„Travelling is my job as a presenter, TV producer and editor of Bleisure Traveller. The pandemic has made a lot of things impossible here, but nevertheless I have been travelling a lot in the last few months due to my job. Whether to Mexico City, New Orleans, South Africa or Phuket – I got to know the world of travel a bit better during this time.” Kai Böcking
My first flight after the virus-ridden spring of 2020 was for a Bleisure trip to Rome. I was fine, Lufthansa was not. Lounges closed, service suspended (in Economy only, of course) and surprisingly nervous and agitated flight attendants who, by no stretch of the imagination, had not imagined their workplace to be like this.
Service-blessed through Rome
Rome was empty last spring, the St. Regis Hotel too, but at least it was open. And dolce vita was once again a topic everywhere in one fell swoop. After my first PCR test as a passport supplement – a procedure that I have now endured with stoic calm for an estimated hundred times, even when vaccinated – the dream destination on the Tiber was once again within reach. And on one of my very first hotel visits, I noticed a decisive change in the travel industry: Service counts again. The St. Regis, for example, which has never been closed, has since offered guests the charming “Live like an Italian” service: a guide leads them on foot through the old town and takes them to selected restaurants, among other things. Never before have I staggered through empty Rome so inspired.
… and then all over the world
Almost 15 months have passed since then, wave number two I have “travelled away” just as much as the first one. And that’s because I got the shaft when travel became possible again. The travel industry’s need for perception increased contrary to restrictions and warnings from governments around the world. The world got smaller in those months, but as soon as a gap opened up, I slipped through with TV crews, two-star chef Tim Raue and writers for a TV production (photo left).
Mexico City, New Orleans (photo below), Madrid, Istanbul, the Maldives, Dubai several times, Sicily and now sitting in the “bubble” on Phuket.
Other countries also have good pandemic security systems
I actually expected a shitstorm every day when I posted pictures from the most beautiful corners of the world while at home there were discussions about testing, vaccine shortages and travel warnings.
I often didn’t understand the tone and the sometimes hesitant action while at the same time sluggish vaccination offers, and many people in the countries I was allowed to travel to didn’t either. We Germans, who pretty much pointed the finger at every country and celebrated the word “travel warning” as some kind of holy grail, were met with amazement and even head-shaking at our crisis management in all the countries I visited.
In the destinations I visited (except Mexico City), there was and still is a tight, strict entry and exit protocol, especially by means of required PCR tests (several in the Maldives), proof of vaccination and draconian penalties for non-compliance with hygiene rules, as in Dubai.
Sure, strict penalties are difficult and intensive tracking like in Asia too, but in Germany I was not even asked for a test or entry form when entering the country at the airport until early 2021.
Food through a flap in Phuket
I have just been to Phuket, which has been open again for a few weeks without quarantine, but travelling is still complicated. With countless forms and a test marathon, you get to paradise here in the first place. A very empty paradise, with very friendly but cautious hotel, restaurant and shop owners. Mask on the beach – not exactly sexy, but the rule here.
The return journey with Singapore Airlines via my favourite airport Changi was also unique in every respect. Transfer here means absolute control over walking and seating. The green ribbon on your arm as you disembark from the plane from Phuket is the transfer stigma. Bye bye, Singapore Airlines Premium Lounge, welcome waiting room with QR code ordering service! The food is actually handed to the flight deliquent through a flap here.
Learnings from flying and remote work
What have I learned in the last 18 months of my travel life?
Firstly: Almost all airlines are completely unsettled. The service idea almost everywhere is in the toilet (yes, also with you, dear Lufthansa).
Exception: The Lufthansa subsidiary Swiss offers such a gigantic, friendly and personal service despite all the restrictions that I remembered what flying in Business Class means: service, friendliness, luxury. Even with a mask!
It’s also nice to see that Singapore Airlines is back on the road to normality. No full-body protective suits as with Thai Airways, but simply: mask on and offer a life-affirming service.
Secondly, remote working is coming more than ever. I’ve always worked remotely, but now it’s becoming a mega-trend. Not home working, but away from home working. Hyatt and other hotel groups (even the Robinson Club) are already offering long stays at rock-bottom prices. Dubai even offers a one-year visa for Corona-weary people. This will be THE new working world for many, if they want to and are no longer afraid of travelling.
I’m flying back to Germany today, then it’s off to Poland, southern France and Italy. It’s just my job!
Kai Böcking …
has been on the road more in recent weeks than in 2019. Editorial meetings have only taken place remotely at airports, in hotels and on terraces. But his view of the world has become even larger and more differentiated, with all due respect for how other regions have also dealt responsibly with the pandemic and continue to do so to this day.
Photos: © Böcking