TO BEGIN TO TRAVEL WILL BE TO BEGIN TO HEAL

1st April 2021 is the date my new world began to change, it was the day I had my second Moderna vaccine. I then realised, it was almost a year to the day, my world looked so very different. 8th April 2020 was the day I tested positive for Covid-19. Looking back, at the year that was, it’s hard to define the exact moment we left the old world behind and entered this new one.

But now, with vaccines being administered globally, we can clearly see that science is succeeding. A time for us to be reenergised by the possibility of the new. The pandemic has been gut-wrenching in so many ways but there is an opportunity to see the way forward.

It is therefore frustrating to again see signs of how for some, how little has been learned, with solidarity fading, and with decreasing adherence to protocols as well as the former national battles over purchasing PPE shifting to the acquiring of vaccine doses. These are the constraints.

What hasn’t changed is that the virus knows no borders.  This appreciation that no one is safe until everyone is safe is not just a belief, it is our reality. We need understanding, a vision a plan. This will guide us so the new.

It’s just not hard – everyone’s adherence to the now proven health measures is the only way to manage the virus. Wear a mask when in proximity of other, maintain a distance from them, clean your hands and avoid crowded and enclosed areas. And we need the cooperation of all governments to work collaboratively towards rolling out vaccines globally.

Spring is usually a time of great anticipation and great excitement. Why? The change from Winter as life begins to bud and bloom well as historically, it the time for travel planning for the months ahead. This year, we are being asked by vaccinated travellers, where can they go, when can they ditch their masks. Importantly, this not just for the vaccinated, literally billions of people around the world, are asking the same questions too. Travel is a need. But travellers aren’t big fans of uncertainty and too many governments are fueling this uncertainty in their indecisiveness and fumbling. The ability for us to go depends on how quickly the rates of disease drop and what percentage of people remain unvaccinated in the community.

2020 revealed just how profoundly our world needs travel. Global grounding cost the world almost 130 million jobs, trillions in lost revenues to tourism economies, and importantly, billions in value in infrastructure as hotels, cruise ships, attractions, megaevent structures and other critical assets were forced to stand idle. Significant investment is going to be required to re-mobilize the essential engineering of the global tourism economy, enabling it to once again shape economies, strengthen communities, preserve cultures while protecting environments.

The spirit of anticipation was deemed to be one of the great saviours of travel and tourism in 2020. Our industry suffered great trauma as a result of hundreds of millions of people being grounded around the world, but has still managed to keep a world of traveller hearts and hopes strong that shortly we will travel once more.

There is no question at all about the need for the travel industry to recover as safely as able to do so. As countries across the world build in momentum of vaccination of its citizens, for the first time in literally a year waves of steady confidence in a safer, more stable tomorrow are released. With that, hopes of travel. These hopes are not simply sentiment. We are seeing the excitement as searches and bookings grow.

But, we continue to see leaders encouraging their citizens to hold off travel for all of 2021. Hold on? Hold off? For what? With no, plan, no vision, no understanding.

For government leaders to make such statements, whether officially or not, has immensely damaging impact. And is fundamentally irresponsible. 2020 was nothing short of traumatic. Such statements institutionalise delay in recovery well into 2022 and 2023. And defies the facts.

Yes, our industry knows that we need protocols in place to protect travellers. Significant levels of investment have already been made by businesses across the travel experience chain and across the world – airlines, airports, hotels, guided touring companies, attractions, railways, cruise companies to name but a few – to provide travellers with the peace of mind and personal wellbeing support they need, and even more. Traveller health and safety is an industry-wide priority.

Our industry must be given the opportunity to rebuild, building not just ‘back’ better but building ‘forward’ better. Our primary mission is to inspire people to travel once again, because travel makes the world a better place.

Governments cannot simply institutionalize travel and tourism shutdowns. The desire to build memories, to connect with people, and to see new places drove 1.4 billion of us to travel internationally in 2019. The more loudly governments speak about holding off any travel in 2021, the longer we are going to cause this industry and the world to suffer. Travel and tourism is not simply about people going away and having fun. It is about education. It is about unity and harmony. It is about collaboration and cooperation. And most importantly, it is about hope.

As we need to focus on the science if we wish to bring to an end a healthcare pandemic, we need to focus on the numbers to bring to an end a financial pandemic, specifically those numbers linked to the travel and tourism sector. We need to focus on the economics. We need to focus on the power of travel and tourism as a force for job creation, investment, revenue generation, unity, productivity, inclusivity and identity. And as always, the industry needs to come together with a unified voice.

Travel is an essential part of our health, our happiness, our global unity. And now, as we work through COVID19 in 2021 and further into the future, it will be an essential part of our healing.

Our world needs travel and tourism. We need to keep the hope strong by keeping the dream of future travel alive. The opportunity now is to ensure that everyone, industry, citizens and government leaders alike, recognise that travel and tourism must continue. It is critical that leaders, and their leadership voices, set the tone and tempo of the travel sector to be given a clear runway for recovery. It is 100% up to government officials to officially give the industry clearance for take-off.

We cannot shut our doors to an economy that keeps lives and livelihood strong. We simply cannot take that risk. With my vaccine’s I remain innately confident that I and we will travel again. And when we begin to travel, when we feel that fresh air of our wide open, wonderful, shared world filling our hearts once more, we will heal.

SALUTING THE EXCEPTIONAL POWER OF WOMEN, ESPECIALLY IN THESE EXCEPTIONAL TIMES

I am a firm believer in the power of women. In fact, I am incredibly fortunate to come from a family of incredible women leaders: my wife Toni, my aunt Bea and my cousin Vicki, to name but a few. Thanks to them, every day my world is made stronger, richer and more grateful.

I feel blessed to be surrounded by these women who provide endless vision, confidence, support, inspiration, and example. For when it comes to these great qualities, never have they been needed more than over the past year. COVID-19 has grounded our world and dramatically reduced the radius of our lives. Never could we have imagined that exactly one year ago at this time, international borders would be shutting with speed and fear would spread as a new virus raced from north to south, east to west, paralysing our essential industry and putting lives and livelihoods at risk. Similarly, who could have imagined that the now familiar WFH (work-from-home) acronym would become the new norm.

Our COVID-world lifestyle has been unique, not only in how we have all had to operationally navigate our way around it while keeping connected to the world, but also in strengthening our awareness to what it takes every single day to lead companies through the toughest of times.

For when it comes to leading companies, I count myself so fortunate to work alongside a predominantly female leadership team who inspire, motivate and challenge me every single day. And that is why this year on International Women’s Day as we #ChoosetoChallenge, I want to celebrate the remarkable tenacity and resilience of the Trafalgar women around the world. We have all experienced one of the toughest years of our lives, both in business and personally. This toughness has shown exactly what it takes to be able to combine all of the roles of an individual, every single day. And yet somehow, our tenacious women leaders at Trafalgar have been able to do this while maintaining an incredible sense of hope, optimism, confidence, and stamina.

I want to highlight five women I work closely with, who over this past year have tirelessly helped to navigate our business through these turbulent times. These women are unique, each having grown in the company to now be the role models and leaders shaping the future of travel and our brands. They illustrate the care shown by so many individuals I work with, and process an invaluable depth of vision and passion that comes from nurturing female talent, growth and development in business. I have been awed by how, despite other tensions and strains, we have been able to pivot to get us to this stage of momentum of future-travel hope and opportunity. Together they have ensured that we are ready for when our world opens once more, as tourism slowly restarts through strengthening of traveller confidence and easing of travel regulations, all a result of the rolling out of vaccines around the world.

Melissa Da Silva, President USA

Trafalgar, CostSaver, Brendan Vacations and Contiki

With over 8 years in the business, our USA president Melissa leads our largest market and largest team.  Throughout this past year she has navigated the new home based lifestyle, juggling WFH and home-schooling of two daughters with grace and poise. Despite the remarkable blurring of daily pressures and demands, she has graciously traversed her multitude of roles as: mother, teacher, daughter, sister, partner, friend and of course business leader. You can get to know more about Melissa and her journey here.

Melissa Da Silva, President USA, Trafalgar, CostSaver, Brendan Vacations and Contiki

Katrina Barry, Managing Director Australia

Trafalgar, CostSaver and Contiki

Katrina, who holds 6 years in our TTC business, joined the Trafalgar tribe just last year after returning from maternity leave following the birth of her second child, making her a super mum to two under 2. Since joining, Katrina has not only been a leading force in the role of Managing Director for our brands in Australia, but has also leaned in to navigate the challenges of the strict Australian travel restrictions. With stamina and energetic vision and driven by success, Katrina is an exemplary leader and role model for many of our young female talent across the business as she brilliantly balances her young family with a demanding leadership role. Learn more about Katrina in her interview here.

Katrina Barry, Managing Director Australia, Trafalgar, Costsaver and Contiki

Jillian Gattrell, Director of Operations Europe

Trafalgar and CostSaver

Growing in the company over 14 years Jillian, who is now our Director of Operations, was the instrumental driving force in a new vision of travel protocol in a post covid world. Jillian’s commitment and passion to respond to travellers needs, while being lead by government and authority guidelines to create new standards of wellbeing protocol, has been exceptional. Watching Jillian march forward into new unpaved territory with a clear vision and determination to deliver for our guests has been exceptional. Learn more from Jillian here.  

Jillian Gattrell, Director of Operations Europe, Trafalgar and CostSaver

Dee Marrocco, Chief Marketing Officer

Trafalgar and CostSaver

Having worked across brands and roles in TTC over a 10-year period, Dee has grown within the business, moving from her home in Australia to be our brands CMO, now based in Geneva. Through these turbulent times, as a brand we have been faced with factual and emotional complexities as borders shut and our guests’ concerns have grown and perpetually shifted. Dee’s vision and passion has been instrumental in bringing a relatable simplicity to our communications and return to travel plans across all of our global offices. You can read more about Dee and her journey here.

Dee Marrocco, Chief Marketing Officer, Trafalgar and CostSaver

Mae Cheah, President Asia

Trafalgar and CostSaver

In addition to these four women, of particular standout for me is Mae , who has not only developed within the business to now lead our Asia office, but is holding such an important position in a region where traditionally only 35% of women hold senior leadership positions. The multiplicity of this achievement is not taken for granted, nor is her determination for success. Mae brings a hunger to achieve and a gentleness of care to her daily actions where she consistently pushes beyond the traditional norms to explore the new, to expand our sales footprint across Asia. Read Mae’s story here

Mae Cheah, President Asia, Trafalgar and CostSaver

I am so proud to have my team by my side who are all exemplary leaders, and even more proud that of my executive team, 82% are female. I’m proud to be part of a business where we can lead by example and showcase the power that female leadership can offer our industry.

Today, on #IWD2021 and always, I celebrate with you all of the women around us who we can confidently look to as our leaders in mind, heart and spirit. This innate strength and depth of leadership style is critical to us all as we work together, to rebuild a future tourism industry and world that is genuinely equal, supportive, diverse, caring, and confident, reinspiring global tourism’s power as a force for good for all.

#InternationalWomensDay

TRAVEL IN 2021: MY WISHES FOR SEEING THE WORLD ANEW

With each new year comes a new must-do trave list, a #bucketlist of all the things we want to do and places we want to visit. In 2021 however, and considering the unusual nature with which we enter this new year, this year’s bucket list is full of desires grounded in deeper concious thought.

For 2021, our wish lists are not simply a listing of places to which we long to travel. Uniquely, this year they also offer insight into our intense love for travel beyond the WHERE and WHAT, tapping into the beauty of the WHY. They are reflections of the connections that we have missed, or missed out on, because of our being unable to discover the world in 2020.

For us all, wherever in the world we may be, the past year grounded us in a way that was completely unexpected, unimaginable, and inescapable.

For us travel nomads who spend a significant amount of our working and personal lives on airplanes, discovering new places around the world and unlocking new opportunities, this loss was yet another facet in what was a challenging year. For this reason, our untouched 2020 bucket lists have enriched our 2021 ‘TO DO’ lists. We are determined to venture out, to discover and go and see beyond our immediate borders, as soon as we possibly can.

As I look ahead into 2021, I am certain that we will see travel return. With the first round of vaccine doses already being dispersed and dispensed, these will be the key needed stabilizing force to move beyond the mere desire to go. The dispensing scale of the various approved pharma manufacturers will have the necessary positive global impact to enable the gates to travel to reopen. The vaccine, combined with testing, the continued use of masks, social distancing, hand washing and other supplier actions, will enable us to once again travel and reintroduce ourselves to the different places, people, cultures and experiences that enrich our lives.

So, what is on my #TTC2021 bucket list? As stated earlier, interestingly this year my travel bucket list is defined not by WHERE, but motivated by WHY.

My personal bucket list features only three places in the world. Nevertheless, it is a list that means the world to me. Here is my #TTCTOP3:

#1: Space and Big Sky

I love the great outdoors. It is what I’ve always loved. I love being out in nature, whether it is climbing sand dunes in the desert, skinning up then snowboarding down snow covered slopes or watching wildlife across the African veld.

Now post-lockdowns, I have a greater yearning for open space, along with a remnant unease of crowded places. I also love feeling the humility in being a mere speck on the globe. I want to be able to experience that again, opening up psychologically, not just physically, having been locked in for the entire year. Where do I want to go? I want to be able to look up like never before and see the lights, the Northern Lights. As I’ve written in the past, I have booked and intend to go to Lapland, Northern Sweden, in early April – a time that coincides perfectly with when I think travel will begin finally reopening up once more. I want to observe the beginning of Spring by looking up to the night lights dancing across the sky, celebrating all of the natural wonder that our world has to offer.

Importantly, I want to appreciate now and with deeper meaning, the blessing we have of being able to finally go out and explore again the gifts of Mother Nature’s creation.

#2: Cultural Re-awakening

By being locked in, we locked out the opportunity to gain direct, personal engagement, and the stimulation of learning from people of other cultures, and being an insider in their worlds. How I have missed discovering what it is that gives their lives meaning, gives their lives definition, and gives them a sense of identity.

Where do I want to go in 2021 to re-ignite this love of local? Top of my list remains Vietnam. I’ve never been, despite trying to go for the past three years. For whatever reason, these plans never came together. But in 2021 my wife and I are determined to try and make it happen.

I am excited to explore the culture and warmth of the nation through its food, its dance, its traditions, and of course, its art. I have been told to anticipate the country’s breath taking natural beauty. But post the Covid year,  it’s the friendliness and hospitality of Vietnamese people that intrigues me. I want to be able to connect with a country that has been connected to the world in so many ways, meeting and engaging with people who are as excited to share their pride of place as I am to experience it through their hearts and minds.

#3: Personal, Purposeful Connection

Third on my bucket list is one of personal motivation – I want to ensure that I continue to broaden my mind through travel.

I therefore want to be able to make a personal connection to the realities of people not only millions of miles away, but right beside me. 2020 made vividly clear just how harmful, how hurtful, and how deeply divisive racial inequality is and continues to be. Respectful and respected equality must become a legacy that our generation can be proud to pass on. But this only happens if we truly understand the position of others – if we walk in their footsteps. In doing so we gain a genuine understanding what makes their hearts smile, what makes their minds tick, what they find to be meaningful.  

In this regard, the trip that I’m determined to take, is a new Trafalgar itinerary that I am so proud of, which frames the important history of the Civil Rights Movement in the USA. This trip will go on sale during the month of February, recognised as Black History Month.

Inspired by one of our own Team Trafalgar members, this itinerary is a unique historical experience, as it explores the pioneers in this period of American history, particularly that of, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Guests and I will take a journey of enlightenment, meeting activists and guides along the way who will unlock each place through their eyes. Starting in Memphis, Tennessee where the world lost Dr. King the day after his final “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech and ending in Atlanta, Georgia home of his birth. The trip will explore significant places like Greenwood and the Mississippi Freedom Trail, walk in his footsteps across The Edmund Pettus Bridge and Birmingham, Alabama. Our team is excited to bring this vision to life, through a different lens. With a first departure in May 2021, this itinerary will, no doubt, become a leading feature of our 2021 portfolio, and beyond.

Reflecting on the three bucket list travels I have shared, I cannot but feel a quiet smile emerging within me. Why? Because they all feel so true to my dreams for travel in the year ahead. All three of these capture the heartbeat of what I have missed. That sense of missing has created a sense of purpose and a sense of direction for my spirit of travel that now shapes my bucket list for 2021.

I am excited about what is ahead in 2021. I’m excited not just because of the opportunity to be able to travel again, but the deeper, much deeper appreciation I have for my travels; for being a positive force, socially, economically and environmentally.

The challenges of 2020 have made us appreciate not just the value of travel, but the values of travel. And in doing that, it makes our re-entering the world in 2021 all the richer, more meaningful, and more connected – exactly what travel must, at its core, always be about. #MakeTravelMatter

THE FUTURE OF TRAVEL: TRUTHS, NOT TRENDS

This past year has been a remarkable examination of how our world responds to crisis. Each and every one of us, wherever we are in the world, has had to face the unexpected, unprecedented trauma of COVID-19. From the beginning of this year, the pandemic crept across the world, grounding each and every one of us.

It is now nine months since we were forced to stand still. What a long, demanding year it has been. COVID-19 has not just pummelled the global economy, it has deeply wounded the global community both emotionally and physically, and shaken the travel industry to its core.

As I look back at 2020, I am still astounded by the speed at which the pandemic first started and then subsequently spread. Overnight, borders were closed, skies blocked, fears unlocked. We were all left stranded to where we were in those moments. News coverage of those early days remain indelibly imprinted in my mind: a single lone cyclist on what would have been bustling Geneva roads, a vacuum of humanity in Piazza Umberto in Capri, the timeless image of absolute emptiness in ever-bustling Times Square in New York City, the lines of Parisian cafes and endless rows of retail stores all shuttered. And indicative of what was ahead, the mass of stockpiled, idle aircrafts parked in airports around the world. 

Yet now, we are beginning to see tangible green shoots appearing all around us. The biggest of these is the positive vaccine news. I believe that we are entering the beginning of the end of this difficult period. 

We cannot predict exactly when travel will resume but with the approval and the commencement of administering the Pfizer / BioNTech, vaccine and the pending approvals of both the Oxford/AstraZeneca and Moderna vaccines, certainty is growing that we will be able to boldly step out of our bubbles.  

This joined with the emerging reduction of quarantine requirements, significant progress in rapid testing and the trials of a digital ‘health passport’ under way to aid the reopening of borders will collectively build confidence of an imminently brighter future. Yes, we will soon escape our cabin fever and begin exploring the world again in 2021.

There is light on the horizon. We can once again begin to look forward. To look forward however, we frequently need to begin by looking back, to analyse the patterns of the year that was. From 2020 however, there are no trends. We should not put value on what trends have been established in 2020, as these are all too often simply a reflection of short-term behaviour. In times of crisis, using these behaviours as a compass for future momentum is to institutionalise damage. Instead, what we want to look at is truths – fundamental forces of thought that inspire action and change.

Throughout the interminable last nine months of 2020, we have been given plenty of time for reflection, learning and strategy as regards the future of travel. This pause has offered us the chance to re-evaluate where we go from here, to do a proper reset and define how our industry will change after the pandemic.

It is not just about how travel has changed. It is about how travellers have changed.

If 2020 has taught us one thing, it is that there is no crystal ball. But still, I would like to share with you here my nine personally defined, globally inspired perspectives on the changes we will see in our industry and the new traveller in 2021 and beyond.

1. WANDERMUST. Our wanderlust is at an all-time high. Our time at home has made us crave the world outside more than ever. The pent-up travel demand grows daily. We are aching to explore again and reconnect with the joy that travel brings. Many would travel today, if only planes were flying and borders not closed. This remains an insurmountable challenge. However, we know that when borders and skies are re-opened, so will the floodgates for travel. I believe once we can go again, we will see an unprecedented surge in demand for travel. Travel is no longer something we lust for – it is instead a fundamental necessity. We must travel again.

Tasmania’s Bridestowe Lavender Farm

2. WELLBEING. Even with the vaccine, we know the creation of safer travel experiences will now be an essential, a given, and a fundamental to protecting the privilege that is travel. For everyone in our industry, wellbeing will be a reflection of brand trust. How we approach protocols to ensure travellers feel comfortable and well taken care of will become a lever for brand choice. Those that do it well will flourish. Those that don’t bother to care about caring, will struggle.

3. THE JOY IN TRAVEL. Travellers will be looking for assurance that travel brands have the know-how to ensure the magic of travel is not diluted in exchange for new protocols. They need to know that their chosen brands have the seamless ability to pivot to new requirements while still delivering the rich deep experiences they are dreaming of. At TTC, we have taken an industry’s first leap and added a specific Wellbeing Director on trip, so that our Travel Directors can remain 100% focused on customer satisfaction and delivering trips of a lifetime.

Exploring the magical Seville

4. A GREATER VALUE PROPOSITION. Price has been the historic driving force far too often in travel. In the year ahead, what we get for our money in terms of safety, enrichment, education, inspiration and protection will become of greater importance than just the price we pay.

Travel Director Jonathan with guests

5. THE GREAT OUTDOORS. We are already seeing that 2021’s travellers, not surprisingly, want nature, the outdoors – places that deliver on wide open spaces, fresh air, a chance to get into nature, and a way of avoiding crowds. When borders lift, I am confident we will see a resurgence in destinations such as New Zealand and Switzerland that will shoot to the top of the ‘must visit now’ lists.

Embrace the great outdoors at Geiranger Fjord

6. CONSCIOUS AND MEANINGFUL TRAVEL.  This year has shown that the issue is not over-tourism. The world needs tourism for all of its social, cultural, economic and environmental benefit. The issue is rather of irresponsible crowding as a result of bad management and bad manners. We will see more companies focus on the integration of both conscious and meaningful travel experiences into their DNA. This is what true ‘sustainability’ is all about. Here at Trafalgar and as part of TTC, we have always looked to make a difference to people, places and the planet, ensuring the destinations we are so privileged to visit are there for generations to come. I am filled with hope and certainty that when we travel again, we will continue to be a driver of real change. It is through what we do as an industry that we can regenerate and restore our world’s natural and cultural treasures through travel itself. I believe that travellers themselves will want to ensure that their travel dollars and decisions directly, responsibly and sustainably impact the communities they visit.

Marta Cuccia and Guests in Perugia, Italy

7. FAMILY AND FRIENDS TRAVEL. After stressful times – 2020 being exactly that – multi- generational travel, and family and friends travel as a whole, will see a significant rise. Why? Because the importance of travelling together will be something we will see continue as loved ones recognise and appreciate their value as units – essential ‘bubbles’. Respecting this shift in social connection, we have extended our offering and created our own private groups and ‘travel bubbles’ so as to provide travellers with even more options to suit their wishes and wants.

Making Pasta in Italy

8. TECHNOLOGY INTEGRATION. The post-COVID19 world will be far more digital. Reason being, the pandemic has compressed years’ worth of transformation into months, accelerating ideation and investment, bringing on dramatic shake-up in how people research, buy and interact with their travel experiences. Greater use of tech for touchless and low touch experiences have become a basis for infrastructure enhancement. Despite limited travel, in the last year we have already seen electronic devices become more critical to our safe existence. The use of biometrics will be the new normal. Bravely, TTC has removed paper travel documentation and on trip paper touchpoints from our vacations and switched purely to digital communication. Touchless interactions are both instantaneous and sustainable. The use of less paper is the way of the future.

9. THE ROLE OF THE BOOKING AGENT. At a time when travellers are innately nervous around the unknown of a destination at a health and safely level, the expertise, knowledge and support of a skilled Booking Agent is vital for clients returning to travel. Travellers will be looking to those booking channels that offer the personal touch, and who take the time to reconnect and understand inherently the needs of the customer, and what they can offer them for ultimate reassurance.

Travel in the year ahead will look different, no question about it. And this can and will be a good thing. The richness of our experiences, and the feelings we get from travel, have intensified. The opportunity is now to turn inspiration and aspiration into action.

One must never take for granted the impact and freedom of being able to pack a bag, hit the skies or the open road, and fulfil that dream, be it one of leisure or business. Never again should we cast aside as a ‘given’ the concept of travel as an expectation and entitlement. It is truly one of the greatest gifts of our lives for so many reasons beyond being simply a vacation.

The new year awaits. We will soon begin a new, infinitely better year. But we are not there yet. We must remain strict, patient, diligent, staying the course until the pandemic is over. There is no ‘going back to normal’ as there is no going back, and no normal, to return to.

2021 has the power to be one of the most meaningful of our lives, for our industry, and for people and places across the globe. We look forward to a year of good health, great success, and the gift to travel restored, richly.

PREPARING FOR TRAVELS, ONCE MORE

I’m certain I’m not the only one…

Month after month, 2020 has been a reminder of the travel lives we all used to live. At this time in 2019, 2018, 2017, in fact every year at this time, I would usually be away on my annual trip around the Trafalgar world. I’d be visiting numerous cities on five or six continents, conducting countless meetings and taking part in extensive new travel season launch media interviews. Come early November, I would be making my way back home to Geneva to rest my passport and reflect on the wonderful people and places I’d connected to on my travels.

This year has been a year of reminders: colleagues, social media, artificial intelligence – all reminding us of what life looked like only just a year ago.

And now with daylight savings having ended in Europe, we sadly appear to be resetting our Covid-19 clocks too, with European leaders confronting a vast second-wave of coronavirus infections, which are sadly rapidly filling hospital beds and again driving up death tolls.

To some extent, Europe’s setback is hardly a surprise. In the spring, most European countries lifted their lockdowns abruptly, without consideration for the lessons learned and thereby sowing complacency among people, who without thought, stopped listening, stopped being vigilant and rather quickly returned to their previous normal lives. Public health experts have long warned that the virus could roar back when the days grew colder, driving people indoors where the risk of transmission is far greater. This warning is now, inevitably, coming to fruition.

Seven months later, the sense of collective fatigue and frustration is palpable. And yet sadly here we are again, witnessing country after country declaring official entry into the second wave of COVID-19. New surges of the virus, new lockdowns, and more deaths.

As we enter into November, a month in which many traditionally stop to give thanks, and with so little time remaining of this year, naturally this period marks a time of reflection.  As I look back at the 10-months of this year, including my own Covid-19 journey, it’s the enormity of the uncertainty and the ever-present ups and downs that are most prevalent.

Aurora Borealis, Northern Sweden

As much as the calendar year and new decade began in January, the story of 2020 began in March, a month that was as jarring as it was surreal.  The speed of change, the loss of the known, the drama of the headlines, were at first novelty. But then quickly, we learnt to adapt to a new world – a fearful world. We found a new pace of work, WFH equated to days and nights blending into one. A mix of awe and anxiety around the unknown as the scale of COVID-19’s impact became clear.

April came and with it a month dominated by witnessing the power of the virus itself as it covered the world, causing absolute havoc medically, socially and of course economically. As someone who experienced COVID-19 first-hand, I can say with absolute authority that there is no ‘getting through it’ from either a personal or business perceptive. Existing with the virus, applying every ounce of energy towards getting through one day after the other, resulted in the uncertainty of too frequent visits to HUG hospital. All this in tandem to developing bold, brave business strategies for the unknown. One common theme ran throughout – do everything in our power to focus on and manage what we could control…not that which is outside of our control.

My inspiration, however, was this – seeing how the medical world adapted and evolved in both my care and their approach. Never before has the world’s medical community heeded the call of duty with such massive scale, speed or commitment. Everyone, everywhere across the globe was at risk, and everywhere every medical professional and essential worker who could step forward did, and tirelessly.

The warmth of summer months arrived with optimism. It was then that the “new normal”, or rather the “next normal”, began. I was relieved when we could get back into the office, re-engaging with colleagues and the wider industry, feeling how positive it all was even with strict adherence to protocols.

However, the delayed financial fragility of many businesses and the economic impact on our global industry being grounded for months upon months, soon came to the forefront. At the peak of the pandemic the UNWTO reported that 100% of destinations worldwide had border restrictions. International travel was down an astounding 95%.

Those figures represent a lot of suffering. As regulations slowly, slowly eased the travel and hospitality industry were on the front line of the strictest restrictions. With no travel, there is no travel industry. With no travel industry, there are no tourism economy supply and service chains. The WTTC estimates that 1 million travel and tourism jobs have been lost every day as a result of borders and skies rapidly closing across the globe. Statistics are statistics, easily glossed over, however we must never forget that they represent lives and livelihoods: lost jobs of people whom I’d worked with directly and indirectly, businesses owners forced out, iconic brands shuttering their doors.

As of September 2020, more than 121 million jobs in the Travel and Tourism sector had been impacted worldwide, creating the worst economic and social crisis our generation, and our industry, has ever seen. Not to mention the mental health crisis that rapidly emerged as a result of our global community facing devastating losses of loved ones, livelihoods, lifestyles – the foundations of wellbeing.

Now with the temperatures falling, the Autumn leaves changing colour and the colder weather moving us closer to wintertime, I cannot deny that this second wave infuriates me. Why? Because for months it was clear that the pandemic was still dangerous, and that respect for protocols by everyone – individuals, families, colleagues, all of us – was critical if COVID-19 was to be lived with. Yet over the summer we could see people letting down their guard, gathering in numbers far larger and far closer than guidelines permitted, getting bored with waiting for the virus to be ‘over’. Last month I made vividly clear my point of view on failures of nations worldwide, leaders and citizens alike, in doing what was necessary to ensure COVID-19 did not cause further damage to our global economy and community.

To experience the trauma of 2020, to watch these months pass without taking away lessons, would be a profound waste. As I consider all that has occurred due to the spread of the pandemic, and all that has not occurred due to our plans of global travel being abruptly stopped, I cannot help but feel the deep loss of the gift that travel has brought to my life, year after year, country after country, human connection after human connection. How deeply I miss it.

For me, travel is essential to my being, and to my wellbeing. Just like oxygen, water and food, travel feeds me with energy, optimism, education, discovery, creativity, and most importantly, gratitude.

I think back to when I was the age of twelve, the first time that I travelled overseas from my country of birth, South Africa. It was transformational – one of the seminal moments of my life. Venturing out into the big wide world I rapidly realised that different countries were so, so different. Each encounter revealed just how much we can learn from others when we shared what was in our minds, invited others into how we lived our lives…and yet how in our hearts we were all the same. It was during that first trip that I made a simple decision: travel would always be a passion and a purpose of my life.

I don’t just love travel, I need travel. And I know that, especially because of this year, I am not alone. Millions upon millions worldwide have realised the same thing. Travel is not a luxury, it is a necessity, for lives and livelihoods, for social, economic and mental health. The future of travel is bright.

I look forward to the opportunity of being able to travel again, with a glimmer of optimism. I am hopeful that after this second wave, the lessons will be learned, and greater individual reasonability will prevail. After all, the solutions really are in our hands: social distancing, wearing masks and washing hands are neither difficult nor complicated.

In the basics of public health, too many governments are still failing their people. Citizen wellbeing is a duty, an increasingly loud call of action. They must do better. It is in their best interests to act decisively, and collectively. The methods of social and economic restabilisation and recovery are there: treatments are gradually making COVID-19 less deadly, rapid testing is making mobility less risky, and the news yesterday of the 90% efficacy against COVID-19 of the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine, will have an enormously positive impact on our ability to confidently and safely re-enter the new world ahead of us all.

This faith in human ingenuity and possibility is why we made guest wellbeing our absolute priority. Within our teams, we look forward optimistically to showcasing the extra steps we have taken to make our trips safe and secure. I am so proud of the work our teams have done to develop protocols to build your confidence to explore once more, unlocking our collective love of travel.

Finally, technology. I have read about a new app, CommonPass, which acts as a health passport for travellers who are virus-free. The app works by having travellers upload their COVID-19 test result before departure. The software will generate a QR code that airline and border officials can scan to verify that the traveller has had a negative test result and thereby allow healthy travellers to avoid quarantine, but be vigilant in their travels. Why are these measures so important? Because peace of mind is the foundation stone of the joy of travel.

Cumulatively, these incremental simple steps will ensure that we will be able to venture out into our beautiful shared world once more. The sooner we carefully, consistently and compassionately take the necessary steps and follow the guidelines, the sooner we will protect ourselves, our communities and our businesses, and the sooner will get back to doing what we love – discovering new places, their people and their cultures.

To miss travel, to ache for the day we can dust off our passports, pack our bags, close our front doors and walk out into the world again, is a good thing. For in missing and longing, great love is revealed. I have now made my first travel booking to go to the northern part of Sweden at the end of the first quarter of 2021, where I hope to witness the brilliant flickering splendor of the Northern Lights. The hope of awe is worth every moment of waiting and sweet anticipating.

Whilst today may not be the time to cross borders, we can all hope, dream and plan of that moment when we can discover our world once more – a new world, with a renewed value for the rich gifts only travel can give.

Soon, so soon, one hopes. For now, keep dreaming, because the time is coming when we will meet the world once more.

THE LOOMING DOMINO EFFECT

Over the last month we have seen the global recorded deaths from COVID-19 exceed a tragic 1-million souls, and the number of those having been infected reach 35-million cases. These numbers are staggering, but what I find sometimes gets overlooked is that behind each number, each seemingly straightforward statistic, is an individual, a family and a community, left suffering.

When the pandemic entered our consciousness nine months ago, there is no doubt that governments were taken by surprise. No one, absolutely no one, ever imagined 2020 – a new year, a new decade – looking like this.

What did we all do? We looked to our leaders, whether they were ready or not. Across the globe, heads of state were being looked to for comprehension of the speed, severity and scope of impact of the first global pandemic of our generation. From east to west, leaders were rapidly forced to make decisions based on hypothesis; decisions that initially focused on saving lives, that soon had to incorporate saving livelihoods.

Yet here we are, now in the midst of the second or possibly even third wave, and despite what we thought were the lessons learned, too many governments continue to fail their people. Clearly the first wave’s lessons are at risk of being lost.

Once again the virus is spreading at an accelerating rate, yet still too many governments do not have a cohesive, coordinated plan on how to manage the continued risk of COVID-19, establishing how we can live with the virus in a sensible way. Too many are rejecting the science and putting politics first. United once, today they divide, looking inwards with remarkable rejection of multilateralism.

The once lively Bourbon Street, Louisiana, has now been reduced to a deserted ghost town.

This is incomprehensible and unacceptable. COVID-19 is not our first crisis, and equally it will not be our last. It is now clear that even with a vaccine, it is going remain a threat to humanity at least for our near future. This is a disease where prevention matters most, and that’s where our governments need to focus resources: funding, intelligence, political capital. Impact demands that our leaders find ways, quickly, to promote and engage, rather than ignore or debase.

As a result of States’ ongoing failure to appropriately respond, with their ever changing, conflicting and contradictory directives and a manufactured shifting environment, the urgency of this crisis has been lost. We now find millions of people worldwide appearing selfishly bored with the pandemic, ignoring or waiting until they get it, get through it, until a vaccine gets discovered and rolled out, in the hope that the world can get back to normal.

What is getting lost is that there is no ‘going back to normal’. There is no back, and there certainly is no normal.

What is senseless is that with the removal of politics and with planning, we can actually live with the virus. Through collective prioritisation and pooling of resources, leaders won’t need to make a choice between shutting down our economies or keeping people safe. Doors can be left open, so that life can in fact go on. The lives versus livelihoods debate can stop.

The time for a dramatic shift is now. It is not too late to change course. It is not too late for leadership. But what we need, are no more excuses. Longevity of the virus is in the hands of leaders, literally and figuratively.  Courage and conviction must be found to develop plans that change the current trajectory. Unless we change course, we risk heading into a precarious downward spiral and facing a potential “Domino Effect” of immense proportions.

The first line of defence? Coordinated, clear government communication, based on testing and tracing, social distancing and wearing of masks.

It seems so simple. Yet these necessary simple public health measures serve no purpose unless they are combined with clear direction and determination for change in behaviour. Mere suggestion to look after our own health are weak. Strength comes through well thought through, clear guidelines, with rules and protocols developed and enforced.

There is no sector more exposed to this reality more acutely than ours – Travel & Tourism. According to the latest World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) estimates, by the end of 2020 a staggering 197 million jobs and USD 5.5 trillion will be lost worldwide due to the collapse of travel globally.

To put this in perspective, we need to consider that in 2019, our industry represented 1 in 10 jobs worldwide. Our rate of economic sector growth exceeded all others. We were unmatched as a force for global unity, harmony, opportunity and connectivity. Travel was a force for good in poverty reduction, driving prosperity, reducing inequality, providing opportunities regardless of gender, education, nationality, and beliefs. In fact, 54% of our sector’s workforce are women and over 30% are youth, the very foundation of what is needed today.

The complete halt of all global, regional and local activity has exposed how critical our industry is to economic, social, cultural, and environmental ecosystems. COVID-19 has been an x-ray on our industry at all levels: qualitative, quantitative, economically, socially, financially, spiritually, and culturally around the world. And we have seen that without travel, there is no travel industry.

Even today, with 53% of countries easing some border restrictions, travellers remain extremely cautious of travelling. Why? It’s less about fear of the virus, and increasingly the fear of government actions. These have included making quick decisions to change border policies, especially with regards to quarantine requirements, forcing travellers going to / returning from other countries to be in self isolation for up to 14 days with a lack of explanation as well as local enforcement, locals or other travellers disrespecting protocols, the weaponization of mask-wearing, shifting health & safety protocol guidelines, inconsistent protocols, a string of ill-conceived policies that can eclipse the pleasure of travelling all together. All of this creates uncertainty as well as a sentiment of ‘why bother?’

Our industry is a perfect example of what can and has gone wrong. Travel & Tourism is not part of the problem. With travel stopped, the spread of the virus has not stopped. As I look to our business as well as our supply chains, direct and indirect competitors, many have diligently developed protocols on how we can exist and travel in a COVID-19 world. Yet despite careful planning and action, we find ourselves at a precipice of defining the strength, or weakness, of the Travel and Tourism industry worldwide.

We can no longer wait. The public and private sector have to work together to define the path forward to provide the economic recovery needed, and to do so without compromising the necessary health measures, bringing back millions of jobs.  

To begin the recovery, it is essential that we can provide certainty for travellers. For the Travel & Tourism industry, on the 7th October, WTTC and 20 industry CEOs presented a 12-point plan defining protocols for how as an industry we could cautiously restart Travel and Tourism. Importantly, the plan also looks at how they can be reenforced. The enforcement is vital.

How do we find sanity in uncertainty? By demonstrating how one industry can find a way forward, giving governments a road map to guide us through these challenging times, without the need for the dominos to fall out of line.

That’s the core challenge of these times. Our world needs to travel. It needs to connect, yet we are being forced to separate. We are hearing in increasing volumes the degree of cabin fever that is consuming us all. We can rebuild confidence in travel among travellers and those working in the travel industry by investing in the logical and accountable ways of keeping people safe.

Again, we come back to the how? What can each of us do to protect the travel experience, and therefore the travel industry?

Simple: be accountable, and hold others accountable.

The travel industry can lead the way, but we need the governments to join us. As an industry, we can either plan for future growth and development…or governments can plan on our industry’s demise.

So let’s end the indecision. In this crisis we either all win, or we all lose. COVID-19 does not care about our politics, our policies, or our perceived power.

Governments must identify the trade-offs that make both economic and social sense. Our leaders need to work together as well as call on their citizens to step up as responsible patriots, playing their part in confronting this invisible, merciless threat to not just their wellbeing, but the wellbeing of their loved ones, of their communities, and of future generations. That bold, brave leadership will one day be written about in history books as best practice of what we did, to whom we listened, and how we found strength and cohesion in crisis.

Our industry was a poster child for living with opportunity, possibility, unity, harmony, peace. It can and must be that once more.

IS THIS THE BEST WE CAN DO?

It is the tail end of Summer 2020 in Europe. In some places we have seen travel reopen, but as the season begins to draw to a close, so too are places being shut down once more, driven by an avoidable second wave of COVID-19. With these whiplash changes and ever shifting and convoluted restrictions, the opportunity for even a limited 2020 summer and early autumn travel season is rapidly fading.

Despite this uncertainty, it has been clear that the virus can be controlled. However, individual irresponsibility combined with the continued lack of cohesive government strategies and poor cross nation coordination, has resulted in this outcome. Unless we do better, this virus or COVID-20, COVID-21, whatever the year and case might be, are going to be with us for some time.

The impact of people not travelling is now ricocheting through not just the travel industry, but across nearly every industry and business too. The economic ecosystem that the travel industry supports runs far and wide, from supply chains to value chains, shopkeepers, attractions, taxis, drivers. Travel is responsible for 10% of GDP. Globally this ecosystem has offered as recently as 2019, 1 in 10 jobs worldwide. That’s 1 in 10 families able to enjoy stability, security and hope as a result of Travel & Tourism. No other economic sector offers such opportunity, such promise. The WTTC now predicts that the global travel and tourism market will lose over 100 million jobs worldwide and significantly impact GDP.

The path to avoiding these outcomes is as clear as the failures of the past several months. Not respecting the challenge of managing the first wave of our generation-defining pandemic, and causing a second wave (and in some places even third) as a result of careless individual actions. This, combined with unclear and/or inconsistent government protocols, has resulted in the world again delaying the ability to heal and get back on its feet, economically, physically and emotionally.

This both infuriates and concerns me. Why? At a time that many parts of the world were ready to begin dreaming and exploring, starting to reconnect with the rest of the world, we could see first-hand that simple actions could change the trajectory, but it would require discipline to maintain them. Yet as restrictions subsided so did vigilance, and for some unknown reason people began to think that COVID19 was just not a problem anymore. Possibly, the likelihood that we are not so much stopping the virus but merely slowing down its spread, is acting as a disincentive. The outcomes are already right here in front of us. And I mean this literally, not just figuratively.

Globally we are now at another tipping point. Everything we read, the necessary steps to control this and other viruses, remain unchanged. It is remarkably simple; the adherence to health measures is the only way to manage the virus. Keep your distance from others, wash your hands, avoid heavily crowded and enclosed areas and wear a mask where recommended. Implement a system for track and trace and if needed, self-quarantine. When these measures are followed, cases go down. Where they’re not, cases go up.

To be selfish, is defined as “lacks consideration for others; concerned chiefly with one’s own personal profit or pleasure.” COVID-19 is bringing to the forefront a social sickness that extends beyond the pandemic, which globally has claimed the lives of nearly 800,000 souls. The disease’s name – selfishness.

We are an impatient I-centric society, in which too many are primarily focused on ‘what’s in it for me’. Something as simple as a request for people to wear a mask in public has become distracted by politics. I simply don’t understand how the wearing of a mask infringes on any individuals’ liberties. We abide by speed restrictions around schools and prohibitions on drunk driving. In the I-centric society, each of these equally impinges on ‘civil liberties’. But we abide by them in the name of public health – for our safety and that of others. With regards to this virus, do I enjoy wearing a mask? No. Do I understand why they are deemed critical to facing this pandemic? Yes. Do I therefore wear it out of respect for others in our collective quest to keep others safe, not just myself? Absolutely. It’s not right that someone who is vulnerable has to risk their life to go shopping because someone else wants to be defiant. It is our individual actions that impact our lives and the livelihoods of others.

COVID-19 has taught us all the importance of thinking about what we cannot see. We are in fact already united by an invisible bond. The pandemic is something that we cannot see, but it’s out there impacting us all. It’s something we cannot touch yet directly transferrable, causing us to avoid touching at all. And it’s something that has made it very clear that if we do not respect it, we will again be grounded. It is time to think wider, think bigger and to think more caringly. We need to take active, personal responsibility of our impact on our shared world. Is it difficult when facing an invisible crisis? No question about it, but there’s no question individually we have a role to play.

Additionally, as second waves grow and borders begin to re-shut, around the world we continue to see a lack of coordination amongst the governments and institutions, resulting in fragmented responses at a time when synergy needs to be a vital part of dealing with the crisis. To make matters worse, aggravated by the absence of ongoing communication about the critical value of reducing the virus. Rather than guide us, it is incredibly perplexing to see something that is manageable and achievable, become politicized, disregarded or mismanaged.

We have seen time and again that when you blend both science and politics, all you get is politics. The continued result; an unnecessary disaster being perpetuated and too many sufferings both epidemiologically and economically.

If a government can’t address something as important as this, then we don’t have a government. We should not raise our hands as victims, we again have a role to play; where there has been a complete absence of leadership and a focus on snake oil cures without foundation, we need to ensure that come elections, we vote, and we change them.

And to the governments of the world, I simply ask this: that if the sacrifices we have to make are to wear a mask, wash our hands and stand apart, and if we then don’t abide by these rules, then issue fines.  Just as you do if we are caught speeding in a school zone or driving over the alcohol limit. With international tourist arrivals projected to plunge by up to 80 percent in 2020, we need to work hand in hand to rebuild confidence that travel is both safe and inspiring, as well as economically viable.

There is a central lesson of COVID19: we are all in this together. We know where we are, we know where we need to go. This therefore is a moment of truth. A time for us to do better as a generation. The opportunity for us individually to take greater responsibility. We as a global community are bonded now more than ever because of a shared crisis, one that will define our generation. At this time, we are simply being asked to stand together by standing apart. It’s time to shift from an I-Centric to a We-Centric society. In doing so, we can act as a global community, coming together to enable us to move forward.

FINDING PURPOSE IN TIMES OF STILLNESS

It’s remarkable to think that we are already at the midpoint of 2020. Looking back to the start of the year, so much has changed with so little activity. We welcomed the New Year and the new decade with immense optimism. Miles away however, the distant threat of a virus impacting Wuhan seemed to be nothing more than a local problem.

And then its reality hit. As with all major events, I remember the very moment, less than 90 days later, when I heard that Italy was shutting its borders. A matter of days thereafter, the world was made motionless. The COVID-19 health crisis had an immediate disruptive impact on the way people, cities, and the world itself lived and moved.

An eerie reality: Streets, icons and bustling cities once filled with travelers and locals existing side by side came to an almost instantaneous halt.

Today, COVID-19 has become an active acronym in all aspects of our lives, having taken the world in its firm, fear-generating grasp. Lives, and those of loved ones, were directly at risk. And, as we were soon to find out, so too were our livelihoods.

Despite being asked to stay apart from the point of view of health and safety reasons, it became vital that new regulations and new protocols were defined and implemented to slow the spread of the virus, but equally begin to find how we could re-live life in the next normal. One where we needed to find the balance of being able to still stay close, whilst maintaining an appropriate distance.

Back then I read what Albert Einstein wrote, which soon became my guiding light, “It is in the crisis that the best of each of us comes to the fore, because without crisis every wind is a caress. To speak of crisis is to promote it, and to remain silent in the crisis is to exalt conformism. Instead, let us work hard. Let’s put an end once and for all to the only threatening crisis, which is the tragedy of not wanting to fight to overcome it.”

Now, as we rewind to the beginning of the year, whether we were ready to do so or not, governments forced us to switch off our office lights and switch on our computers at home, keeping them on often 24/7. WFH – ‘work from home’ – a new COVID-19-time acronym became a part of our lives. WFH quickly became business as unusual, enabling us to find an unusual comfort in a discomfort zone.

We’ve become used to seeing one another on a screen. The most common new work phrase now being, “you’re on mute” or “sorry, I was on mute”. We’ve become used to breaking boundaries that we had in our lives before, our personal spaces now shared spaces for all to see. Our personal lives are now rippling into our professional lives, and the people around us at home have now become familiar names and faces for the people we’re engaging with around the world, through our screens, day after day.

Yet, as virtually connected as our lives are, this time has exposed how profoundly people of the world need to be connected in a way that is not just screen-visible, but allows us to reach out and touch, connecting as sensory humans.

So why am I reflecting on this now, while we are still navigating our way through the COVID-19 journey?

Simply this: as we all become very comfortable with the new remote routines that are still to last quite some time, it is important that we don’t lose the significance of the surrealness of this time. We must not allow 2020 to be simply a storyline in history, moving too quickly onto the next. Every good story has a lesson to be learned.

What we have seen and experienced in these past +/- 200 days is beyond fiction. It is beyond all modelling of medical and economic curves. We must make sure that we continue to learn the lessons that are important to keeping us human, to keeping us committed, to maintaining connections, and to being compassionate practitioners of one of the most important sectors in the entire world, Travel and Tourism.

In our industry, Travel & Tourism, we are seeing our sector – one that had been enjoying year on year growth of an average +5%, peeking in 2019 to represent 1 in 10 jobs worldwide and 10% of global GDP – being brought to an instant halt, with an almost instant +90% decline in international arrivals, and job losses of 1 million per day. One million lives and livelihoods, gone, daily. Taking into account the goods and services value chains that are mobilised by Travel & Tourism, suddenly across the globe, leaders, communities and national economies are again defining our sector as ‘essential’.

But it is more than the numbers. I believe, and have always believed, that Travel and Tourism is a genuine force for good. I believe that the power of the industry is not just the impact that it has on visitors. It is the impact generated upon the places visited, and on the lives of those visited.

Making a Difference; One of our biggest sources of pride is our support for locals across the world, like the Morillo Family in rural Seville. They feel the impact of our visits and we can’t wait to return to their beautiful hacienda and Olive Oil estate, Basilippo, as soon as we can.

Our focus within The Travel Corporation (TTC) is that we know that tourism generates cultural, economic and social value, but at this time it also depends on us. The industry professionals align ourselves with the needs of the travelling public and create, redefine and amend travel protocols to build confidence in the immense values of travel.

TTC has therefore been working hand in hand with the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) to define the guidelines for Safe and Seamless Travel as well as also spearheading a complete review of the sanitation and hygiene measures around all our guests’ experiences and interactions while on their holidays and ensuring that these are dynamically adjusted, as authorities amend and update these requisites.

That said, we must also consider that, right now, in these times of not only COVID-19 concerns but also the raw, real, social issues that are inspiring people to take their beliefs to the streets, our fragile world is being rightfully challenged by the issues concerning diversity and equality.

It is therefore at this moment that I am reminded of the richness that travel has always offered the world: to see the world through new eyes. Eyes of understanding, eyes of empathy, eyes of appreciation and eyes of unity. That of essential connection creating strength and creating cohesion through learning.

However we look at one another, wherever we come from, it is history that sets the foundations of creating a new future. What has happened in the past we must learn from, using insight and understanding to shape the future, actively working together to create a world that is safer and stronger. We must work together to create a world defined by solidarity, sincerity, and appreciation – not separation.

Traveling has countless rewards and can be life changing in numerous incredible ways. As we open our doors, get out of own homes and enjoy the beauty of travel once again, despite the overhang of the virus, we will take a break from the pressures and routines of our current daily life. This will immediately help our well-being, our mindset, our relationships, and expand our understanding of life and humanity. As we see new places and experience new cultures, even if that be the surprise of what exists in our own backyards, we will be positively impacting the communities we travel to.

These are the values at the heart of TTC and our industry: understanding, appreciation, respect, humility and, critically, gratitude.

Gratitude’ is a video message recently conveyed by TTC’s Chairman, Stanley Tollman. He, along with his wife Bea, built TTC on the foundations laid by his father. Now, a century later, global travel opportunities abound for millions of people to enjoy across the world, both for those that are guests of our businesses and brands, and also those who work with and for our TTC businesses.

This time of global grounding and rebuilding has made vividly clear that as we prepare to go into the next new world that awaits us all, as our doors, borders and skies gradually reopen again, we must do so with respect and immense gratitude.

Rising up: As the dawn of a new era rises, so too does our love and appreciation for the power of travel, stronger than ever.

This generation-defining pandemic has changed our shared world. No one has been immune. Everyone has been vulnerable. This is our opportunity to step up as accountable individuals working together as a global community, understanding and caring for one another. Because unless we all win, we all lose.

As Travel & Tourism leaders, together we must unite in support of the future of travel, creating a new world, a next normal. Let us not waste this time. Our time of stillness is coming to an end, and the opportunity to create motion will be once more. So, now is the time to rethink, become re-inspired and embrace the discovery of this new world we all share.

DEFINITION OF ‘ESSENTIAL’ – A NEW WORLD AWAITS

 

 

 

Essential.

A word that just a few short weeks ago, we would use as a synonym for ‘required’, ‘necessary’, ‘important’. But that was then, and this is now.

In the weeks since, this singular word has now taken on a whole new, critical, global significance. ‘Essential’ has become a term denoting ‘lifesaving’. It is a term that now reflects care and absolute priority. The word has now become a basis for protocols around the world connected to COVID-19 – the global Coronavirus pandemic that has proven itself merciless, ominous and invisible, yet with the ability to touch each and every one of us.

We have all seen its impact from different parts of the globe, from different parts of our lives, and from different points of view. We are also now entirely connected to one another by the same virus, even if we are having to stand 6ft apart. COVID-19 is a threat that is putting us all of us at risk not just in terms of our physical health, but also our financial and mental health.

It was not that long ago when all of this generation-defining drama began, that the word ‘essential’ initially came into our vocabulary in the context of the Coronavirus. Our first indication of something going wrong was less than 60 days ago, when news from China communicated the spread of a health crisis severe enough that it was literally grounding all travel during a period of mass human migration – Chinese New Year – when over 3 billion trips are estimated to take place as families reunite across the globe.

Come February, as the virus travelled west, rates of spread and concerns rose rapidly. People started to consider what was essential to have at home, especially if they were limited in mobility, and were having to keep fears of this mysterious yet aggressive virus at bay.

One question eclipsed all others: what am I going to need at home?

Suddenly store shelves became completely devoid of hand sanitizer, toilet rolls, paper towels and cleaning products that people believed were going to keep their homes safe. Sadly, this rush for all of these essential products created a retail craziness that resulted in hoarding and aggression, as people tried to get what they thought was necessary to keep themselves free from fear and contagion. In so doing, we actually started to do damage to our global community – its respect of, and responsibility towards, one another.

More rapidly than we can even grasp, soon the word ‘essential’ was imposed on our work, on products, and on services deemed cannot live without as, one by one, lockdowns and stay homes became not just a recommended way of dealing with the Coronavirus, but instead an ‘essential’ mandate. Countries from East to West, have now found themselves in a state of emergency. In Switzerland, my home, this “extraordinary situation” has created a complete state of confusion.

As a result, we are now seeing the astounding news that over 2.6 billion individuals are currently in different forms of lockdown around the world, confined to our homes. Now the word essential has taken on an even wider meeting. It has taken on a more humane meaning, and a more tangible identity.

What is deemed ‘essential’, and who?

The word ‘essential’ has now become a synonym of the word ‘hero’ – the people that so often were overlooked in our society, but who now play a critical role in keeping us strong and moving forward: the vital doctors, the nurses, the drivers, the store stockists and cashiers, and the people working each and every day to help us face the weeks of isolation ahead.

That is our outside world. And then there is our inside world.

As social-distancing and lockdowns now define the immediate future, what has also become essential are the small pleasures we each now recognise we formerly took for granted. The ability to reach out and hug someone we love, the ability to look someone eye as they are standing right beside us. The ability to go out, reach out to the world, to travel, to connect.

We are finding the word ‘essential’ is now reflecting what we also value deeply in our ability to simply move around our world, connect with the world, celebrate our being a valued part of the world. To travel.

For over a month now airlines have been grounding aircrafts, hotels have been turning the lights off as their doors close, and governments have been closing borders. Our world view has become severely curtailed as our passports are put away, our plans put off. Normal life is no more.

And we will never go back to ‘normal’. We will never go back to the way we were. There is no going back.

Instead, we must move forward, and in moving forward we must take this opportunity to look at what truly is ‘essential’ for our lives – to be in a position of wellbeing as individuals. But it no longer stops there. We also now recognise and actively demonstrate the community in which we live with the people right next door, and the global community around the world. Take the time to be grateful for the big things like our health, and the simple things, like the sun on our face. A definite positive to arise from this situation is that with the spread of Covid-19, it is proving that as a society, the commonalities that we share not just as people, but as countries, are far more powerful than what keeps us apart. We are inescapably interconnected, and the more we can come together to solve our problems, the better off we will all be.

To ensure a truly sustainable future – economically, socially, culturally, environmentally, and also spiritually – our sense of community is essential, online and on our doorstep.

In my own definition of ‘essential’, what I am finding as ‘essential’ is my need to continue to keep alive my relentless love of travel. The brands I run have always had, and will always have one sole purpose – to inspire and enable guests to connect to the joy of travel. Whilst I am saddened to see the ‘essential’ action of the worlds borders now being closed, I know it is not matter of ‘if’, but more so one of ‘when’, we will travel again. Giving our guests the opportunity to travel the world, to become stronger people, to become more sensitive people, to become smarter people, more connected and more compassionate. Our hearts and minds need to travel, not just our bodies.

But for now, to be able to travel the world tomorrow, we must stay home today.

That is ‘essential’ to ensure we are ready for our new tomorrow, stronger, smarter, and together.

COVID19 – Simple Strategies For Staying Strong

 

Every single day, everywhere we look, we are seeing increasing amounts of fear and fallout from what has become the dark horizon facing our world in 2020. The Novel Coronavirus, or more specifically COVID-19 has become a defining feature of the start of this new decade.

It has put a rapid halt on the years of sustained growth are now turning into warnings of recession. The momentum of the travel and tourism industry has turned it into a historic, single year collapse. It is defining the scale of the challenge we will need to face to bring the industry back to its vital position as the engine of global economic recovery.

What I find fascinating is the fact that, the news about COVID-19 is spreading around the world quicker than the virus itself, while travel and tourism is stopping. I have always focused on encouraging travellers to travel more. But just like stock markets, travellers don’t like uncertainty. With this environment of the unknown, what is growing is global awareness and focus on just how important the travel sector is to global growth, development, unity and opportunity:

  • how many billions of people would normally be traveling every single day,
  • how travel is needed to unlock opportunities and possibilities, both personally and professionally,
  • how hundreds of millions of people’s livelihoods rely on the industry, whether they are employed in hospitality, of locals and small businesses who rely on travel and tourism simply to meet the needs of their daily lives and those of their families,

and importantly,

  • how travel is central to global hope, possibility, unity and stability.

The reality, however, is that travel and tourism is becoming grounded across the globe. Airlines are reducing routes and frequencies, events are being cancelled, cruises are staying in port, hotels are shutting their doors, people are staying home.

While the pandemic we face is not fully understood – its sources, its spread, its severity – what we do know for certain is that fear is driving fear. Panic and prejudice are driving separation and insensitivity. This is exactly why we need to simply be smart about how we stay strong, how we stay calm. With an invisible crisis like a pandemic, we don’t know where it is, we don’t know where it will be next, and we don’t know when we’re at risk. Hence the elevated levels of fear. But we cannot allow fear to define our future ability to get through this crisis, and gain the lessons we all need to learn.

For this reason, I want to take this moment to encourage all of us to share a common interest, the fundamental of taking care of ourselves; making sure that in doing so we keep each other, and when we return, the travel and tourism industry, strong.

As hands have become a central theme of the virus, I’ve created a handful of simple strategies to stay safe during the COVID19 pandemic: 5 Cs.

Firstly, CAUTION: We know deep down where we’re not feeling well. We know when we’re near someone who is ill. We need to be cautious knowing that this pandemic is spreading, as I said earlier, the invisibly through particles and the fact that someone might not be showing the symptoms even though sadly they’re carrying the virus itself means that we need to exercise caution and make the decision to work from home, make a decision to not travel, make a decision to stand a little further back, not shake hands, not give the customary traditional kisses on the cheek, and just be careful not to touch ones’ face.

Which takes me to number two: CLEANLINESS: Cleanliness is vital, and as we have found out, simply washing your hands, washing them properly as is required for 20 seconds, rigorously scrubbing them will, play a critical part in making sure that we all stay safe.

Third, COMPASSION: We need to recognize that those around us who are suffering. They might be suffering from the virus’ impact on their physical health, they might be suffering from a loss of financial health even if their physical health is strong. We need to remember that nobody catches or spreads the virus with intent, and as humans, this is a time to unite and offer support. We’re all facing this together. It’s saddening to hear reports of racial attacks like Chinese stores and restaurants going out of business due to misinformation. Again, we should educate ourselves rather than seeking to find blame, exercise compassion and not judge people who have become victims to the illness, be they from Italy, from China, the USA or Canada, Singapore, wherever in the world this pandemic has reached.

Next, COMMUNICATION: We need to ensure that we communicate responsibly. Don’t listen to fearmongers on social media telling us what might happen. Instead, there is a high degree of information out there that is factual, that is informing – for me, the WHO is the best resource for status of the crisis, progress on its containment, and critical steps for protecting oneself: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019

However, here’s also a great degree of falsehoods and fear-generating fiction out there. An ‘infodemic’, as it’s being called by the United Nations, has begun as people are spreading information that is either false or it’s purposely put out there, especially through social media, to create fear. We need to exercise good judgment, recognising when information is helping people move forward versus when it is increasing fear and stopping them in their tracks.

Finally, CONFIDENCE: We need to have confidence. We will get through this. Our world is strong, our sector is resilient. Human beings ultimately stand together. We need to look to the future with confidence, and knowing that not only will we get through this, but we as a global community and we as a global travel and tourism industry will recover sooner.

Because that is what travel and tourism is all about. It’s about going out and discovering the world, meeting new people, going to new places, learning new life lessons, finding out how to appreciate difference. Interestingly, as we are finding with this pandemic, wherever we are in the world we are all the same, we are all vulnerable, we are all fearful, and yet we are all hopeful.

As I have been reminded, by one of the wisest individuals I know, “this too shall pass”. So, I share with you these 5 Cs – my simple strategies for bringing us together, staying strong – in hopes of us all coming through this time with renewed strength, renewed appreciation for the wonderment of our travels, and a renewed excitement to discover our World and venture out once more.