Christmas nostalgia isn’t what it used to be. There was a time when we fondly remembered the days of postcards, traveler’s checks, and good food at 35,000 feet. Little did we know that everything that came before 2020 was, in fact, the golden period of the holidays, before we entered this new era of post-pandemic puritanism.
This week, Airbnb announced that the party is officially over. In August 2020, the vacation rental company banned party houses to prevent raucous knee-knocks at its properties at a time when social mixing was prohibited. Two years later, Airbnb announced that it is “officially codifying the ban” after reporting a 44 percent year-over-year drop in party complaints.
Which, when you think about it, is fair enough. Banning party houses will mean less bad press for a company with an already troubled public image. But what’s interesting about Airbnb’s party ban is that this was a measure put in place to help slow the spread of Covid-19, so the measure never went away. Now it’s still a pretty good fit for Airbnb, so they’ve made it a permanent policy. And they are not alone.
Let’s take Japan. This month the country reopened to tourism, but only to foreign visitors entering on a group tour. For many years, Japan has battled overtourism in areas like Kyoto, a topic of passionate public debate; they even published an “etiquette manual” for tourists in 2015. But when the borders closed during the pandemic, the problem disappeared and locals liked the change. Keeping tourist numbers in check is an example of a politically desirable end achieved under the guise of Covid caution.
In restaurants both in the UK and abroad, we are still being encouraged to access menus via a QR code, even after covid cases plummeted and evidence suggests the risk of contracting the virus through surfaces or objects is one in 10,000, according to the CDC. similar to the odds of being struck by lightning. What this means is that we are forced to spend the first ten minutes in a bar or restaurant fiddling with our phones, when all we want to do is say “two beers please,” put on our sunglasses, and pull out a bill. of five euros. on the table before we left. But for the restaurant, the technology is now in place, it stops bills and change, allows people to order when they want and means they can keep staff counting down. Why would they come back?
Museums and galleries are also present. From the Louvre to the British Museum to the Taj Mahal, cultural institutions introduced reservation systems during the pandemic to control numbers at a time when social distancing was de rigueur. Fast-forward to 2022 and many still require or urge visitors to reserve a time slot in advance of arrival. For the tourist, this takes away the joy of spontaneity that we enjoyed before the pandemic. For the museum or gallery, it allows them to control the numbers and distribute the passage throughout all hours of the day: a faculty of control, conveniently and quietly kept in place after the Covid world has gone.
The restrictions also continue on the rails. In November 2020, Scotrail introduced an alcohol ban on its trains to “support the public health measures put in place by the Scottish Government to tackle coronavirus”. Fast forward to July 2022 and the measure remains in place, despite Scotland having ended all Covid measures. Stephen Elliot, ScotRail’s Security and Crime Manager, said: “There is no time frame for changing the policy, but we will keep it under review.” So you’d better keep those gin and tonic cans shut, or else you’ll be asked to land in a remote corner of the Highlands.
The list goes on: B&Bs inexplicably no longer serving breakfast, hotels with empty or depleted minibars, cafes that refuse cash payments, restaurants that are only open on weekends, hotels that delay check-in times and advance check-in times. -out to allow “deep clean time”.
As governments around the world lifted covid restrictions in the first half of 2022, there were hopes and rumors of an impending “Roaring Twenties.” But we have returned to a world of less spontaneity, more bureaucracy, and rules that hinder rather than enhance our freedoms and, indeed, fun, on vacation. If things don’t change soon, the “Boring Twenties” might feel more fit.
Have you noticed any restrictions introduced during the pandemic that are here to stay? Comment below to join the conversation