As we navigate these days in which our world gradually opens up and more individuals become vaccinated, I find myself still turning to opportunities to explore corners which aren’t yet available or of which I hadn’t previously been aware. Once again a silver lining appears from all the pain and trials of the past year-plus, and I believe some of the innovations, programs and initiatives that came out of this time will remain long after we can all travel and gather freely again.
One industry which has clearly suffered deeply is the travel and tourism sector. Air and cruise lines immediately spring to mind, but we shouldn’t forget all the travel agencies, tour operators and guides whose work abruptly shut down, and the museums and attractions which had to close which supported a myriad of businesses and individuals. Necessity has once again proved the mother of invention, however.
Over the past 15 months, more and more museums have opened up their collections to online virtual visits of their galleries. I can now see some of the world’s masterpieces without standing for hours in lines for tickets or the briefest of glimpses in a crowded room jostling with other art lovers. I’ve also been exposed to more obscure works or smaller collections I might otherwise never have known about. Independent tour guides in Florence offer enlightening online seminars providing history and context until they can once again host visitors, and I’m sure one can find the same to be true in other great art centers.
During our last trip abroad in the fall of 2019, my husband and our friends and I spent most of one full day in Lisbon on a Culinary Backstreets tour, which I wrote about in a blog last year. It proved a fantastic way to explore the neighborhoods and cuisine of Lisbon while also being exposed to so much Portuguese history and culture. Over the last year I’ve been able to explore other cities and their culinary traditions through the company’s website, newsletters and blogs, which provide a treasure trove of recipes, off-the-beaten-track gems and tips for visitors in cities from Athens to Tokyo. My appetite has literally been whetted for my next trip overseas. A quick Google search of any destination around the globe will offer you a host of other tour guides and operators who also offer similar opportunities to sample their offerings and plot your next trip.
All aspects of the entertainment industry have also been hard hit due to the pandemic, but there, too, performers, musicians and acting companies have used technology to reach their audiences. In the process, they have broadened their exposure, and viewers who might never have had the chance or could not afford to see a performance have enjoyed an ever-widening host of choices. For a very reasonable fee, I’ve watched several intimate “concerts” of one of my favorite bands, Brandi Carlile, this year; certainly more than I would normally be able to attend in person. I’ve also had the chance to watch past performances of plays from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, ones that I hadn’t been able to get tickets to in previous seasons. Again, the price of admission was far less than I would have paid for the live performance, and though the experience, as with the concerts, wasn’t the same, I nevertheless enjoyed it and the exposure to the arts. Even our local and well-respected film festival, the Ashland Independent Film Festival, went virtual last year and is offering a hybrid experience this year, with online access to a host of films now and some live, outdoor screenings available early this summer. Instead of its audience being limited to the number of seats in the theaters, the festival can reach anyone on the planet with a computer and a very reasonably priced pass.
While the pandemic has had very real, lasting and painful impacts on travel and the arts, it has also opened a path to expand their reach to a broader pool of travelers and viewers. And we lucky travelers and audience members can hope that those avenues remain open even after we can gather and travel once again.
— Patty Vanikiotis, associate editor/copy editor
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