A year ago, my new job at a Flagstaff hotel was just that, a part-time college job. Though now, with a pandemic labeling my position as essential — though it’s hardly appropriate to consider a hotel’s buffet worker essential — my job became more than just a job. It became a constant source of stress.
I need to work in order to pay rent, but needing to clock in during a pandemic has been making me more anxious about work than ever before. The amount of COVID-19 cases in Arizona has been climbing exponentially, and while the hotel I work at, like many other businesses, has been taking steps to prevent the spread of coronavirus, travel in general, let alone in Arizona, seems like a bad idea.
In my typical workday, I interact with hundreds of guests from all over the state and world. Following my routine list of conversation points, I ask people where they are visiting from and why they came to Flagstaff. Lately, most people visiting a Flagstaff hotel are coming up from the Phoenix area in order to escape the heat. While traveling for cooler weather seems like a fine idea typically, now I find it one of the most ridiculous reasons to travel.
Regardless of the purpose, traveling in 2020 has proven to be more dangerous than usual. Usually, travel involves being on a plane or train in close proximity to others who could potentially spread illness. Or travel involves staying in a hotel, where yes, rooms are cleaned and sanitized, but one is constantly around other guests from other places. Additionally, it is expected that those who travel up to Flagstaff for the nice weather are going out and doing lots. While this may involve distanced outdoor activities, the majority of guests I’ve interacted with enjoy exploring downtown Flagstaff. When people travel and are out and about doing typical travel activities, they have the potential to spread the virus to locals or bring it back to wherever they are from.
As a worker in the travel industry who interacts with so many travelers every day, I am nervous for my health, especially when I realize that the number of people staying at the hotel where I work mirrors that of a normal summer. Flagstaff sees the bulk of its travelers in the summer months, but I expected things would be slower this summer, as it seemed logical that people would want to avoid traveling in the midst of a pandemic. Unfortunately, though, I was wrong. Even now, hotels are reaching maximum capacities regularly and it may seem selfish, but this leads me to be pretty concerned for my well-being.
I don’t have a choice to work or not, I have to show up and interact with travelers staying at the hotel. Though, families and couples coming up for a weekend away from the Phoenix heat or just to see some of northern Arizona do have a choice. People shouldn’t be tourists this summer because it brings about much more to worry about. I, personally, wouldn’t consider a fun trip somewhere with cooler weather to be more important than the health and safety of myself, my loved ones and even strangers who I could possibly infect.
I’m not saying there should be a total halt on travel, though. I just think non-essential trips could definitely wait until the coast is clearer. I understand that some travel simply cannot wait. Be it a business trip or family emergency, I know that traveling can’t be completely out of the picture for some, even during a pandemic. Regardless, I think that everyone traveling now should at least be traveling for an essential purpose, take extra precautions and only be around others when necessary. Otherwise, travelers are putting themselves, their families, essential workers and locals in danger.
Traveling can be fun, and I understand many of us are eager to jump back in a train, plane, bus or car to explore a new destination, but now, especially here in Arizona, I wish people would understand the dangers of traveling and limit their travel to essential trips only.