Rick Steves Is Willing to Put His Travel Business on Hold for As Long As It Takes: 'Lock It All Down'

For the first summer in over 30 years, travel icon Rick Steves is stuck at home in Edmonds, Washington. And he’s OK with that.

Instead of wandering Europe as he usually does, Rick Steves is learning to cook, hanging with hummingbirds, and speaking out in support of stronger restrictions to stem the spread of coronavirus.

"I care as much about the economy as anybody, and I think we should lock it all down until we whoop the virus and then we can come out of it smartly," Steves told the Puget Sound Business Journal during a virtual event on the future of travel.

It’s a stance that doesn’t bode well for his business. Steves’ company, Rick Steves’ Europe, is one of many that’s suffered as the pandemic triggered travel restrictions and lockdowns around the world. Last year, 30,000 people traveled to Europe as part of 1,200 trips led by Rick Steves’ Europe.

Steves had been planning for the company’s best year ever but has instead been busy issuing refunds and trimming costs. His company has 100 employees and works with another 150 freelance tour guides across Europe.

"We have to realize it's just not, 'How am I going to make my business get through this?' It's, 'What are we going to do to hold our society together when we have so much anxiety and hard times ahead of us?,'" he said.

Steves says he’s chosen not to feel sorry for himself and his business because “every institution in town is having the same kind of crisis.”

Ever the optimist, Steves has found a silver lining to the pandemic: “I never cooked until this year — literally never made pasta, never used olive oil, never cared that there are different kinds of potatoes,” he wrote in The Atlantic. “Now, like someone experiencing the delights of Europe for the first time, I thrill at the sensation of a knife cutting through a crisp onion.”

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