The receding horizon of travel’s return

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To work in the travel industry in 2020 is to live in a constant state of limbo.

When drug makers began announcing in November the promising results of vaccine trials, airline and cruise stock prices rallied, people around the world began planning and booking trips for 2021, and tourism workers — millions of whom had been out of work since the pandemic took hold — began to have hope.

“The vaccine news is a game changer from the consumer side of travel,” said Bryce Conway, founder of 10xTravel, a budget-travel website with some 70,000 members. “People see that there’s light at the end of the tunnel.”

Yet, almost simultaneously, Europe and the United States saw the number of coronavirus deaths surge, with cases in record numbers, and tight lockdowns reinstituted in some places.

To many in the travel industry — like Sarah Keelon who lost her job as an onboard entertainer for Royal Caribbean Cruises over the summer, after being sequestered on a ship in the Caribbean for nearly two months — the whipsaw has become familiar. “Every day, I thought, ‘maybe something will happen today,’ because I was really hoping we’d be able to get back to work,” she said from her family home in Michigan, where she is now working two jobs. “But the C.D.C. kept saying we are pushing cruises back, over and over,” she said, referring to the agency’s “no sail” order which was extended three times. Though the order is now expired, cruising is not expected to restart anytime soon.

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After a spring when travel came to a screeching halt, activity in Europe picked up during the summer, as did domestic travel in the United States. The industry hoped for recovery, but that optimism was dashed this fall by the latest round of lockdowns and quarantine restrictions. The heightened uncertainty continues to dampen the outlook for the months ahead, even with the

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