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(CNN) — Borders closing, travelers stranded, and small businesses haemorrhaging money — that’s how those in the travel industry will remember the period two years ago, when the world closed down in a matter of days.
On March 11, 2020, Covid-19 was declared a pandemic by the World Health Authority, and countries around the world were beginning to figure out emergency border policies in a bid to protect their citizens.
In travel, that meant vacationers scrambling to get home, and communities torn between needing visitors, and fearing what they might bring.
The two weeks around March 11 dealt a blow to the travel world, the likes of which had never been seen before. It’s one that many small businesses and employees have yet to recover from.
Here nine travel experts share their memories of March 2020 — from the tour guide stranded in Italy, to the hotelier in Dominica, who was forced to close the hotel she’d just reopened after hurricane devastation.
Avril Coipel: “It was like something you read in novels.”
Avril Coipel had high hopes for 2020 — as did the inhabitants of the villages in southeast Dominica near Rosalie Bay, the hotel which she managed.
The award-winning eco resort bad been destroyed in 2017 by Hurricane Maria. With virtually all the staff drawn from the surrounding area, it was a tragedy for the local communities, as well as for the hotel.
A grand reopening had been planned for February 2020, and things were looking good — the hotel’s great reputation meant the bookings were rolling in. More importantly, says Coipel, “the local communities were looking forward to the opening of the resort — we hired staff who hadn’t been able to get a steady job since 2017.”
In December, just weeks from their reopening ceremony, she saw the news about a virus taking hold in China. “It sounded far away,” she says. “When it reached Italy it still sounded far away. When we started hearing it was in the US, we said, OK, that’s a little close — and then suddenly it was in the Caribbean.”
The pandemic would have devastating consequences for Coipel and her coworkers. On February 15, they’d had a grand reopening ceremony, attended by government ministers, while bookings stacked up. It looked like 2020 would be as successful …….