Rick Steves, traveler, renowned author and presenter, talked about how he thinks the KOVID-19 pandemic could continue to affect travel as it begins to reemerge in full force. He recently spoke with Karin Fisher, specialist in international education, in a recorded interview entitled The Future of Travel with Rick Steves, which is now available online from its host, the Foundation for Education Abroad (FEA).
The virtual event was the first in a new series of virtual events called FEAtured Perspectives, which will feature conversations about travel and education to commemorate decades of increased access to global experiences for underrepresented students, made possible by FEA-funded study abroad grants.
As America’s most respected authority on travel in Europe, Steves covered several sub-topics, including the importance of travel in broadening one’s worldview, especially as increasing globalization and technological advances make the world smaller and more interconnected.
He stressed that the availability of vaccines will affect international travel when it resumes, and that it is the developed world that will receive the vaccines in the quantities needed to achieve herd immunity initially. He also predicted that many neighborhood shops, small local sites and unique museums that lost money during the pandemic could disappear forever.
A friend of mine runs a museum in Arkansas, Steeves says. He thinks a large percentage of the museums that had to close will not reopen. That’s my biggest worry… all those little moms and dads. These are fine companies that make travel enjoyable.
He said travel agents and travel guide publishers, such as his, should look at destinations to determine which websites and small businesses have survived and update their offerings and guides accordingly. When this is over, this will be the biggest challenge for companies like ours. We need to travel the world to see what little shops are still open, Steves said.
He also predicted that the next generation of travelers will demand a more ethical approach to travel, applied on an industrial scale. In addition to gaining knowledge about ethical travel practices, Steves said travelers can also find ways to reduce their carbon footprint in terms of transportation.
He explained how his own small group travel company, Rick Steves’ Europe, started offsetting carbon emissions.
I made too much money because no one would let me pay for carbon. So I imposed a carbon tax of $30 per person. We have $1 million invested. We are also donating $8 million to 10 different organizations in developing countries that help farmers adopt climate-friendly farming practices and to organizations that help restore and protect forests, Steeves said. By investing in these organizations, we offset the total carbon consumption of 30,000 travelers to and from Europe. And consumers feel good when they know that they have arrived in Europe in a climate-neutral way, at least as far as flights are concerned. There’s nothing heroic about me doing this, it’s just ethical.
The virtual event also included comments from three current FEA Fellows, who reported via video on their travel and study experiences abroad during the pandemic: Julie Kim of Temple University in Rome; Joy Bernal of the University of South Carolina in Barcelona; and Shadia Amir of Western Washington University in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Click here to watch the first episode of the FEAtured Perspectives livestream series, which includes an interview with Rick Steves, and visit fundforeducationabroad.org for more information.