Thinking back to this time one year ago, I was confident that we were nearing the end of the pandemic. The new year and the fresh promise of 2021 lay ahead of us, offering a chance to rebuild again. But little did we know what was ahead. The virus did not want to go and instead, it became stronger. Now, we know that it will not leave, and rather we are going to have to adapt to live our lives alongside it.
Throughout 2021, the global community demonstrated remarkable tenacity, creativity, and inspiration. Never before have we seen the speed at which a vaccine was both developed and distributed, offering the potential for the resumption of livelihoods and liberties, not to mention protection of lives. However, there was still too much holding us all back, and as we now reflect, we can see so many lessons learned.
2021 could have been a year that united us in triumph. It simply required an embracing of the collective call to action, to act in the greater interests of humanity. Woefully, too many individual agendas endured. Too many chose to continue to stand alone; to refuse the vaccine, to not wear a mask, or to still stand too close to strangers. Too many committed to the demands of the selfish ‘ME’, rather than becoming part of a shared selfless `WE’.
That being the case, 2021 held within it innate sparks of possibility that had the power to stir up flames in what can, and does, often feel like struggling embers in a dying fire.
Through most of 2021, with people across the globe being impeded from people and places loved, the pandemic strengthened our collective desire to come together. We longed to make connections that matter; connections to our loved ones and to ourselves, all while learning about and appreciating the beauty of the world around us.
Despite an ever-shifting and challenging landscape, throughout 2021 our TTC portfolio of award-winning travel brands re-enabled people to reconnect to global travel. Not in theory, but in reality. With a clear vision for how to operate in a pandemic world, and with meticulous care and concern, our exceptional teams of dedicated individuals enabled our guests to restart protocol led, experience-rich travel across our tours, in our hotels and on our river cruise ships.
Despite impediments, with our industry leading expertise we navigated the pandemic’s labyrinth. Wherever possible we operated our experiences, doing what we love by bringing back the joy of travel. Together, the TTC community witnessed remarkable rebuilding of not just travellers’ confidence, but the fulfillment and reinvigoration of travellers’ dreams. We have shown and proven ourselves to be a necessary part of human reconnection.
So, as we look to 2022, what are our hopes? COVID-19 is not an obvious cause for optimism, and with currently less than 50% of the global population fully vaccinated the battle is far from won. But with a focus and shift on how we can live with the virus, we have already shown that, with care, it is achievable. And as we begin this new year of new beginnings, many Nations’ frustrations with the fight against that unseen and almost unshakable enemy, appear to be more resolute. Convincing the non-believers will be the biggest hurdle to surmount, but I feel a greater optimism in governments’ thinking and desire to take direct action to address it.
How we respond to the changes that are ahead of us is, ultimately, a choice. Our choice. For this reason, when I think of all that might be ahead in these enduring uncertain times, one word comes to mind and acts as my compass for 2022: HOPE.
HOPE, because where we are now is a very, very different place to where we were a year ago at this time.
This past year we have all been faced with so many unknowns, both professionally and personally. Crisis faced by each one of us has transformed who we all are. It has helped us discover who and what matters. It has inspired us to recognise our blessings, and our responsibilities. It has shown us what we are capable of. It has empowered us to make our lives matter. Omicron’s arrival should be a call to action.Therefore, as 2022 begins, I see it arriving with a new perspective on how, together, we have the power (and responsibility) to embed ‘humanity’ as a part of our global community DNA, with:
- Governments working together to create clear, consistent policies that unlock strong, sustainable, healthy and inclusive opportunity, going beyond recovery to inspire renewed economic, social, cultural, and environmental possibility.
- Business and industry collaborating to establish strong, smooth, sustainable ecosystems for advancement of circular economies that uplift communities.
- Individuals proactively making decisions that benefit the greater good of the people and places that they not only call ‘home’, but also those they seek to explore across the world.
Clearly victory in 2022 depends a lot on collective work and sacrifice, because no matter how much effort is made by some, especially health workers, if the collective focus remains on the ‘ME’ rather than the ‘WE’, this tragedy will only continue unnecessarily for longer. The choice is ours.
And what of travel in 2022? It’s been a while since the simple question ‘where should I travel to next?’ has been met with a simple answer, thanks to the ever-changing landscape. This will not change in 2022. Travel will be different; the when, the where, unknown. But the quest, the desire, the love for travel, will not change. We are seeing, no matter what, that human nature is resilient. People from all corners of the globe want to reconnect to travel, their desire to get out and enjoy indomitable. And when they do, they will seek to experience more, proactively doing more than they did before, with more appreciation than ever before.
There is greatness to be unlocked in 2022, for as our late TTC Chairman said, “This too shall pass. And when it does pass, there will be enormous opportunities.”
Therefore, as we reunite in 2022, may we all, together, continue to discover the “new normal” for us individually and for the collective desire to travel too. All is possible, and all can be achieved in the coming year, if we choose to live in a way that more robustly, generously, and holistically holds humanity at the heart of progress. And in our travels, diversifying, shifting to more sustainable tourism models and investing in new technologies which will help shape recovery for both the visitor and the visited.
We do not need to be passive. We already have the tools to reduce the virus’s impact, if we choose to face it with solidarity and respect for one another, eschewing our personal desires. Because in the end, the agony of the pandemic will not be overcome by ‘ME’, but rather with unity, the hope of the collective, ‘WE’.
So, with HOPE, I look forward to sharing 2022 with you.