calls (apologies to Clint Eastwood as ‘Dirty’ Harry Callaghan).
For me, if the deposit were just, say, 10% I would not risk spending the other 90%. But, that’s just me. I have this fear of insurance companies always being keen to come up with a reason not to pay.
Fortunately, I had not tried to book my September flight by the time the coronavirus struck.
Last time I went to Thailand, December 2019, I flew via Beijing. I was ill the entire four weeks I was in the Land of Smiles. I did not have coronavirus symptoms, those came after I got back to the UK, but, let’s put it this way, I will be in no rush to fly with a Chinese airline again, no matter what the saving. I don’t know for sure that I caught something on a China Airways flight, but who wants to take the risk?
Of course, when travelling abroad is not easy – for whatever reason – our thoughts turn to holidays at home. But, if lockdown restrictions are not lifted soon, even that option will not be open to us. Potentially, it’s going to be a miserable 2020.
In the UK, we have a car industry that has had all its dealerships shut for many weeks. I have heard from a couple in the trade who think that to make up for not being able to take a holiday people might turn their minds to buying a car. Wishful thinking or based on a reasonable supposition? I leave you to make your own minds up.
By Dave Buckley