It’s no surprise to those of us who love to travel, Covid-19 has upended tourism as we know it. Even knowing the full impact of this disease didn’t hit me until April 7th. My husband and I were supposed to board a flight to Quito, Ecuador. Of course, that flight was canceled, our travel plans put on hold for the foreseeable future.

What’s a Travel Lover To Do?

If you’re a fan of the New York Times Travel section, you might have read the latest Tacy Rychter, the Times Travel Social Editor, article explaining how to write about travel in a time when travel can’t happen. The Times travel team decided to reach out to readers and have them submit activities that could be completed a la quarantine during a 36-hour weekend, a stab at replacing their weekly 36-Hour column.

The concept struck a chord – more than 1400 people responded from all over the world. From cocktail-hour on Friday night to journaling on Saturday afternoon to eating salad for breakfast on Sunday morning, the article was full of changing up your Covid-19 routine.

It’s not a bad article but I question the premise. It has the feel of trying to solve the ultimate first-world problem. What’s a tourist to do when they can’t get their groove on?

My Friends Work In Tourism

Maybe all of this hits a little too close to home. I started a travel business not so that I could travel (I’m going to do that anyway) but so I could support the many friends I have who work in tourism. My goal was to get the tourist (myself and others) working directly with the tourism providers in Ecuador, those local guides we know and love! If I can get this system to work there, we expand to other Andean nations. But now?

I want the big media outlets to ask hard questions of travelers like myself. For example, how do we support local tour guides when we can’t visit their country? How can the governments of developing nations keep tourism operators in business long enough to survive the impact of this virus? Is tourism even possible in a post-Covid-19 world?

Is Writing the Answer?

I don’t have any answers to these questions or to the dozens of others that I’m seeing in my friends’ social media feeds. I do have ideas and I bet that you might have a few as well. It’s time to start brainstorming big time and help the best of these ideas filters to the top of the list.

Here’s mine: I think we should pay tour guides to write articles about the places they know and love. Let them become the writers for a while.

Writing articles wouldn’t just be busy work. Having online content is key to attracting people to your destination. Great articles are engaging and fun to read but they also highlight keywords that future tourists will be searching when the time to travel comes again. Great articles help attract new clients. At the end of the day, I have to believe those clients will be booking travel even if that travel will look different in a post-Covid-19 world.

A Petition May Not Help, But It Can’t Hurt

In the meantime, I started a petition that has circulated among local guides in Ecuador. Petitions aren’t common in South America so getting folks to sign has been difficult. But getting Americans to sign should be a whole lot easier. Would you consider adding your name? We hope that the Ecuadorian government will start looking at solutions to help an entire industry that needs support in this dire time.

A Petition To President Lenín Moreno and Vice President Otto Sonnenholzner

Coronavirus infected the livelihoods of thousands of Ecuadorian tour guides.

We ask that the Ecuadorian federal government help tour guides, local and national, survive the economic devastation brought on by this virus. Tour guides are in a unique position. Travel agencies are not required to provide full or part-time employment to their guides. Therefore, guides do not receive health insurance or other employment benefits. It is fair to state that they are looking at long term unemployment without the benefit of being laid-off. Their situation is unique in Ecuador and needs a solution that only the national government can provide.

Sincerely,

Angie Drake, Cofounder

Not Your Average American, LLC


We invite everyone to stand in solidarity with Ecuador's tour guides. Please sign the petition!

If you are a tourist (past, present, or future) signing this, please leave a note explaining how a local guide made a difference to your trip.

If you are an Ecuadorian tour guide, please leave your Cedula number along with your current situation in the comment below. 

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