Beating COVID19 (Part 4): 3 CIA Travel Predictions

Andrew Bustamante | April 13, 2020

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Greetings Everyday Spy,

Life for my little family of 4 is not that different from your life right now.

We spend most of our time at home and indoors (our backyard is a 4th floor balcony). My wife and I find creative ways to keep the children engaged and educated. And all of our food comes from either the kitchen or some kind of take-out container.

Even though we are 8,000 miles away from our Florida home, our routine in the Middle East is a carbon copy of what most adults are doing around the world.

With one important exception…

We are already planning our next international trip.

CIA used to send my family all over the world. 

Now we travel so that we can grow our own business, EverydaySpy.com.

Sometimes we travel to work private intelligence contracts. Sometimes we travel to create new content for our Everyday Espionage Podcast. Other times we travel to host espionage-related training events around the world.

But mostly we travel because we love it.

When I made a career out of illegally crossing borders undercover, I had to plan my travel carefully.

Planning for traffic to the airport, luggage weight, and in-flight snacks was obvious. There were also a few spy-centric things I had to consider, like which passport I was using (or my wife, for that matter) and whether local biometrics would catch us using a different name.

But the most powerful thing I learned from CIA about travel was how to use it as a tactical advantage.

As the world focuses on Coronavirus right now, there are important (and unnoticed) travel signs happening at the same time. I’ve seen these signs before – during the aftermath of 9/11, the start of the Iraq war, the SARS pandemic, and the Great Recession.

While many people think of travel only for vacation or fun, the travel industry is actually supported by business travelers.

  • $2.6 trillion in US revenue was generated by domestic and international travel in 2019
  • 75% of all airline profits come from business travelers
  • Corporations rack up $139 billion a year in travel spending to host meetings, events and conferences. 

While business travelers account for only about 12% of the total airline miles, they are profitable because they fly short distances, fly frequently, buy insured fares, purchase business/first class tickets, and spend money on in-flight services.

And after the flight is over, business travelers continue spending for lodging, transportation, and food. Business travelers account for more than 40% of all hotel bookings, 24% of hotel food purchases, and are the reason taxis line up outside airport arrival gates..

In the months following a crisis, business travel drops dramatically so businesses can offset lost revenue.

Businesses fear the impact of a crisis differently than people. People fear immediate risks; businesses fear future risks.

For example, the average person felt fear and anger when 9/11 happened. They were concerned for their immediate safety and well-being. But businesses feared the economic impact to the stock market. And after the $123 billion shock wave rolled through the US economy, many businesses were lost, closed down, or bought up.

While everyone fears layoffs after a major financial event, businesses know that their travel budget is the fastest way to recover lost income.

  • The average annual salary for professionals in the USA is $48,100
  • The average business trip costs a company $1499 per traveler
  • The average business traveler costs a company $20,986 per year

Businesses spend more than one person’s annual salary to fund travel for 2.3 business travelers.

With the US President signing a $2 trillion bill to save a Coronavirus-battered economy, it is certain that businesses are going to pull back on business travel. 

And that is a big advantage for everyday people. 

I plan to use travel as a tactical advantage to benefit my family, my business, and my own health and safety. 

Here is how you can do the same, even while the rest of the world stays hypnotized by COVID19 headlines.


Travel gives you more control


The business world is getting a pop-quiz in remote work right now. 

A decade worth of debate and theory over the cost vs. benefit of telework is about to be closed. And remote work is going to win. The results will be powerful because every industry in every country is being tested.

Companies that survive the COVID19 crisis will be forced to either allow employees to work-from-home, or risk losing them to competitors that create work-from-home opportunities. 

The shift toward remote work will give professionals new freedom and control. That means you get to choose whether you want to keep your daily commute or ditch it; keep your windowless cubicle or trade it in for your back patio; fight with your kids before and after work every day or enjoy breakfast, dinner, and bedtime with them.

I chose virtual work over government work 6 years ago. But now it is your turn. 

The coming months are the perfect time to consider a major family move. Current employee layoffs will result in high-demand for employees before the end of summer. Skilled tradesmen, strong sales people, and reliable customer service professionals will be needed everywhere. This is the time to look at relocating to an area that benefits your profession, your children’s schooling, hiring opportunities for your spouse, or plain old personal preference.

Your state and local government just showed you their talent (or lack) for good governance.

You can choose to stick around and see how they do with the next emergency (pending economic crisis, second/third COVID19 outbreak, natural disaster) or you can move to a state/county that better reflects your values.


Travel is going to get cheap… temporarily


When business travel declines, personal travel gains leverage to negotiate!

Travel and tourism industries decreased more than 30% after 9/11. It took hotels and airlines 5 months (plus government bailouts) before they could return to profitability. Some industry experts are saying that Coronavirus will have 6-7 times the economic impact of 9/11.

I disagree with the airline and tourism association CEOs who overestimate the impact COVID19 will play on travel.

Yes, travel will change. And yes, that change will be inconvenient for travel companies. But it will be very good for everyday travelers in the short-term.

First, you will see a sharp decline in airfares. 

Oil prices have dropped and oil producers are desperate to sell it. Combine cheap oil with new government stimulus and you get airlines that drop ticket prices to get passengers on planes. The same will be true for buses and all types of professional drivers who are hungry to make up for lost time.

Second, you will see hotels dropping prices to entice new guests. 

This is especially important for anyone planning a personal move because long-term stays (relocation, family vacations, etc.) will have MASSIVE power to negotiate lower rates. With business travel decreasing, no large conferences, and canceled business meetings, upscale hotels are suffering an 18% loss in revenue. 

If you want to find the most savings on hotels, target premium hotels with lots of business space (conference rooms, lecture halls, multiple business spaces, etc.). Never accept the published rate you see online. Make a phone call and talk them down. 

But the low rates will only be temporary.

By September, hotels and airlines will start seeing more demand. And by January 2021 the travel industry will be back on the path to profitability with new policies and regulations that make travel less fun and more expensive…


Travel is going to get more complicated by September


Travel is a product that we will always want and need.

And it’s an industry that knows how to pass costs down to you to increase their revenue. That is why you pay for luggage now when you didn’t before; why you pay for expedited security when security used to be easy; and why you pay extra seating fees even when all the seats are the same.

Airlines will introduce new policies that increase prices and hassle and make travel less fun. 

I anticipate a new ‘health screening’ fee that passengers will have to pay either at the airport or directly with a healthcare provider 24-48 hours before a flight. For those that forget to get a screening (or don’t want to), they will be able to buy an exception by paying at check-in – similar to when your luggage is overweight. 

Airline execs will say the fees are to combat the spread of future illness. But it will really be an excuse for airlines to boost their bottom line without actually making service better.

Hotels will also increase income by introducing a new ‘deep clean’ or ‘room sanitization’ fee.

Similar to the way hotels tell you to reuse towels and conserve water, they will save operating costs by using their existing cleaning staff but charge you more for the same room. And when business travelers begin to return again, the fee will become as easily overlooked as ‘state tax’, ‘room tax’, and my favorite – ‘use tax’.

But cruise lines will win their day in the spotlight by being easier, cleaner, and more enjoyable than airlines or hotels! 

Even though they are the hardest hit travel industry right now – with no bailout money and heavy government restrictions – cruises are about to become more popular than ever. Unlike hotels and airlines, all cruise lines (except budget lines) have long held the highest standards of health and hygiene. 

They already have strict cleaning practices, built-in passenger hygiene processes, and on-board medical facilities that can respond to a range of needs in minutes. These practices were built out of the need to keep aging passengers healthy in confined spaces for extended periods of time. And with no bailout incentives to help, cruise lines will simply have to deliver superior service and strong incentives to bring cruisers back for more.


Mainstream media wants to keep you focused on COVID19 right now – the immediate threat.

But there is a bright light on the horizon for those willing to look up and see it. 

The crisis will end. People will find a way to live in a world with Coronavirus (like we did with flu, zika, and MERS). Doctors will find a way to fight, prevent, and possibly even destroy SARS-CoV-2.

That will be a good day indeed.

But there is an incredible opportunity between now and the day Coronavirus is defeated.

The opportunity to change your career, build your business, and give your family the life you want them to have. I know because I’ve done it. I’m planning to do it again.

And I want you to do it, too.

Godspeed, #EverydaySpy


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Author: Andrew Bustamante, Founder of www.EverydaySpy.com. Andrew is a former covert CIA Intelligence officer, decorated US Air Force Combat Veteran, and respected Fortune 500 senior advisor. Learn more from Andrew on his Podcast (The Everyday Espionage Podcast) and by following @EverydaySpy on your favorite social media platform.  

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