Travel guru Rick Steves on why he is not travelling yet, and when tourism will rebound

TORONTO -- For the first summer since 1980, Rick Steves is not exploring Europe.

Instead, the well-known travel author and TV host is spending the warmer months discovering his hometown of Seattle.

“I just toured my hometown cemetery for the first time in my life. It was fascinating,” he told CTV News for the streaming app Quibi in early August. “I’m enjoying every sunset, like a performance. I’m learning how to cook. I’m walking the dogs… there are wonders right here.”


Steves said his traveller’s spirit has allowed him to embrace the overlooked attractions in his city as he waits out the pandemic – something he plans to do for a little while longer.

Even though many countries in Europe have begun to reopen their borders and welcome back tourists, Steves said he thinks it’s still too early to return to the way things were.

“I don’t think I want to go back to Europe until it is good and ready to be able to welcome people safely. That's for their safety as well as my safety,” he said. “The whole nature of the COVID virus and tourism is we've got to be patient.”

The expert traveller said he understands that businesses that rely on tourism are struggling right now and eager to find ways to entice visitors to return, but he said it won’t be worth the effort if they’re forced to shut down again because the virus makes a resurgence.

“If we’re not patient, and if we’re not really having a grip on the virus before we rekindle the business, we’ll stay at first base and never get around to where we want to be,” he explained.

Steves said his touring company and the approximately 100 people he employs are also hurting during the pandemic. He said they have been working three-day weeks for 60 per cent of their regular pay as they “weather the storm” together.

However, Steves said their sacrifice will be rewarded when the virus is under control and people can travel again in a safe and meaningful way.

“Tourism for me is not sitting in a bubble and trying not to get a disease. Tourism for me is people,” he said.

“The mark of a good trip is how many people do you meet? How many times are your cheeks kissed in France? How many times do you pack onto the piazza in Rome and do the passeggiatta? How many wonderful evenings do you have in a pub in Ireland where they say ‘strangers are just friends who you’ve yet to meet?’”

While those types of encounters may seem unrealistic now, Steves remains optimistic that tourism will return to some semblance of normalcy – even if that means a few adjustments, such as fewer breakfast buffets and more mask-wearing.

Most importantly, Steves said people shouldn’t give up on the idea of travelling safely again in the future.

“The value of travel will be more important than ever,” he said. “When you travel, you realize the world is filled with beautiful, loving people and lots of joy and I think that's what we need to see and that’s part of going forward. My hope is that we don't get ourselves in a mindset of building walls coming out of this, we need to build bridges.”


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