Optimisim Ain’t Easy

Bill Neinast


Remaining optimistic is getting harder as each day passes.  This is not about politics, but about the economic recovery from the ruins of the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Now there are reports of individuals becoming re-infected with the virus.  That indicates the hype about developing a herd immunity from the virus is just that—hype.  Couple that with the report that a vaccine against the virus probably will not be readily available throughout Texas until July, and we may be looking at social restrictions for another eight months.

The consequences are no pick up in the travel and tourism industry.  Packed sports and entertainment arenas will remain memory for a while longer.   Landlords will have to continue to pay maintenance, utilities, and taxes on property for which they cannot collect rentals with threats of eviction.  Movie theaters will remain closed.

This long list of business interruptions reflects the millions of employees in those venues who have been furloughed, fired, or reduced in wages.  How long will it take for them to pay their back rent and other bills and have a little left over for things such as travel?

The restoration of vibrant downtown areas of major cities may take years.  

Take Congress Avenue in midtown Austin, as an example.  Currently, approximately 50% of the businesses on that wide boulevard to the state’s capitol are closed.  Some of them will never reopen.

Couple that with the low vehicle and pedestrian travel, and downtown Austin looks like a virtual ghost town.

Some portion of that traffic was employees of the businesses and offices going to and from work or strolling during breaks.  Those employees are now out of work or working from home.

When we finally get out of the social distancing requirements, how many of those businesses will reopen and how many office workers will be required to return to the office instead of working at home?

Aggravating this slow return to normalcy is the trend toward robotics that is accelerating during our lock down.  There has been recent news coverage of robots that have articulated arms, hands, legs, and feet that walk and pick up items just like humans.  The current cost of $250,000.00 a copy will slow their popularity for a while, but once they get into mass production, look out.  

Drone home delivery services are already replacing human delivery men in vehicles.  Unfortunately  there is more to come in this realm.

Then there is the travel industry.  This includes hotels and motels, cruise lines, tour companies, tourist destinations like Disney Land, and to a certain extent, airlines.  How long will it be after it feels safe to be in close confinement in a group on a plane, bus, and entertainment facility for travelers and tourists  to have recovered enough financially to afford a vacation.

It will take at least two years for the tourism industry to be in full recovery.  With current estimates that the pandemic will not be over until July, tourism will be in the doldrums for two and a half years if there is not another outbreak of the same or a new virus.

I discussed this with my friend, Steve Uelner,, tthe owner/president of Country Travel Discoveries.  His operation is still open, but they currently have only one small tour planned for February.  He believes they will not start anything resembling full operation until July and the buses then will be only half full.  

Barring any new outbreak of COVID-19 or a similar virus or disease, Steve does not anticipate normalcy until sometime in 2021.

At this point, if we consider it an industry, the education system is the only enterprise that may be able to recover quickly and operate at full capacity.

So here’s the perspective.

Try a little harder.  Squint real hard and you can see a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.

Sometime in the next 12, 14, or 16 months those masks may be thrown in the fireplace, restaurant tables may be moved closer together,  and Mom and Dad may be going back to work.

Finally, hope that it will be sooner than later.



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