Note: This blog was published in late February, 2020. As the Coronavirus issue is still evolving at the time of publishing, information herein may have changed since then. 

As someone who runs a high-end travel firm in Southeast Asia, I can certainly attest to the impact of the Coronavirus. Globally there is no precedent for this, and many countries – and indeed most people – are making their daily game plan as we go along. With such uncertainty, I accept that travel is off most people’s radar for the time being. Smiling Albino has had a number cancellations since the issue gained mainstream awareness around mid-January. Thankfully more of our guests have chosen to postpone to later in the year rather than outright cancel. This shows that amidst the current hysteria, most people are behaving with cautious optimism for the future.

As of this writing, the areas where we run our adventures, namely Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar, together account for 0.001% of all confirmed cases globally. I am a realist and an optimist, and while I know we’re in for a long and challenging struggle, I do hold the same cautious optimism for the future. 

However, let me be clear – I don’t mean to appear dismissive of the situation, and I hope that is not how it has come across. When they emerge, pandemics are a real and serious threat, and the fallout from Coronavirus is something that no person, country, or region deserves. Situations like these create an air of uncertainty. Communication and preparedness are key. We’ll all need to be vigilant, follow local medical advice, and deal with the awkward reality of social distancing for the time being.

In many countries mighty efforts are being made by a great many organizations, public and private, to ensure that people are informed and the risk of spreading is reduced. Some countries, such as Singapore, Vietnam, and South Korea, have been beacons of organization and planning into how to contain, then reduce, the spread of the virus. As time passes, one hopes that countries currently grappling with the outbreak can adapt and learn from successful peers.

While we can all accept that international travel is likely off of people’s radar for the time being, I want people to know that Southeast Asia will be safe and ready for exploration when the world begins to heal.  In fact, Smiling Albino has guests with us right now in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand, and they are doing it all….street food, markets, biking, exploring hidden corners and famous landmarks (which are rather quiet at present). They notice a high number of hand sanitizer dispensers and face masks (which are common in Asia anyway), but we make sure they know the reality of the situation, we’re being cautious, and they are having a great time. 

It is likely that we are in for a long, hard battle with this. Once the virus is contained we’ll then be dealing with the economic effects which ripple out into nearly every corner of the earth. Tourism often gets hit first and hardest, and one canceled trip spirals out into a chain reaction of lost opportunity and concern as we here can all attest.  Other industries are now dealing with similar challenges. How we adapt may well define our age. And we will adapt.

I remember a time when we thought we’d never trust currencies again (Asian Financial Crisis), or never travel again (9/11, SARs), or never trust banks or corporations (Global Financial Crisis), and the list goes on. Truth is, we’re resilient, and we’re human, and we want to keep moving forward and living the life we’ve been put on this earth to live. Eventually, this too shall pass.

As a break from mainstream news, I suggest reading the frank and sensible thoughts on how it affects the world of travel now and in the future in top publications like Conde Nast, Afar, Travel + Leisure, Wendy Perrin, Fathom, and others. Keep in mind that perspective is the antidote to hysteria. 

And when containment and a reduction in cases starts to calm our spirits, slowly the world will begin to heal. And when you’re ready, I encourage anyone curious to come and explore Southeast Asia for yourself and see what an amazing, safe, and memorable place it really is!