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.

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