POKEMAN GO – CELEBRATING THE JOY OF DISCOVERY?

There is a singular word for it – ‘phenomenon’.

Within days of its launch, everywhere across the globe, downloads took place by the millions. It felt like the world was suddenly taken over by those in the know and on the go, leaving the rest of us rather perplexed.

Pokemon go

Outside my flat in Geneva I saw them daily – mobile phone gawkers, walking, eyes glued to their screens, oblivious to those around them. I couldn’t understand it. Then I learned it was all about Pokémon Go. A new game in which players Travel between the real world and the virtual world as they find and save Pokémon characters.

The game may be a play on reality, but the headlines about its impact were very real. According to Fortune magazine, within 3 days it had become the biggest mobile game in US’s history, adding US$ 7.5B to Nintendo’s bottom line, and completely reenergizing the company. The stats amazed me as much as the craze. Nintendo’s share price rose just over 9% when the game was first launched, and then saw a further surge of 24.5%, representing the company’s highest one-day climb since 1983.

So, seeing that I needed to get in the know and onto Pokémon Go to really understand what was behind the hysteria, I downloaded the App and there, immediately, was the answer – I have two Pokémon within 100 meters of my home.Pokemon Go modified

Pokémon is nothing new – the video game was first launched in 1996 and needless to say kids became hooked, spending hours playing it. This time around, however, Nintendo has licensed this to an App developer that has made it interactive as you need to get out and find these hidden characters, and they have made it multigenerational – every one of every age is getting hooked. The aim is to get outdoors and search your surroundings for little beings called Pokémon.

I must confess that initially I was anti-Pokémon Go. From the outside it looked as though it was the next level of mobile impoliteness. More people glued to their mobile phones, ignoring people and places right in front of them.

But then, as I thought about it, something very commendable about the game occurred to me: this App is getting people out of their homes and into the streets. People are getting outdoors and exploring the world around them. The App’s developers have purposely included iconic landmarks along with lesser-known places that players visit on their journey. People of all ages are getting off their sofas and starting to discover their environments, often seeing new things that have been around the corner all along, but they didn’t know existed. They are also meeting new people with a shared interest and excitement for local discovery. Less than a month since its launch, Pokémon Go is now so ubiquitous that I read that coffee shops and police stations have designated themselves ‘Pokestops’ in hopes of attracting new visitors. Museums and art installations are jumping on the bandwagon, encouraging players to visit their locations to catch rare Pokémon while taking in the destination’s tourist sites.

Speaking to Pokémon Go players in my neighborhood, I learnt that they themselves have discovered unexpected sculptures (we have wonderful art in the city of Geneva), stunning architecture, little known paths that they have been living alongside all of this time, but never paid attention to.

Interestingly, this reawakening of wonder in the world around us sounds very familiar to how we at Trafalgar put our trips together for our guests – finding special local spots alongside the icons, encouraging exploration. It was a good feeling knowing that the essence of our approach to travel is still alive and well, even if its latest manifestation is in an augmented reality form.

Because the enduring truism is this: we humans are wired for adventure. While we may have firmly set comfort zones – where we live, our habits, still we seek newness of thinking, of doing, and of being. Travel allows us these little windows into discovery, a way to venture out of our comfort zones to become exposed to other worlds, and other sides of ourselves when placed in these new environments. With this learning comes freshness of perspective of not just the world around us, but of ourselves and our place in the world. At its simplest yet most profound form, this is the gift of travel.

In many ways, the hunger for discovery that Pokémon Go is creating in game players can, and I hope will, ignite in these same people a desire to go out and seek more of their real world – the one without the hidden Pokémon.

Which is why, returning back to the real world of augmented reality coming to life around me, I accept that at this first stage Pokémon Go players may all be walking with their eyes glued to their screens. But does that matter? The intrinsic benefit is that millions of people are getting out and seeing the world around them.

Technology has already been harnessed for travel. Now travel is harnessing technology. The joy of ‘Go’ is ours to be embraced, in whichever world we choose to play.

CELEBRATING GREAT VISIONARIES OF THE LAND

Today is the 4th of July – the day that the United States celebrates its independence. I lived in New York for over 20 years, and I always admired this day, as annually the entire American national stands united and proud as it looks to back on its history. Few people celebrate their love of country like the Americans. Red, white and blue is not just a national colour code, it is a national mindset.

Whenever I look back at history, I try and place myself into the time of those who shaped the world in which we live, and imagine what it must have been like to have had the courage, and vision, to make an impact for generations to come.

In my travels, it is the genius of architects in particular that often fascinates me; their ability to visualize the possibility of the transformation of space and time through design. This is an extraordinary gift.

However, the creation for lifelong inspiration is one thing. To have the foresight to preserve, the discipline to leave things untouched for future generations, is quite another.

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to spend four days with a group of Trafalgar guests travelling through Yellowstone National Park.IMG_1500A I did this to not only because I love meeting Trafalgar guests, but also as it provided the opportunity to honour the 100 year anniversary of the creation of The National Park Service – the nation’s guardians of Mother Nature’s great gifts.

As I stood looking out over the Lower Falls and Grand Canyon of Yellowstone National Park, IMG_0263the only words that came to my mind taking in this moment, one of such immense remarkable beauty, was ‘Thank you’.

That thanks goes to a few of the forefathers of America: Presidents Lincoln, Grant and Roosevelt, who somehow already recognised that our world would organically advance in ways that would see industrialisation and development creep into all corners of the globe, and that to enable man to maintain a connection to nature itself required a strategy that, 100 years ago, must have seemed both unnecessary and a fantasy.

So it was together with great personalities like Don and Nancy from Philadelphia, twin sisters Ashly and Kristen from Nevada, as well Flynn & Fran from as far as Sydney Australia,IMG_1480 that we were able in a matter of a few day to wander through untouched hot springs, see bison ambling through the grasslands, witness mother and baby black bears jesting in front of our hotel, and hear stories of the success of the wolves’ reintroduction into the wild.

IMG_0243Each one a consequence of the decision taken 100 years ago, to protect the majestic natural environments through the creation of the official caretakers of America’s finest natural assets, is credited to the National Park Service.

As I took in my time in this iconic national landscape, this brought to mind: “What if they had not had the vision? What would the landscape look like today? And how would it be shared tomorrow?”

It is moments like these that fill me with a need to look forward, and ensure we are asking the same question as to what will the world look like in 100 years’ time. What more can we do to ensure that we too are being adequately forward thinking in our own actions to preserve and protect the important resources so that future generations will be able to connect to a more meaningful world?

Today, it is far easier for everyone to make a difference. All it requires is individual action. I am therefore inspired by the current vision and care of Brett, The Travel Corporation’s CEO, who had the vision to create the TreadRight Foundation – TTC’s not-for-profit organisation which is working to ensure the sustainability of the environments and communities across the globe. To date, TreadRight has helped to support almost 40 projects. With their guidance, each of TTC’s 20 plus travel brands are able refocus their commitments. Together, they join forces to make a difference to the word we visit today and in the future.

Ultimately, it’s all about the role we each play in fostering truly meaningful, sustainable growth, working and building on the visions of great leaders, for a world and time beyond ourselves.

This is the power of one. One by one by one, for one generation to the next.

*With thanks to Flynn & Fran Henry for the pictures*

TRAVEL’S FINEST MOMENTS – IT’S A MATTER OF TASTE

Food is something we so often take for granted. For most of us, we are spoiled for choice whenever we feel a craving, or simply to keep our energy up.

And yet, when we travel, food takes on an entirely new connotation and significance. It brings moments to life with heightened sensuality and sensibility, and in so doing, our memories become so much more powerful.

Recognising this, a number of years ago, the Trafalgar team took on this task; to exhibit the senses and spirit of each destination through its local food.

Last week, I was reminded of how far we’ve come by a wonderful letter I received from a first time, but extremely well-travelled Trafalgar guest. In it she described how few things impact her favourite travel experiences like connecting the dots of travel like mouthfuls of magic.

Why is food such a vital part of travel? Food acts as an important conduit for our richest, most rewarding experiences. It mirrors the culture and spirit of the places we visit, as well as the locals we meet on our journeys. It is when we travel that we see, and feel, just what a powerful role food has to play in defining and enjoying different places, people, and their ways of living.

Happy girl kitchen image

It is therefore understandable that today, Food Tourism is one of the fastest growing areas of our industry. The draw of travellers to be able to eat incredible food, learn about its origins, its ingredients, its art of preparation, have given life to not only tourist activity around the globe, but more so to the people living in places home to the world’s culinary creations. This in turn has created livelihoods for tens of thousands of culinary “artisans” in all their various shapes, in their hometowns, villages and communities around the world. Another wonderful example of how tourism brings richness to life of not just travellers, but also to their hosts.

I find this awakening to local foods and food sharing customs, inspiring and exciting. But I cannot help but smile, for to me this has always been what being an ‘Insider’ is all about.

It was with this in mind that in 2010 we experimented with our our first ‘Be My Guest’ experience; to showcase for our guests how local authentic food will provide a great insight into the people, and the cultures of where we visit. After all, this is what we love to do!

Today whether it’s the Baj-Macarios family’s 12 Century castle in Tuscany,CASTELLO_DEL_TREBBIO-019 where our guests enjoy 100% organic locally sourced produce (the majority of the food comes from the estate itself), a café in Vienna, a farmhouse in Britain’s Lake District, a beach restaurant on the shores of Lahinch, Ireland where after a foraging walk on the with Oonagh and Teresa, whose motto is ‘grow, find, cook, eat’ – our guests eat some the food which they have foraged and savour their amazing local seaweed bread.

These mealtime discoveries extend to all destinations around the world. I was recently in Northern California where Todd and Jordan’s Happy Girl Kitchen is a rare discovery of organic produce, local farming, and food preservation from their time living and working on a farm in Norway.Happy girl kitchen Likewise “cowboy hat Peter”, the wine blending specialist at Ravenswood.

As the earlier mentioned traveller wrote, “Each of these food journeys brings destinations alive”, and they are so greatly valued by our guests as being simply the best, holidays.

In 2016, I am personally looking forward to a greater discovery of food in Asia. Janice, who runs our product and operations, has initiated an incredible relationship with the Kyoto restaurant in Vietnam, a non-profit social enterprise that provides training to disadvantaged young people in the hospitality industry. Koto Restaurant, VietnamNot to mention the cooking classes in the Ginza district of Tokyo, Japan, where our guests have the opportunity to learn how to make sushi. I cannot wait to discover the ingredients and processes of preparation which are not only highly technical, but deeply spiritual tool. Every moment of meal creation, and its eating, is a moment with meaning.

With this in mind, may each mile and mouthful you and I travel, may our journeys be safe, insightful, fulfilling, and of course, simply delicious.

 

 

THE NEW REALITY AND A PASSION FOR TRAVELLING

Again, again our world is shaken. On 11 September 2001, I was safe in Brussels. But this year, it was the city of Brussels that was attacked – its airport and a metro station – in only an hour. The attacks took the lives of 35 souls, leaving 230 more injured from direct exposure to terrorism. A nation and the world are left numb from shock, horror and profound disbelief.

Reflecting on these events a week later, it is clear that we are facing a new reality, one in which anything might happen, no matter where we are. Nowhere and no one feels safe. Last week it was Brussels, the most recent of a long list of global cities rich in cultural and religious diversity – from Paris to San Bernardino, from Sydney to Istanbul – forced to look terrorism in the eye.

With each attack, the immediate reaction of government officials, those charged with the protection of their citizens, is to revert to the measures implemented post – 9/11, that of curtailing movement. Governments are telling people to stay close to home, stay vigilant and stay away from certain cities, countries or icons. The message is almost to ‘stay scared’. This is the wrong message to be spreading.

Governments should focus their resources on prevention and on identifying where real risks lie. Those who threaten us appear to have moved on, yet our governments’ strategies are retrospectively focused. The threat is no longer about liquids and shoes.

Recently, I read a book by an expert on avalanches, in which the author introduced the concept of a “pre-mortem” – anticipating the variables with which to predict an outcome. Our governments could learn from this as they pursue both security and those responsible for eroding it.

Equally so, it is our responsibility as individuals to maintain a free and open society. Let us remember and embrace those freedoms that made us strong. As we face our new reality, let us consider the real risks in a balanced way. Despite accidents occurring in travel by automobile, air, or train, for example, these modes of transport never stop. Similarly, no blanket warnings are imposed when the annual flu comes around. We carry on with our lives.

Should we be more careful, more vigilant? Absolutely. We need to instil a community-wide, shared responsibility for keeping one another safe. It is my responsibility to protect my neighbours and their families, and theirs to protect me and mine. Simple. That is how we stop the sparks of social discontent from flaring up into flames of destruction.

In this current environment, we need to carry on travelling. Such a cry of defiance serves then as a powerful and positive reaction to the attacks being committed around the world. Each time an attack is carried, this movement of defiant travel grows stronger. This movement states, loudly and purposefully, that travel will improve understanding and appreciation among countries and cultures, worldwide.

As a matter of principle, I will be part of this movement by travelling wherever I choose. And such a sentiment is what I hope to see and feel daily at Trafalgar: a resolve to travel, to heighten the desire of travellers to keep exploring, and in so doing, to show that fear will never cloud freedom. Together with our teams and guests, I will show others the ongoing passion we feel towards the world we share.

It is this spirit of defiance and this confidence, we can call upon when we hearing chilling news riddled with terrorism. And such a spirit serves as a unifying force providing comfort, inspiring courage and keeping travellers of the world moving forward.

This is why I am confident that tomorrow will, unquestionably, be a better day.

GLOBAL CARING THROUGH TRAVEL

One of the reasons I’m proud to be part of the Travel and Tourism industry is the role we play in connecting people, as one global community. Our industry builds interest, curiosity, understanding, appreciation and affection among diverse cultures, people and places worldwide. Through travel, we learn about others – how they live and dream – and we discover similarities and new qualities in diversity.

In 2015, more than 1.18 billion people crossed an international border. Each person ventured out to find new places and possibilities and hopefully returned home enriched by the experience.

Travel and Tourism has long operated as an industry that takes care of all, to create a better world. Yet, at this time, our world is facing a severe crisis of humanity, a crisis brought to the fore as a result of the influx of refugees fleeing conflict in the Middle East to seek shelter in Europe. In excess of one million refugees crossed the Mediterranean Sea in 2015 each and every day, men, women, children and the elderly risk their lives. They travel literally thousands of kilometres on foot, by bus, train and raft, by any means available, to reach a place that is safe and offers hope for tomorrow.

A proportion of these refugees, being educated, skilled or employed, were nonetheless forced to flee their countries of origin. This perilous journey has claimed the lives of at least 5,000 people and a significant number of them have been children.

What concerns me most, over and above the numbers entering Europe, is that certain countries are shutting their doors. The Schengen zone, one of the world’s great success stories, is being severely tested. Borders are being closed and checkpoints set up. Trust in neighbours is waning.

What does this have to do with tourism? Everything. Sadly, in some nations that are anxious about how migrants or refugees may affect their society and its tourism, prejudices and paranoia are bubbling to the surface. This climate of fear suspicion challenges the core value of tourism: our global community.

Addressing the media at the opening of the tourism trade fair, ITB Berlin, Secretary-General of the UNWTO Taleb Rifai stated:

The challenge of refugees is a human obligation, with an implicit urgency and priority needed in global response. This is beyond tourism. Facing up to our human obligation is far more important than protecting our business.

He is unquestionably right. Our priorities should not be limited to business.

The refugee crisis does not bear on tourist destinations. The sites and routes of our itineraries remain as they were: iconic, quintessential and unforgettable.  What the media broadcasts internationally is, to a large extent, a selective and sensationalised representation, reflecting the inept management of the situation by local governments.  There is no reason to hold back from future travel or to make particular changes to travel already underway. There is more than enough room in our countries, and our hearts, for us all to move forwards. Our journeys must continue. The crisis is no reason to stay home.

What we mustn’t forget is that our industry is about caring for others, especially because of our differences, and working to make a positive impact on their lives. In the bigger picture, the influence refugees in Europe will bear on tourism is in one way only – constructively. These are people taking vast risks in search of a better life. Many are multilingual, highly skilled and ambitious, and in due course they too can play a role in the tourism industry in their newly found homes.

To travellers, Europe is open. Show your support and commitment by continuing to travel. Now more than ever is the time to live the spirit of tourism, by welcoming these most courageous of travellers as we celebrate the planet we share.

EMBRACING THE POWER OF OPINION

When, where, why and how we make our purchase decisions is transforming dramatically, rapidly and permanently. At the heart of this change is again the digital revolution.

Online reviews are now the very center and source of information and inspiration that is driving consumer behaviour, consumer loyalty, and the entire purchasing process. I recently read that an estimated 90% of travellers seek reviews to check out a product or a business, and 89% say reviews directly influence their decision. I therefore wonder what is going on with the other 10%?

What I find of greatest value, and quite honestly has fascinated me, is that consumers now have power regarding not only what they buy, but also what others buy. Empowered by social networks and digital devices, consumers are increasingly dictating when, where and how they engage with brands. They have become both critics and creators, demanding a more personalised service and expecting to be given the opportunity to shape the products and services they consume.

The message is clear: Consumers today have been given a louder voice, and they expect it to be heard and listened to. They are increasingly willing to share their opinions and experiences with complete strangers. As a result, a new community of trust has evolved from this. In certain categories (restaurant or hotels for example) consumers are reluctant to buy without independent recommendations. This change is disrupting the traditional path to purchase.

This is why just over a year ago Trafalgar commissioned an independent online review company to source reviews from our guests about their experiences with Trafalgar. To ensure accuracy, only our past guests could write reviews. These are all published, unedited and un-curated and online for every trip we offer. Always, 100% real and transparent.

Feefo logo

Today, with thousands of reviews collected, Trafalgar’s trips rate at a remarkable 97% guest satisfaction. In fact, the service we use, Feefo awarded us their Gold Medal for excellence. Our guests are enjoying having the opportunity to share their stories in an open format. It also ensures that as a brand we are able to amend opportunities in real-time and ensuring things are changed immediately when we do get it wrong. It is powerful, and it works.

Trafalgar has evolved our trips to take our guests deeper into a destination giving them richer experiences, bringing the gold threads of a destination alive. In being the tour industry disruptor, and having complete confidence in the experiences we give our guests, we have seen the opportunity of transparency and actively embrace online reviews.

We see and hear the voices of our guests as an opportunity to accelerate communicating this transformation, as these independent reviews are clearly bridging the gap between simple word-of-mouth to a viral form of feedback that can move virtual mountains for a business.

The importance of online reviews for businesses is truly mind-boggling; from increase of brand awareness to an overall increase of profit in the long run. Welcome to global travel’s brave new digital world. Trafalgar is, as always, excited to be guiding others, as we are directed by our guests.

DEFINING MOMENTS

The world unites in support for France

They happen when we least expect them – moments in our life that immediately, dramatically, profoundly and irreversibly shift our view of the world, and sometimes even our place in the world. I’ve experienced a few, and every time by their very nature, they catch us off guard, causing our true selves to be exposed: how we think, how we feel, how we immediately respond and of course, how we then move on.

Personally, one of those times was just over a week ago. Paris. It was a night I wont forget. By happenstance I was there with many members of my family. So were a number of our Trafalgar guests from across the globe – some readying to leave that weekend, while others elsewhere were excitedly looking forward to arriving into the city of lights. None of us had any idea that the lights were about to go out, plunging the city into darkness.

As the people of Paris and France stood teary-eyed facing down in shock, as the loss of life climbed to 129, the world stood together with the people of Paris, as one. And along with the people of Lebanon, 43 souls taken in an attack on their own streets, and the people of Russia who lost 224 souls in the skies over the Sinai.

I was one of those people, walking the streets of Paris early the next morning, trying to find some sense of calm, quiet, trustworthy footing after the ground had been shaken underneath us. Every one of my senses was heightened – the sounds, the smells and the movements around me. And, completely to my surprise, the cautious smiles of complete strangers who, for the first time I have ever found, engaged eye contact. A garbage collector, a retiree, a shop owner looking to open, a child. That morning they were eyes still tender from tears, yet willing to look at passers by, to really see them, as if to say “Nous sommes tous Parisiennes.” Whether local or tourist, male or female, whatever class, colour, creed, country, “Nous sommes tous Parisiennes.” An inner strength and solidarity united us together.

Why was this such a defining moment for me? The tragedy of the night before? There is no question about it – the terror hits you at a cellular level. But it did not stop there. My spirit experienced truly defining moments in observing, raw and unedited, what the word ‘resilience’ meant. It was a time that felt, and still feels, like the people of Paris are tightly, carefully held together by a giant Band-Aid. And they, with the help of the world, will heal.

What was also absolutely clear to me was the following. This wave of terror is trying desperately and deviously to wash over the world.

It is random.

It is heartless.

It is a few trying to exploit the masses.

It is trying to break people, communities, and religions apart.

And yet, through its unthinkable actions, it is unifying.

The weekend of the tragedy, as mentioned earlier, a number of our Trafalgar guests were scheduled to move on. And they did as per their itineraries, but with no sense of escape. Those who had the option of a few days extra in Paris chose to stay on. Our guests scheduled to arrive in Paris from Lucerne four days later? Each and every one arrived, and entered into this beautiful city with a determined spirit of “Nous sommes tous Parisiennes.” The solidarity and resilience of the Trafalgar guests, of all people, shone through.

This, dear friends, is why we travel.

This is what it means to be an ‘insider’ – living and feeling the real places, moments, milestones, memories, of the lives of people around the world with whom we will forever be bonded through a love of one shared hope – a peaceful, shared, compassionate and ever-curious world.

FULFILLING PROMISES, TO OURSELVES

Just 60 days… Can you believe that 60 days is all we have left of 2015? Another year is racing by, and soon we will be turning the last page of 2015 to reveal the start of 2016.

Year after year, as much as we say that we need to slow down and be more ‘in the moment’, somehow the moments just seem to flash by. And so here I am again, looking ahead at the rapidly disappearing time between now and the end of this year, wondering where the time has gone.

As I pause to write this month’s blog I am in the United States at the end of a worldwide, and whirlwind, tour of Trafalgar’s global offices. The reason for the travel has been something that has excited me for months to come – launching our new brand positioning ‘Simply the Best. For all of us at Trafalgar, it is an occasion to stand tall.

Part of the build-up to the launch has been challenging the team to be all that they are, living the brand personally by defining for themselves “simply my best”. As I did so for myself, I made my promises, defining for myself how I can be my best.

It then struck me that this was not a new exercise – at beginning of the year I had also made personal promises to myself. New Years Resolutions some may call them. To me they are reminders to myself to keep what is important a priority.

Time has past, and now here I am looking to the end of 2015 and asking myself the question, “what promises have I fulfilled?” I made a number of personal commitments, from unplugging my tech connections more often to be able to personally connect more to myself and those around me, and making the effort to visit the destinations I’d like to experience of the first time.

So, how have I done?

Honestly, not as well as I thought I would back in January…

Sitting back and reflecting on my personal pledges, it hit me that it is all too easy to think about, and then not fulfill the opportunities we see and commitments we make. Especially when they are personal. So easily, the promises we make to ourselves fall by the wayside to ensure that we deliver on our promises to one another.

I know I do this. In my professional life, I take such pride in my ability to always stay true to my word. I cannot say the same to myself.

As important as promises are that we make to our professional lives, so too are those that we make to ourselves. And so, as we approach the end of the last quarter, and the year, this is the time to pause, just for a moment, and reflect on the promises that we made not only to one another, but to ourselves. In doing so, with time still remaining, we will be able to find ways to ensure that we fulfill our promises – especially those to ourselves.

Our strength as many is because of our strength one by one by one. As we begin the countdown to the last hours of 2015, I invite you, I encourage you, to reflect on the promises for 2015 you made to you. Take the time to refocus on what really matters, as one and as many. 2016 will be so much stronger for it.

SUSTAINABILITY – LIVING THE LANGUAGE, LEAVING A PRICELESS LEGACY

The words ‘sustainable tourism’ are quickly becoming one of the most clichéd and over used in the travel industry. I see this politically correct language being applied superficially. I’m acutely aware that travel (and other) companies all too easily define themselves as sustainable simply because they put ‘Only print if essential – save the environment!’ messages at the bottom of their emails. Because of this, “green washing” is rapidly becoming a synonymous term. This is frustrating for those who are genuinely and legitimately fighting to make a difference for what they know is right, and must be addressed right now.

Technically speaking, the UNWTO defines ‘sustainable tourism’ as: “Tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities“.

One of the most exciting aspects of travel to me is the people that I meet along the way. In my recent travels to both Botswana and Myanmar, I had the great fortune of meeting two unique, but like the places they live, very different individuals that stripped away the rhetoric and pomposity of the overused sustainability expression, but through the very essence of their existence are making a difference. They’ve encouraged me. Here’s why:

Map Ives, the Director of Rhino ConservatioMap Ivesn Botswana, is a gentle giant of the African bush, a man who is, without question, a treasure to wildlife conservation in Africa.

Map has always lived in and remained committed to his life’s calling to understand and conserve Africa’s wild places. Today he is leading the charge on rhino conservation in Africa to ensure that our generation is not the last to see African rhino roaming freely. Listening to Map, it is impossible not to get completely absorbed and inspired by in his personal commitment for the African bush and its rhinos. He has been on the forefront of developing new approaches to a previously accelerating Rhinoworsening situation. It was this realisation and establishing systems and new practices behind the re-location of rhino that for the first time there are now a few minor shoots of hope. And he does it without any wish for praise, fame or attention. He does it because he feels in his heart it is the right thing to do. His love for his homeland and its creatures both great and small is his quiet yet powerful legacy.

Similarly whilst discovering Myanmar, fortune enabled me to meet another genuine individual. Myanmar is a remarkable country, rich in spirituality and the most striking smiles of its people. It is here that fortuitously I met meeting Ye Htut Win. He is the son of a Diplomat who has travelled the world, yet his heart never left his homeland. An obvious maverick, he returned home with a vision for success, his passion for food and a desire to make a difference. Sharkey's

He has established a business that showcases Myanmar’s magnificent produce, but with a difference – their produce is inspired by the foods Mr. Ye tasted around the world, and then made better. Crafted using his own Myanmar organic produce and artisanal methods, his fare is true artistry. He has developed and trained a network of artisans as well as farmers who are now growing organic heirloom fruit & vegetables as well as raising animals. Both the plants and local breeds are carefully chosen for those that can become accustomed to Myanmar’s climate and soils. All are cultivated using only sustainable, environmentally friendly methods.

So extraordinarily, whilst in Yangon I found myself in his eatery and unexpectedly savouring some of the most astonishing delicious cheeses (and I live in Switzerland!), breads, chili fondue and heavenly gelato. If your travels take you to Myanmar, ensure that you make a trip to Sharky’s. You will be amazed too. But what will warm you, wont just be the quality and delectableness of the food you eat but understandably the passion and pride in what has been achieved. Sharkey's eaterie

In meeting these two very different but unique individuals, in two completely parts of the world, what I found so enlightening was that through their shared example, sustainable tourism is not about doing what looks good today, it is about doing good for tomorrow regardless of who is looking today. Thank you gentlemen for keeping it real. In doing so, you are leaving a true legacy.

 

LEADERSHIP CAN AND MUST STIMULATE TOURISM GROWTH

It is hard to imagine that we are already on the second half of 2015. Once again, this will be another record breaking year of unprecedented “tourism” challenges; From Greece to Tunisia, Nepal to South Africa, and so many tourism nations in between, a year again in which millions of people have seen significant disruptions in their ability of attract tourists.

I am acutely interested of the benefits that tourism brings nations. This sector not only keeps economies strong, but also affects a country’s spirit and social fabric too. It is therefore particularly painful when a nation’s tourism sector goes awry. Whether it is Greece losing tourists as Grexit debates cause uncertainty around the islands being open for business, Tunisia’s tourists fleeing from tragedy brought on by terrorizing acts of man, Mother Nature acts of unnatural awe causing Nepal’s tourism sector to tumble to the ground, or South Africa sending its tourism sector into free-fall with poorly thought through new visitor entry regulations, the list of tourism economy casualties grows.

Consequently, you can understand my intrigue, when I recently read that Britain’s Prime Minister Cameron was focusing on, and made a personal commitment to, embedding the United Kingdom as a truly ‘GREAT’ place to visit.

GETTY IMAGEIn what is described as an ‘unequivocal statement of support’, the Prime Minister singled out the need to ensure that Tourism – an industry generating 9% of GDP, 1 in 10 British jobs, and a GVA multiplier of 2.8 (for every £1,000 spent a further £1,800 is generated through the supply chain and consumer spending) with the over 34 million international visitors that travel to and within Great Britain each year – remains on a strong, steady growth trajectory.

But my interest increased when I read that he was looking to do more than just simply say the right things. Prime Minister Cameron is in fact putting his words into action.

How? He is creating an inter-ministerial group focused on ensuring that the doors, essential to tourism invitation and implementation, are wide open. Culture Secretary John Whittingdale has been appointed as the champion of this “great” effort for Great Britain’s tourism growth and leadership, tasked with bringing together all key public and private sector players together with a goal of inspiring travellers to easily and meaningfully explore all that Britain has to offer.

What they see is that tourism greatness in Great Britain, true greatness, is not about logos and GREAT campaigns. It is about working hand-in-hand with a sector that will have the greatest impact on the lives of their people.

The holistic thinking around this initiative is what gives me a sense of confidence that Prime Minister Cameron’s vision will come to life, and we will see more travellers visiting United Kingdom in the years to come. I think they get it: tourism growth does not occur by coincidence it requires an understanding of the vastness of the competitive environment, and defining the national tourism “product” and brand image. I believe that this approach will ensure that the tourism sector:

  1. Becomes a better co-ordinated sector
  2. Aligns private sector investments with established priorities
  3. Builds skills and jobs to meet the needs of the sector
  4. Emphasises common sense regulation
  5. Prioritises investment in transport and tourism-related infrastructure
  6. Embraces all of the above with an improved welcome, by all local destinations across the nation.

It is early days, but this common sense approach to tourism development, if actioned, will be more than just a boost to tourism in one of our key markets. It has the opportunity to become example of best-practice that other nations could, and must learn from.