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,
- 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.