It started quietly, an unknown disease on the other side of the globe. And then, suddenly, it was everywhere. Suddenly, our group of high-flying travel writers and photographers was grounded – literally and indefinitely– by COVID-19, a new and highly infectious coronavirus that as of this writing has infected one million and killed nearly 60,000 in the US alone. At least three million are infected worldwide.
Everything is cancelled. Entire cities and states are on lockdown. The great centers of tourism and culture shuttered. Concert halls and stadiums are empty, the iconic streets of San Francisco – along with its famed hotels and restaurants—are deserted. Tourism is on life support, along with a significant percentage of the international population. AT BATW, we cancelled our in-person March, April and May meetings, and have a wait-and-see for the rest of the year.
For many of us at BATW, this outbreak has meant professional calamity — cancellation of long-planned domestic and international travel, and a loss of income. Reliable outlets and publications have closed or cut back. Like so many, some of us are struggling to meet basic living expenses.
For all of us in the Bay Area, confined for the safety of ourselves and others until at least June 1, it has meant the longest journeys we take are inside our heads and homes. These days, a BATW trip is from the suburbs of of Bedroomia to the spa of Bathrobia, from the Island of Livingroom to the bold Carnivale of Kitchen or the Principality of Patio. Shopping for essentials is a daring trip, masked and gloved. Social distancing entered our vocabulary and – sadly – our lives. Our members thrive on meeting and mingling with new people, now as hazardous as meeting a predator in the wild.
And we have no idea when it will end.
We do know it will be different, and that we need to adjust our expectations and our travel journalism. We also see how restricting travel has benefited our planet: for the first time in decades, we see New Delhi without killing smog, swans in the usually polluted canals of Venice, and no huge cruise ships docking and damaging small ports. And we are blessed to live in one of the most beautiful, rich and envied sources for travel journalism in the world: California.
At BATW, we are working at adjusting and looking for ways all of our members can help each other, the industry and the environment. Like the rest of the world, we’ve begun meeting virtually on Zoom. We had an informal happy hour, or Chatty Hour, on April 7 where members sipped beverages and shared updates. On April 21, a Meet the Editors panel and discussion drew almost 40 members from as far as New Zealand.
But we’re not done. And we will meet again!
- The submissions deadline has been extended to May 8 for entries to our 2020 Book project, Unforgettable: The Best of the BATW.
- Join us on May 8 for a TGIF discussion of how our members are pivoting, coping, and finding sources of income. Moderated by Amy Sherman.
- Also in May, (date TBD) our corporate members will give us an update on the tourism situation in California and beyond, with an emphasis on what they see in changes in travel journalism.
Stay tuned for more panels, seminars and get togethers: We miss each other and we need your help. Please suggest topics for Zoom talks. Ideas and moderators welcome. Email me at president@batw or Executive Director Ginny Prior at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As they said in the Midwest where I mostly grew up – Don’t be a stranger! And be careful out there.