Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures

We all love watching travelers’ eyes light up when they step foot into a 200-year-old, magnificent stained-glass cathedral. We live for the taste of warm beignets in New Orleans, Louisiana, and fresh lobster in Freeport, Maine. Perhaps there’s nothing better than the sound of thrilling laughter when a group zooms across a zip line for the first time. 

Travel delivers adventure, happiness, wonder and magic unlike any other aspect of life. Day in and day out, our tour-planning readers have given the gift of unforgettable memories, and stories to share with loved ones for a lifetime. 

Less than two years ago, I had the privilege of visiting amazing European cities like Vienna, Salzburg, Berlin, Heidelberg and Amsterdam. The trip holds a special place in my heart, because believe it or not, it was my very first trip to Europe. I rode my first ICE train, slept in my first (tiny) European hotel room and spent my first Euro. The trip made me realize no matter how much I know, there’s always more to learn. 

Since then, I’ve visited several American cities, such as Anaheim, California, and Charleston, South Carolina. In one form or another, everywhere I have traveled has become a part of me. I’m sure the destinations where you plan tours have become part of you, as well. Tour planners don’t just build itineraries; they expand their clients’ thinking, and ultimately change their lives.  

In recent months, we’ve learned the travel industry’s inherent paradox: each destination is strikingly different, yet humans everywhere are remarkably all the same.  

All around the globe, our hearts broke nearly in unison when we heard how rapidly COVID-19 was spreading. The projected forecasts shook us to our core. We all felt the initial shock and fear for how the effect would trickle through the economy, especially our market. Weeks later, we’re beginning to feel glimmers of hope as we watch Chinese cities like Wuhan recover from the despair.  

As I write this, the United States has all but five states locked down in a stay-at-home order, a bid to prevent further spread of the deadly virus. Traveling to large cities via airline, like New York or Seattle, seems unthinkable. There’s a level of uncertainty for when we’ll no longer be mandatorily quarantined. Our sector has experienced the most impact, given increasing travel restrictions, major cancellations and overall risk aversion to travel domestically and internationally. 

Despite the many uncertainties, I know one thing is for certain: together, we will get through this. We work in one of the most evolving industries on the planet. When we overcome this crisis, our industry will rise stronger, grow wiser and travel smarter. We will have a bond that generations to come, we hope, will never have to understand.  

Together, let’s focus on the future unlike ever before. Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures. Group Tour magazine is committed to inspiring tours that change lives. In other words, we want every group to taste a New York City hot dog sooner rather than later — and to experience the enchanting 360-degree views from Seattle’s Space Needle. And, we want everyone to ride a European ICE train. 

We understand our responsibility to inspire your future tours, and we are deeply grateful for your continued readership. I’m proud of the dedication and forward-thinking my colleagues have shown in recent weeks. I encourage you to maintain your stamina as well. 

We’re prepared to keep up with coverage on both classic destinations and new attractions, because we understand now is the time to build itineraries for travel’s newly imagined future. And the future is bright. Together, we will rise stronger, wiser and certainly ready for any obstacle.  

Courtney Birchmeier, editor in chief