Silver Linings for Travel During COVID-19

Posted on August 13, 2020

At Spark Experiences, we actively look for the silver linings to every situation, especially this one. While COVID has seriously clipped all our wings (not to mention our household incomes!), for those who are able— NOW is actually a surprisingly good time to book a San Francisco private tour, or plan your next bucket list adventure.

If you’re in the position to take advantage, you may be pleasantly surprised by the advantages:

  1. Crowd-free sightseeing
  2. Local authenticity
  3. Extra warm welcome
  4. Experiences go smaller, and more private
  5. Great value!

1. Crowd-free sightseeing

Cities that are consistently “top” world class destinations are remarkably peaceful in a way that we haven’t seen in decades. A Washington DC colleague last week went to the Jefferson Memorial and had it ENTIRELY TO THEMSELVES in the middle of the day. He got to sit and contemplate our nation’s legacy in quiet stillness—- an experience that would ordinarily ONLY be available to those crazy larks who enjoy their coffee at 3am and arrive pre-dawn (definitely not me).

I recently had a family from Colorado on a San Francisco private tour, and we visited a favorite local-gem, the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory. The kids got to taste cookies hot off the grill —- alone with the proprietor and his mother. I can honestly say I’ve only seen that happen ONCE in +7 years— on a blisteringly cold winter Tuesday.

If you’re not someone who enjoys crowds, NOW is your moment. Many businesses are open and have safe-visit protocols in place. Carpe diem!

2. Local authenticity

Along with fewer crowds at the City’s top attractions, there’s also a noticeably different flavor. With fewer tourists buzzing about, locals are getting out and enjoying areas that they usually avoid—or at least are dramatically outnumbered. This August in Paris, there are ACTUAL Parisians sitting at café tables a stone’s throw from the Louvre and Notre Dame. Imagine that- people actually speaking French, with nary an American tourist to be seen! This brings popular destinations a fresh, relaxed vibe like I haven’t seen in years. “Formidable!”

Overall, the folks you encounter out and about are more present, less harried, and bring more of the genuine local culture and flavor. Recipe for “authentic” people watching at its finest!

This week the green at Alamo Square was dotted with families, leisurely picnicking at a safe social distance. Absent were the typical crowds hastily posing for Instagram before piling back in their tour wagon. My private tour clients visited Pier 39 and we genuinely enjoyed it. Security welcomed us in with a smile (making sure we wouldn’t be crowded- not that there was much risk of that). We took our time strolling the shops, had a clam chowder bread bowl and took unobstructed photos of Alcatraz without having to jockey for the best spot against the wooden rail. Even the sea lions seemed more relaxed and particularly happy to see us. Usually I avoid these places like the plague, but the pandemic might actually be bringing out our best in some surprising ways!

3. Extra warm welcome

Right now hospitality workers are extremely happy to see visitors- and ready to serve! Many destinations that are usually inundated with travelers (and sometimes frankly a bit annoyed) are doing everything in their power to put their best foot forward and be as welcoming as possible.

Its no secret those of us with hospitality careers are hurting, and many of our colleagues are out of jobs. Those of us who are lucky enough to be back at work really miss being busy. Staff who are ordinarily running on fumes by August, are trying to stretch out summer more than ever this year.

By traveling you are also injecting hope into local economies that dearly need it— and this year truly appreciate your business.

4. Experiences go smaller, and more private

Whether on a guided tour or dining in a restaurant, many suppliers who previously emphasized volume are now scaling down to comply with physical distancing protocols.

This is particularly great news for consumers. Smaller-scale experiences generally result in a higher degree of individual attention and personalized service. Travelers who previously couldn’t afford intimate, private experiences will find more options to choose from. Those who have more generous budget will see premium suppliers raising our game even higher. And of course tour operators who can’t offer consistent quality AND value will exit the market.

This translates to better choice and value for guests at every price point.

5. Great value!

Anyone who follows the industry have seen that there are AMAZING deals to be had right now. Travel packages, especially flights and hotels are currently being advertised at extremely discounted prices. Services with less elastic prices are often rewarding clients with generous cancellation policies. There are even national tourism boards offering additional financial incentives directly to inbound travelers. It remains to be seen how long these deals will be sustainable, but consumers who book their future trips now will likely see a TON of bang for their buck. If you can afford it, now is a great time to reserve that bucket list vacation.

Throughout summer 2020, we are offering private tours to San Francisco and all our preferred destinations where guests may cancel up to 5 days in advance and pay only the minimum processing fee. If you must change your plans and we can accommodate your new date without penalty, we gladly will!

Of course, no purchase is without risk, even for savvy globe-trotters. Know your risk factors and comfort level. If you don’t feel confident traveling now, hedge your bets and book ahead for 2021. Read the terms carefully, purchase appropriate travel insurance and be flexible if it turns out you do need to rebook for later dates. If you plan carefully and stay flexible, you could wind up experiencing so much more for the same investment!

Safe travels! With ❤️ from San Francisco!