TRAVEL AT A CROSSROADS – THERE’S NO TURNING BACK

You can see it and feel it, all around us. It is simply wonderful. The travel world is on the move. Finally. Freely. Festively.

With immense excitement and expectation, travellers are once again taking to the skies, streets, rivers and even seas, turning their long pent-up desire and anticipation into action. And as they venture north, south, east, and west, it is very easy to feel a sense of massive celebration – a celebration reflecting relief in being released from restrictions on movement, a celebration of rediscovery, a celebration of our ability to reconnect once again.

The spirit of ‘because I can’ is everywhere. It is understood. It is being felt by the visitor as much as the visited. We can all empathise with it. How can we not? We ourselves are not only travel organisers, but also travellers. We have longed to travel. The exceptional levels of busyness in airports, train stations, seaports, on our coaches, across all methods of transport, feels liberating.

Simple things such as the airport experience – arriving at the airport whether by train or road, venturing through airport security, through the air-side terminal, through to the boarding gates, finding your way onto the plane – in many ways it can feel as if we’ve gone back – back to the old days, back to the old ways.

‘Back to normal’ many would say. Travel excitement, travel celebration, is a very good thing. Many would say it demonstrates how much we have all been missing travel, connecting to people in the places we’ve longed to return to or dreamed of exploring for the first time, and once again learning more about ourselves.

Making Chapati, Gurdwara Sikh Temple on Contiki’s Eternal India Itinerary

But just going back to what was, is not a good thing. Nor is it an option.

As both a global travel industry and as a travelling community, we must be very careful when we use the word ‘back’. In fact, we must remove it from our vocabulary completely. Why? Because if the past two years have shown us anything, it’s the enormous impact that our travels can have, both good and bad. The choice on the way forward will be ours.

We must recognise that pent-up demand can very easily and rapidly turn into reverting to bad habits that used to exist in the days pre pandemic. The busyness that used to consume us, spending our time going from A to Z, running through the alphabet while so often failing to recognise all the letters in between.

Pre 2020, still too many were travelling unconsciously, taking for granted the precious gift our planet gives us – the gift of travel, discovery, wonder. Now, as we stand on the precipice of a new travel age, unless consciously addressed these same habits will, sadly, endure. Instead, we must recognise that we are not the same people or industry in 2022, as we left behind in 2019. Travel has changed. Our industry has changed. And we have changed, on so many levels.

The reality is this: we need to be conscious of the fact that when we travel, we are always guests in someone’s home, someone’s city, someone’s life.

This means that as we experience the celebration of the gift of travel once more, we must not lose sight of gratitude for this gift, nor of the opportunity to make a meaningful, measurable impact.

Celebrating the return of travel deserves to be honoured, but this celebration must come hand in hand with gratitude in our hearts, for the blessing of being able to travel once more. We need to be honest; we need to be humble, and we need to act together to ensure that every day, on every itinerary, we book every guest with a commitment to fulfil their travel dreams in a way that makes travel matter.

What is important about this time of celebration is that we do not forget for one moment, what we have come through. For if we speed away too quickly from the past, into the present and out to the future, we will simply jump over all the lessons that we have learned; lessons that we must never forget.

It is unlikely that the coronavirus will ever completely disappear and immunity against the virus will always be imperfect. But we have equally seen that we can live and travel with it.

As we do so, we must never, never forget what these past two years of global grounding have taught us all in the tourism industry, and all of us as travellers – to never lose a sense of gratitude for the ability to venture out into the world, whether for business or pleasure.

We can’t fall into the ways of the past, a time when a spirit of entitlement to go anywhere at any time for any reason, eclipsed the sense of privilege that is, without question, at the heart of travel and tourism.

Which begs the question: how do we reimagine and rebuild global Tourism in a way that is sustainable and meaningful for both the visitor and the visited? We must all consider our impact. That is why in this spirit of responsibility, transparency and accountability, I was enormously proud when The Travel Corporation (TTC) released its 2021 Impact Report. https://impact.treadright.org/progress/. An honest, accountable representation of the positive impact we make to people and places worldwide

These are exciting times, but equally thought provoking and action-oriented ones too. We must never forget our core responsibility that as we re-emerge, we seek purpose, we seek passion, and we truly shift to more sustainable form of tourism, always ensuring that in all our actions, we in fact do MAKE TRAVEL MATTER.

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