Spirit of Travel: Looking Forward

Bynum Bridge, on the National Register of Historic Places

Each year, the U.S. Travel Association shares a theme for National Travel and Tourism Week (NTTW). We have celebrated the Faces of Travel and all the reasons Travel Matters, and in 2020, we share the Spirit of Travel, which is fitting.

Many cities, states, and countries begin to reopen and some uncertainties remain. One of the most common questions, among many, for the tourism industry, is when will travel return, and what will it look like when it does? How long will it take for the damage from COVID-19 to be remedied, and will it ever be the same? According to an April 15 survey by the U.S Travel Association, the economic impacts will be significant and severe.

  • The U.S. economy is projected to lose 8 million jobs by the end of April
  • Travel industry losses will result in a GDP impact of $1.2 trillion in 2020
  • Travel declines in 2020 will result in a loss of $80 billion in taxes this year

We always find good news, however. A May 4 report by Destination Analysts found that 70.6% of Americans miss traveling and are excited to get back to it when they feel safe. About one third of Americans think the situation will improve by summer, and more than half of respondents said they will be eager to travel once the pandemic passes.

It is likely, though, that regional and domestic travel will be preferred over long-haul or international destinations, which puts Chatham County in a perfect position to bounce back, as it is an ideal location for day trippers and those seeking short weekend or midweek getaways.

Historic downtown Siler City mural, one of many

Considering the recovery of the travel industry, safety is a considerable factor, and a primary one for guests and staff members. Travelers will understandably be cautious, and therefore interested in the measures that destinations are taking to be prepared. Whether the businesses have considered and planned for health precautions will be crucial in the revitalization process.

A recent Harris Poll found that Americans miss dining out the most (70% miss a lot/somewhat) but also report that they will need reassurance that it’s safe. Customers will be looking for a changed layout, best practices of social distancing, readily available hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes, and clarity in the cleaning procedures of the business/site (communicated and prominently displayed).


Chatham will be prepared and ready for visitors when the time comes. A reopening plan is in development and businesses are more than eager to greet customers again. We are committed to not only remembering our past travels and experiences, but also looking ahead to what we’ve learned, what’s to come, and the promise of what can be better.

The pandemic has taught us gratitude in a time that is difficult for so many. We have seen the hospitality and tourism industry focus on helping and working together to support one another while preparing for the future. We look forward to seeing you when we are ready and you, our guests, are ready, and the time is right.

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