Some links to products and travel providers on this website will earn Traveling For Miles a commission that helps contribute to the running of the site. Traveling For Miles has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Traveling For Miles and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone and have not been reviewed, endorsed, or approved by any of these entities. For more details please see the disclosures found at the bottom of every page.
I made the conscious decision to see out the current crisis outside of the US and away from my home in Los Angeles and, as a result, I’m getting a close look at how another country is handling the pandemic and how other countries are viewing the US response to Covid-19. The news on the latter isn’t good.
If you’re reading this is in the US right now allow me to make one thing very clear from the outset – what you or anyone else in the country thinks of the government’s response to the current crisis is irrelevant. Whether you believe the states have acted badly or well or whether you think the current occupant of the Oval Office is a stable genius or a monumental idiot, doesn’t matter. The world doesn’t care what I, you, or anyone else in the US thinks right now.
All the world cares about is how *it* thinks the US is handling the pandemic and the reports that I’ve been watching, hearing, and reading don’t paint a picture of confidence in how our nation is reacting. People on this side of the pond (and in various other parts of the world) aren’t enjoying watching armed protestors demanding “civil liberties” when they believe that people should be respecting stay-at-home orders, and they’re not enjoying watching or reading about people flouting social distancing rules or other government directives because they *think* it breaks their constitutional rights.
Rightly or wrongly, there’s an increasing feeling around the world that a section of the US public cares more about themselves and the right-now rather than about the bigger picture and the long-term.
No doubt some of you are now desperate to scroll down to the comments section to voice your vehement objection to the idea that the US is being seen in a bad light, and no doubt some of you will be equally desperate to point out that other countries have a far worse [insert metric of your choice] than the US…but don’t bother. There’s no point.
Allow me to reiterate – what *you* think doesn’t matter. Not even a little bit.
Other people’s perception is key here, and the perception right now is that there’s a growing number of people in the US who want everything to open up as soon as possible regardless of the consequences. To people outside of the US (a lot of whom have been living under far tighter lockdown conditions than most people in the US have been asked to endure) that’s both selfish and stupid, and they’re rapidly losing trust in the US government’s ability to control the situation and in the US population’s ability to do what they believe is the right thing to do under current circumstances.
This lack of trust may well turn out to be a big issue for US citizens hoping to travel internationally any time soon.
A lot of the countries around the world have successfully “flattened the curve” and, for now, are seeing the number of daily deaths falling. The biggest fear that most of these countries now have is that they’ll see a “second spike” in infections so most are prepared to do whatever it takes to prevent this from happening.
If the perceptions that the US is opening up too soon and that the US public cannot be trusted to work for the greater good persist, there will be a lot of countries around the world that will close their borders to US citizens. They’re not going to admit citizens from a country that they believe hasn’t worked hard enough to contain the virus because they’ll be concerned that these citizens will lead to a second spike. They’re also not going to trust that these citizens will behave according to the rules that they have laid down for their own populations. Why would they?
The argument will be a simple one:
“If they won’t adhere to social distancing rules and government directives in their own country why should we believe that they’ll obey the rules that we’ve laid down?”
Governments around the world will have various measures in place to prevent the spread or reemergence of the virus for months to come (a lot of the rules we’re seeing now aren’t going away this year), and if these countries think that another country’s population is either unable to stick to those rules or, worse still, is likely to re-import the virus, that country’s citizens will not be allowed to visit. Period.
No doubt some will attempt to argue that the money US travelers spend will be a key factor in ensuring that countries don’t close their borders to them regardless of perceptions…but don’t be so sure.
Europeans are in no hurry to see US visitors return right now (they’ll do without the mighty dollar if it means less chance of a second spike), many countries in Asia (where discipline is seen as a virtue) aren’t overly impressed by what they view as Americans throwing a tantrum (they know better than anyone how devastating these viruses can be and have little interest in making the mistake that Singapore appears to have made), and countries like New Zealand that have all but erradicated the virus aren’t keen for anyone to visit right now.
Even the Caribbean Islands (a lot of whom rely heavily on US visitors) may be reluctant to throw open their doors to Americans if our country is perceived to have failed to act responsibly and if the prevailing belief is that we’re opening ourselves up for a second spike. They may well choose to make do with what income they can get from countries that, in their minds, have performed better and worked harder to combat Covid-19 rather than risk their own population being ravaged for a second time.
Sure, a lot of this would be very unfair. The media isn’t really reporting on the millions and millions of Americans who are doing their level best to be model citizens and who are prepared to make serious and significant sacrifices as the world combats a situation no living person has encountered before…but fairness won’t come into play here. The few often screw things up for the many and that will be as true in this case as it has been in any other.
As things stand, none of this may come to pass. It may be that, given time, the US is perceived to have got its act together and that our nation emerges from this crisis with an incredible amount of credit (let’s hope that’s exactly what happens), but things can just as easily go the other way.
Right now, the behavior of some of our citizens and the behavior of some of our politicians is not being viewed in a particularly favorable light by large parts of the world so, if things continue as they are and if perceptions don’t begin to change, US citizens shouldn’t assume that they’ll see their international travel privileges restored any time soon. The sad fact is that when you’re ready and willing to travel you may not be as welcome in as many countries as you may have hoped.
UPDATE 10 May 2020: Here’s an article giving just one example of what I have tried to say in this post.