By the end of April, travel spending in Tennessee was down 81%, says Barry White, who heads the Chattanooga Tourism Company. In late May, we asked our readers whether they were among those whose travel plans had been squashed by the novel coronavirus and related precautions — and whether that would personally continue through the summer.
"Has COVID-19 impacted your summer plans?" we asked in an email blast.
It generated 49 responses, most of them in keeping with White's prediction: "Every indication is that travel industry losses will exceed any other sector."
But for all the stories we received of cancelled trips to Europe and other far-flung locales — many of which currently require self-quarantining for 14 days upon arrival and are limiting foreigners — there were hints at travel locally.
"'Shorter, closer, later' is how we've characterized booking trends for years now, but this summer may embody it more than ever," Dan Yates, managing director of worldwide campsite aggregator Pitchup.com, says in an early April Forbes article on predictions from 11 global travel experts. They also foresee an uptick in the popularity of outdoor recreation, campgrounds, smaller cities and off-the-beaten-path attractions, perhaps upending White's other prediction that it will take three years just to return to 2019 spending levels locally.
Here is a sampling of locals' summer plans:
"About now, my husband, Sam, and I would have been making the last-minute preparations for a trip to celebrate our 50th anniversary (June 18). We had planned to fly to England for a week of touring with an emphasis on, believe it or not, The Beatles. Our return would have been on the QM2 [cruise ship] and would have included a daily lecture on the group (e.g., the early Beatles, Beatles in politics, etc.). I am the nerd between us, so that would have been my favorite part.
"It is disappointing, but not traumatic. One of the reasons we have been married 50 years is that we can just enjoy each other when we are doing nothing. Instead of our overseas adventure, we will settle for a picnic around this lovely area and will save our foreign celebration for next year."
"We were planning a 10th wedding anniversary trip to Europe. Instead, we bought fishing kayaks and we'll be exploring Chattanooga's creeks all summer."
Kirby W. Yost
"We had planned to be in Disney this week, and of course that was cancelled. We had also planned a Park City [Utah] trip in April, which was cancelled.
"We were planning to take another trip to the beach in July, but are no longer doing that.
"Instead, we are going to the beach in June — to stay in a house (rather than a location with other guests) and have access to a private beach, hoping to distance from others. We are also doing a more low-key extended family trip (which replaces the Disney trip) at Fall Creek Falls in August."
"We normally travel to Newfoundland, Canada, in the summer. This year we were also going to bury my grandfather's ashes there. It looks like our plans are on hold for a couple more months or even until next year."
"I grew up in the military and my familty is scattered across the country and even Denmark. What has enabled me to be able to accept being apart is that I have always been able to get on a plane and go see them — to California, Colorado, Oregon, Virginia and Denmark. I've had to cancel 3 trips so far: to see my mother in VA, with my sister flying in from Denmark; meeting our kids in Colorado, who we haven't seen in too long; and a 45-year family tradition of a week at Fenwick Island, DE, where my family has a beach home.
"What's making it worse is the not knowing when we will be able to be together. No one wants to put our almost 91-year-old mother at risk, and most of our visits involve getting on a plane, and then lodging and car rentals.
"This situation has unmoored me. I alternate between despair and gratitude that everybody is healthy and doing okay. With guidance changing constantly, every long-distance travel alternative has its risks to someone. So we video-chat and talk on the phone and every other way to communicate electronically, and hope and pray for this to resolve sooner rather than later.
"Planning a closer beach trip with close friends to at least escape for a week!"
"As I type this, we had planned to be on a trip of a lifetime from May 20 to June 3, flying from Atlanta to Venice, Italy. Three nights in Venice, then embarking on a 7-day cruise of the Greek Isles on Norwegian Cruise Lines. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic caused the flights, hotel in Venice and cruise all to be cancelled.
"Also cancelled was my family reunion (I am one of 9 children) that was scheduled in Stevens Point, WI, on June 28. This is the first time in 50 years that it will not be held. Out of an abundance of caution, it was cancelled after realizing that about 23 of the estimated 55 attendees were in the older, high-risk group.
"Current plans are to spend a lot more time social distancing around home (Cleveland, TN) this summer. We may be able to reschedule the Greek Isles cruise trip and hopefully have the family reunion next summer."
"Yes, COVID-19 has kept greatly impacted my travel plans:
"Closed the John C. Campbell Folk School in March, where I was to do a weeklong yarn-spinning workshop;
"Cancelled a month in Key West, FL, in April;
"Scuttled a trip to the New Orleans Jazz Fest in early May;
"Let go of a hiking trip to the mountains of British Columbia in late May;
"Said goodbye for now to a June Tauck Tour of Scotland and a 4-night trip aboard the Royal Scotsman Train;
"Put the skids on July plans for the Handweaver's Guild of America convention in Knoxville — at least until 2022;
"Postponed a friend's 60th birthday trip to Jamaica until next year;
"And lots of other smaller trips.
"Still up in the air is a September Uniworld River Cruise in Bordeaux, France. We will see how that one shakes out. Honestly, I'm not sure I am ready to get on an airplane.
"But I am planning a late June visit to the new Blackberry Mountain resort in Walland, TN, as well as a few days in Orange Beach, AL. All in all, I consider myself lucky. I have a nice home to shelter in, food in my fridge and lots to keep my busy. But the travel is hard. I am on the go a lot and I must say I miss it."
" I have not been to the ocean or even on vacation for over 20 years. After taking care of ailing parents (God bless them in Heaven) and working hard to make ends meet, this would have been my first summer that I felt free enough to plan a trip to the ocean with my daughter and her husband. Before we even finalized the plans, COVID-19 came along and my wages got cut substantially, and I am not sure when or if they will return to the previous amount. But I am thankful to have a job and an income. My heart goes out to the many people suffering the severe effects of this pandemic. I will not be going to the ocean this summer, but I still look forward to beautiful weather and trips to the local river. I have no children at home but I have 3 gorgeous female cats that I adore — and I might even adopt a little brother kitty for them! Things will be okay."
"If not for COVID, I would be flying to Munich, Germany, tomorrow for an Eastern Europe trip that would have included seeing the Passion Play in Oberamergau. At 73, I considered it to be a once in a lifetime opportunity that is not going to happen.
"As a senior, I try to schedule trips in the off-season. In the summer, I want to be available to help with granddaughter living in Nashville area. She is too old for day camps and not old enough to drive."
"We had summer camps scheduled for our older two children, and all have been cancelled.
"We had planned a two-week road trip to visit Washington, D.C., New York City and relatives in Rhode Island. We may still travel, since we feel comfortable about staying in an Airbnb and visiting beaches and parks while maintaining social distances. The details of the trip are very much up in the air, but we think we'll still take a trip of some kind. We haven't decided whether or not to visit an aging relative. My parents were going to fly to meet us there, but they have decided to cancel so as not to put our relative at risk.
"We're hopeful that the city will open the play fountains so we can get some relief from the heat, but it doesn't seem promising. Maybe we can at least go to the pool.
"Otherwise, we'll keep hiking, biking, running, gardening and playing in the backyard."
"Our Norwegian cruise (planned since last fall) along the west coast of Canada and Alaska for this July was on again with just 50% of the passengers, but it has been cancelled as a further surge of coronavirus this summer appears to be anticipated. And it probably wasn't a good idea to reconsider it under the circumstances, anyway. We have the airfare, with which we would have flown to Seattle, to use until 2022. We're thinking of just renting a lakeside cabin in Tennessee for 5-7 days for a different type of sheltering-in-place. We wear masks in public, carry hand sanitizer, and have observed and continue to observe social distancing. We won't be eating out — only drive-thru and cooked meals at home until a vaccine is formulated and we can then all get back to normal."
Jessica D. McCosh
"With a toddler and an aging chocolate Labrador, we normally opt for vacations that are within driving distance. Last year, we went to Charleston, SC, and to Boone, NC. Both times we rented Airbnb homes, which have been great for family travel. As with family vacations, we pack our schedules with sightseeing, exploring nature and eating local cuisine.
"My daughter hasn't been in public since early March, so I can't imagine planning a trip to ride a packed carriage ride, walk through a crowded amusement park or wait in line at a restaurant. She doesn't understand the rules of socially distancing. As a result, we haven't made any vacation plans. Quite honestly, we are worried about the risk of vacationing as cases in the South are expected to rise. There's just too much uncertainty right now, even as restrictions are being lifted.
"It seems like it would be far more stressful to vacation during a pandemic. So this year we'll just stay at home and take day trips to the mountains."
What will Chattanooga and the world look like in 2030? Your guess is as good as ours, but ours are pretty funny.