The Surprising Effect of the Covid-19 Pandemic on Boomer Travel
By Phyllis Stoller, NABBW’s Group Travel Associate
Who do you think were the first to begin to travel post-Pandemic? Based on our experience as tour operators, is was Boomer Women. Why? Older folks were the first with access to the Covid vaccine. We were also the most enthusiastic to get it. Not to forget that we were the most obedient abut safety protocols. And finally, who amongst the 70+ crowd didn’t have a ‘now or never’ gut feel when travel opened?
As travel slowly started again, this is what we tour operators experienced.
- Women wanted to go, more enthusiastically than ever.
- They wanted to know if everyone in the group was vaccinated (Our answer was yes, and we required proof of vaccination.)
- Boomers asked about insurance coverage; we re-read the fine print about Covid 19 and shared any changes.
- They asked us about testing to cross borders or come home.
- And the biggest worry: what happens if we test positive while we’re on the trip?
Like everyone — including the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) — we had to learn fast.
All of these new issues had the potential to be daunting. Especially because as tour operators, we had to think of any and all potential contingencies — and make plans to handle them. New tasks we undertook included:
- Get CDC card proof.
- Arrange testing for everyone pre-travel.
- Help with government documents for each country and for each trip.
- Arrange for overseas testing.
- Make sure all guides and drivers are tested and vaccinated.
- And the most critical new job: provide reassurance to our Boomer-aged travelers’ kids.
The reality was yes, these plans we made were critical to our success. We had to extend a hotel reservation, arrange local TLC and medical help in Chile for one lady, who tested positive. We also rebooked her air and transfers. There were two women more traveling with us in Mexico, who needed to quarantine and see a doctor.
During our Dubai/Abu Dhabi/Oman trip we arranged for four sets of tests as we moved from area to area. We pre-arranged for Covid tests to be administered in our hotel rooms, by qualified nurses.
In Mexico, two nurses came to the hotel, where the owner paid for testing on a sunny veranda!
In Tuscany, Athens and Paris we used local laboratories for tests. All testing was slotted into the itinerary, with minimal disruption and maximum group relief. Paperwork was official, with the right stamps and signatures.
Fortunately, we had no serious Covid cases; we believe our decision to require vaccination helped prevent a crisis.
Still, women flying with us for the first time were skittish, experiencing “maiden voyage jitters.” Most looked at their seat mates with wariness. The empty airports sometimes felt like crime scenes, complete with imaginary yellow tape draped across the vacant waiting area seats. Wherever we arrived at our destination — no matter whether it was Dubai, Athens, or Pisa — our travelers told us they felt a huge sense of relief. Almost a ‘get out of jail’ sort of relief. But thankfully, once safely landed, our WTG travelers quickly felt a return of normalcy and fun.
Now in 2023, what is the situation? Tests are history. For US and Canadian citizens, airlines and countries only require minimal special documents. But we still require vaccination and proof.
There are some safety measures we suggest:
- Masking is optional, but experts suggest you mask while the plane is boarding, then for 15 minutes during ascent; the same on descent and disembarkation. Why? The plane’s HEPA filters, which circulate air aggressively only reach their maximum once the aircraft attains high altitude).
- Washing hands is always smart.
- You might want to travel with your own Covid test kit for peace of mind.
- Boomers are back on the road again, getting dusty and loving it. They are back to asking us more traditional questions, like:
- How do I get the seat I want? (Let us know your preferences, so we can help make it happen.)
- How can I get a refund rather than a credit? (Recent USDOT proposals ask for stricter refund/credit rules and transparency of fees for air and cruise passengers. For now, if you are owed money, we suggest you search online for the email addresses of the air or cruise company’s “top guns.” Find the right name, then email them every two weeks.)
- Do we still require proof of Covid vaccination? (Yes, our traveler surveys confirm it is still critical to today’s travelers.)
In conclusion: Travel is back. We still mourn those who died, the schoolchildren who lost years, a neighbor without a paycheck, a missed birthday with a distant grandchild, the many vendors who were forced to shut their doors. We Boomer women are the lucky ones. But we earned our luck, ladies. So, let’s use it.
Phyllis Stoller is President of The Women’s Travel Group. Check out our website or find us on Facebook.