From carbon emissions dropping to a bloomin' brilliant idea to save the Netherlands' flower industry, we've found plenty of positive travel stories to cheer you up during the coronavirus outbreak...
The coronavirus is having devastating effects on the world, including all parts of travel, from the struggling tour operators to the people missing out on their trips.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. There are some positive things happening in the world right now that are bound to put a smile on your face.
With almost the whole world grounded, flights have been cancelled, fewer cars are on the road, and public transport services have been reduced to a minimum.
Add to this the unprecedented number of people working from home - meaning closed offices, the disappearance of rush hour and factories halting certain operations - and it’s no surprise that carbon emissions are significantly lower than they were this time last year.
Take China, for example, where the pandemic began. Lauri Myllyvirta, an analyst for the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air, wrote for Carbon Brief that from the beginning of February to the beginning of March, carbon emissions in China likely fell by a quarter – that’s around 200m tonnes, which, to put into perspective, is half the amount of carbon emissions Britain usually emits in an entire year.
Marshall Burke, an environmental resource economist from Stanford University in the USA, wrote on the blog G-FEED that two months of pollution reduction in China has ‘likely saved the lives of 4,000 kids under 5 and 73,000 adults over 70’ in the country.
Similar air pollution reductions have been seen in northern Italy, with nitrogen dioxide emitted from power plants, cars and factories in the part of the country dropping significantly.
Over in New York, Columbia University researchers reported that carbon monoxide levels are down around 50% compared to the same time last year – a positive side effect of having fewer cars on the the city's roads.
Venice has always been a hugely popular tourist destination. But with strict lockdown rules in place, the city is now a ghost town, with people only coming out to buy food and walk their dogs.
With the gondolas stopping their trips up and down the canals, and taxi boats halted from ferrying visitors back and forth - the usually murky canals have cleared up in an astonishingly short amount of time.
Dog walker’s days are being brightened up by turquoise-hued clear waters, which ripple over a rainbow-spectrum bed of now visible plant life and schools of fish.
Swans are often spotted swimming merrily around the neighbouring island of Burano – not news, but surely something to put a smile on your face.
P.S. Dolphins may not have returned, as some misleading social media posts suggested, but they were spotted off the coast of Sardinia, 500 miles away. Just as delightful...
Since India went into lockdown due to COVID-19, the country has seen a significant drop in its pollution levels, with India's Central Pollution Board confirming there has already been a vast improvement in air quality.
The result? Several people who live in northern India have reported that they can now see the snowy caps of the mighty Himalaya mountain range on the horizon, from over 200km away - a view that has been hidden by pollution for over 30 years.
It wasn’t too long ago that the bushfires blazing across Australia were wiping out wildlife, flora and fauna by the millions. But today, a positive story is starting to emerge from our friends Down Under.
Now that the fires have finally been put out, Australia is starting to look a lot less charred by the day, and increasingly vibrant and lush.
Green shoots are bursting out of the ground at an incredible speed. Vines climb and twist around tree trunks. Brightly-coloured lantana flowers are providing cover for mammals. Insects buzz around the canopy, and birds can be heard calling to each other.
Despite the tragic scenes we saw mere months ago, things Down Under are looking much brighter, offering a much needed glimmer of hope.
Even when things look bad, they can and will get better.
The folks at Mashpi Lodge in Ecuador were pleasantly surprised when their research and biology team found a brand new species of orchid.
The orchid was discovered growing in the Mashpi Reserve that surrounds the eco-lodge. It has been named lepanthes mashpica, and is part of the Pleurothallidinae family of orchids.
And that’s not the only beautiful discovery the lodge has enjoyed lately. They also recently discovered a nocturnal tree frog and a magnolia mashpi – an iconic tree type – in the reserve.
This news reminds us that there is still much of the world awaiting discovery, and there'll be many more beautiful new sites for us to set eyes on once lockdown is over.
Indonesian authorities had already made the decision to close Komodo Island to protect the large reptiles that inhabit it. Thailand’s Maya Bay, on the island of Phi Phi Leh, was also forced to closed, due to damage caused by too many tourists visiting its surrounding coral reefs.
And there are many more destinations all over the world, from Amsterdam to the Great Wall of China, that will benefit from the world coming to a temporary standstill.
One place that has already reported positive results from a breather from tourism is Austria. The Austrian Alps are usually jam-packed with hikers and skiers this time of year. However, since COVID-19, the mountains have been cut off from the public, and nature has wasted no time reclaiming the land, with wildlife now bouncing over the slopes instead of people, according to Austrian Alpinist Lukas Furtenbach.
It won’t be long until we see similar positive effects the world over. Over-trampled forests will grow back, coral reefs will recover, and sand dunes will have a break from walkers causing erosion.
Hopefully, the breather will give these destinations the time to safeguard their natural resources, and put rules and regulations in place to monitor the numbers of visitors going forward - if they haven't already.
We've all seen the photographs of usually-packed places left completely desolate, and that isn’t going to change overnight.
The recovery from the coronavirus pandemic won't be a snap-your-fingers-and-we’re-all-back-to-normal scenario. It is far more likely to involve a cautious, gradual opening of borders.
Not all countries, airlines and indeed visitors will be ready to start travel again at the same time. This means that iconic sites around the world, such as the Taj Mahal, Angkor Wat and Machu Picchu, will remain quieter than usual for a short period.
This will be a great time to explore them before the masses arrive again.
There’s nothing like a warm welcome after a long journey. Once the world starts travelling again, local people who rely on tourism will need your support more than ever, meaning they will appreciate your visit more than ever, too.
Not only is it a great feeling to help out small businesses and local tour guides when they need it the most, but you will also benefit from their happiness of having you there.
Whether you’re part of the first group to participate in a new guided tour, strike up a friendship with the owner of your hotel, or are simply very well looked after at an authentic restaurant - your travel experiences are likely to be more personal and more authentic after the virus.
A win-win for all involved.
The Italian island of Sicily relies on its popularity with travellers, so the coronavirus outbreak is a huge problem for them. In an attempt to entice visitors back to the island, Sicily has announced that it will cover half of your flights and a third of the cost of your hotel, provided you visit in autumn 2020.
As if that wasn't enough, Sicily is also offering free tickets to many of its tourist attractions.
To make the most of this incredible offer, just make sure you are keeping an eye on the Visit Sicily website as soon as its borders are open again.
Last week, Chinese authorities made the decision to reopen a small section of the Great Wall of China to tourists.
Parts of the Badaling Section – a particularly popular part of the wall, around 80km from Beijing – is now open every day from 9am to 4pm. Locals are now out of lockdown and are enjoying the freedom to explore this classic UNESCO site.
For obvious reasons, social distancing measures are still in place and there are much stricter restrictions on the number of people who can visit at any one time.
But what this reopening offers is a much-needed glimmer of hope. The world may be largely closed for now, but it will slowly start to return to normal.
Thank goodness for modern technology!
With smartphones in our hands, we are all able to keep in touch through video chat with friends and family. And with the power of virtual technology, you’d be surprised by how well-connected with the rest of the world we are.
From Machu Picchu and the Pyramids of Giza to the British Museum and the Palace of Versailles - museums, galleries and travel icons all over the world are popping up to reveal they've launched internet-based tours.
Not only can you ‘walk’ through these places, audio tours and options for in-depth exploration means you can learn a lot about the world, too. All while sitting on the sofa with a cup of tea.
Although she warned there may be delays as they make their way around the globe, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has reassured the world's children that the Tooth Fairy and Easter Bunny are considered 'essential workers' during the pandemic.
Excellent news for parents, especially if their youngsters are feeling a little lost or unsettled in the current climate. If they lose a tooth during lockdown, they'll still get a visit from the Tooth Fairy, and a delicious, chocolatey Easter Egg can still appear on Easter weekend...
Over 1,000 Dutch companies have bought more than a million flowers in the Netherlands and are giving them out for free to brighten up countless days.
The flower-purchasing scheme was set up by a pump manufacturing company, in a valiant effort to help save the country’s flower industry amidst the pandemic.
As a result, hospitals have been brightened up with vases of tulips, people out exercising carry a flower that has been handed to them, and the entire country is making an effort to add a touch of colour to what can feel like a bleak time. Bloomin’ marvellous.
Just because you can’t travel right now, that doesn’t mean you can’t plan your next trip. Far from it!
With self-isolating regulations in place and many people working from home, chances are that you have more time than usual on your hands right now. Use it to update your bucket list, or research your next adventure.
Choose your next destination, start mapping out your itinerary and make your plans ahead of time. Prepare now, and you can make sure you’re first out of the door when the world dusts off its suitcase and is free to start exploring again.
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