So where are you going on this fine Fourth of July weekend, 2020? Will you celebrate your independence with a trip to the mountains? To a lake? The beach?
Is this finally the weekend to head out to Mount Rushmore? Or grip the grimy handrail on a San Francisco cable car? No alcohol on an airplane should be no obstacle.
Perhaps you’ve found some way to defy Europe’s ban on Americans due to our high coronavirus rate, and set across the Atlantic to wave an American flag at the Place des États-Unis,? Or will you check out a great show on Broadway? (Spoiler alert: All New York City Broadway shows have been cancelled through January 03, 2021.) Perhaps test drive the ten best Bermuda rum tours?
It’s been a rough siege, with many of us cooped up since winter. As Arnold Schwarzenegger says at the end of Terminator Two, “I need a vacation!” Sorry Terminator, there’s no vacation from coronavirus.
In many parts of the U.S., COVID-19 seems to be surging. Local, state and national governments are restricting or discouraging travel.
My favorite so far is this doleful message from Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. “Cancel your plans. Avoid gatherings. Don’t share food and drink.” And above all, “Celebrate responsibly!” Why, and a Happy 4th of July to you too, Mr. Mayor!
Many of us are already going nowhere and need no further discouragement. A journey of a thousand miles may be begin with a single step. But this summer, with so many attractions closed, many of us won’t venture beyond our doorstep.
In Southern California, for example, beaches, piers, and beach bike paths will be shut down from July 3rd to July 6. Indoor activities fare no better, as restaurants, wineries, museums, movie theaters must cease indoor operations, while bars must completely close. Even fireworks shows, long a staple of July 4 celebrations across America, are a litany of cancellations, “postponements,” “watch from home” and something called “virtual fireworks.”
The American Hotel Association (AHLA) says that as we enter the 4th of July weekend, among the top 25 travel markets, only Norfolk/Virginia Beach has eclipsed 50 percent occupancy. National hotel occupancy hit 43.9% in June, far below the 74.5% occupancy rate of June 2019. But even 44% looks good compared to April, when hotel occupancy dropped to just 24.5 percent nationwide, the lowest rate for any month on record in the U.S.,
Speaking of 44%, only 44 percent of Americans are planning overnight vacations or leisure travel in 2020, also according to the AHLA. That jibes with a recent survey of 7500 people by MyBioSource.com that reveals half of American are planning a “summer staycation: vacationing locally to avoid contracting Coronavirus.” Locally might well mean one’s backyard or couch; the same study shows that 71% say they might skip a summer vacation altogether this year to save money.
Despite all these barriers, should a hardy tourist still visit Los Angeles County this weekend, she must prepare for America’s mask wars. The latest salvo: anyone wandering the popular tourist destinations of Santa Monica, West Hollywood and Beverly Hills sans mask will be subject to a fine of up to $250.
Considering the environment, travel marketers and publications are doing their best, but at the back of everyone’s mind, people know that without a vaccine, there’s no real vacation from coronavirus.
Some marketers put a friendly face on it, saying Americans have merely “paused” travel plans this summer. I’ve been offered a three-day “virtual tour” of Miami and the chance to enjoy London from my living room. (No thanks.) And for Americans whose trips abroad were cancelled, or have been barred by European restrictions, one publication offers 11 Places in the US That Feel Like Europe. At least you won’t need to learn Danish.
Another respected publication offers 10 Vacations to Safely Book This Summer, such as vacation rentals, road trips, small towns, and theme parks. Well-meaning, perhaps. But who’s to say you can “safely” book a vacation, at a time when my son yells at me for going to the supermarket when COVID-19 infections are cresting?
So here’s to a healthy and Happy 4th of July, whether you watch virtual fireworks while “celebrating responsibly” or not. And here’s to Independence Day 2021, by which time we can hopefully celebrate our freedom from COVID-19.