Data collection for the 2020 Accessible Travel Study by WheelchairTravel.org is complete, and we’re going to be releasing a number of our findings between now and September 30, when the full report will be released.
The coronavirus pandemic has caused significant disruption to the travel industry, with many travelers concerned about their safety and many destinations restricting inbound tourism. Based on data from the CDC, older people and those with disabilities are at higher risk for serious complications or even death as a result of COVID-19. We wanted to know how the Wheelchair Travel community felt about travel during this time, and we asked the following questions about the COVID-19 pandemic.
Taking into account your age, disability status, health, fitness and overall medical profile, how would you rate your risk for serious complications due to the coronavirus?
With only 10% of Wheelchair Travel readers considering themselves to be low risk, it is obvious that coronavirus is seen as a clear and present danger by the disability community.
In consideration of the coronavirus pandemic, when will you feel comfortable traveling again for vacation or leisure?
In a number of recent interviews, I have told journalists that I do expect continued recovery for the travel industry, but that the accessible travel market would lag significantly, by months or even years. That assessment is supported by the data, with 46% of respondents indicating that they won’t travel until a COVID-19 vaccine is available.
Since 14% of the people in the study responded to this question with “other,” I had to review why. For many, there is a potential middle ground between governments lifting travel restrictions and a vaccine, that being an effective treatment that “keeps the virus from getting severe.” On the flip side, a number of people said they plan to take an even more cautious approach, waiting to verify that the vaccine actually works. Others, who will be unable to take the vaccine due to compromised immune systems, will need to wait until the global population has been inoculated.
Because the virus is impacting each city, state and country differently, travel to certain destinations may be more attractive than others. One respondent said they are “willing to travel by road in my home country,” but it is too soon to travel by air or to destinations abroad. flights and international travel destinations are not an option. Another reader said, “I would go to Morocco, or Greece, or Latvia tomorrow,” but “it will be a long time before I consider the US again.” Some are hopeful that herd immunity could make travel safer, with one person suggesting that Fall 2021 is “as long as I would feel the risk would outweigh the benefit.”
Each traveler will respond differently to COVID-19, but about half will wait at least until there is a vaccine, and some longer. While a small number of disabled people are willing to travel now with the proper precautions, it is clear that accessible travel will be slow to recover.
When will you be ready to travel again? Let me know in the comments below!