The global hospitality community has always been one of exceptional leaders – people who have dedicated their lives to taking care of, protecting, serving, and celebrating others.
Why? Because hospitality has always been about welcoming people into one’s home, whether ‘home’ is a B&B, a major hotel, a resort, a private property, a boutique establishment or a shared space. Hospitality is ultimately about home. True hospitality leadership is, and always will be, about honouring this truth.
Just days ago the global travel community suffered an incredible loss. With great shock and sadness, news spread – news that caused us all to look twice, check sources, question its truth, and quietly pray it was not so. At a time of endless hardship, heartache and helplessness for millions across the globe, news of the passing of Arne Sorenson was haunting. Following a long period of struggle with pancreatic cancer it was his time to rest.
The news was something that no one was ready for because he was a man that no one in the international hospitality community was ready to let go. Immediately messages of grieving were passed around the world from community to community: across hospitality, across C-Suite peers, across friends. Shock and sadness eclipsed protocol and policy. Outreaches were in every direction as the hospitality community in every part of the world felt a sense of loss. Whether one had at one time shaken his hand, or simply heard of his life’s work, all were shaken.
Remarkable about Arne was not purely his example of excellence as the President and CEO of Marriott International – the company’s first leader not Marriott blood-family, but the way in which he created an international, thousands-strong family across Marriott. Surprisingly for many, the bonds of grief formed by his passing reached beyond the business to touch the wider global hospitality community, stretching to the highest levels, across colleagues and competitors alike. Spontaneous, unfiltered statements of sadness were penned by our industry’s elite, its elders, its everyman and everywoman. As divided as we have all been this past year – grounded as a result of borders, skies and doors being forced closed – and often working in parallel yet apart towards safe, secure, sustainable restart of our essential sector, news of the loss of a pillar of our community found us, in an instance, united.
In this moment of pause, prayer, for for many, pangs of loss, it feels a powerful message has been whispered, one that will hopefully be a part of the DNA of our shared Travel & Tourism future: future leadership is not purely about monitoring and managing the numbers, nor the traditional industry metrics. Leadership in the future is about protecting, promoting and passionately uniting those in the hospitality community – the visitors and the visited, the leaders and the loved ones – building meaningful, quantitatively and qualitatively measurable bonds through our life’s work in our essential industry, recognising that through these times of historical challenge, ‘essential’ has become an adjective to describe fundamental value and worth.
Whether hotel industry competitors, colleagues, former classmates or future confidantes, Arne inspired all in the Travel, Tourism and Hospitality sector to recognise that, first and foremost, hospitality is about taking care of one. He bravely stood before the cameras in 2020’s early days of the pandemic to inspire courage, compassion, hope and unity: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X6af2lVfDDk.
Today, a year on, he has done it once more. https://twitter.com/marriottintl/status/1362920882990174209
Arne Sorenson has left a legacy of exemplary leadership not only as a hospitality professional and practitioner, but as a person. In leaving our community, he opened our shared community heart. He opened our ability to spontaneously reach out to one another and simply say, without agenda, without any intended outcome, “I’m sorry for your loss”. This has been, it feels, a parting gift, for at this time when our incredible industry continues to suffer inexplicable loss, the ability to look around and see who still cares, is invaluable.
Rest well, fine Sir. x
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2021
In a year+ of being intensely locked up and locked in by a global pandemic,
a year+ in which we’ve been so tightly constricted in our connections to one another,
the radius of our world dramatically reduced,
relying on regulations for recalibration,
repeatedly having to realign expectations,
it is almost impossible to notice how tightly the windows of our mind and heart are shut.
Out of necessity,
out of responsibility,
out of fear,
out of habit,
we have turned our worlds into what we see around us,
in our homes,
in our bubbles,
on our screens,
all under our control,
based on the best advice given by leaders leading our collective efforts to take control of COVID19, taking us all to a place of global health, global security and global stability.
With all travel stopped, our only movement being that around our limited local lifestyles, familiar sights, sounds, scents, sanitized touches and even tases once savoured lose their intensity. Without us knowing, without us even noticing.
And then it happens – a safely and securely locked window is opened just a crack. A window you were told to lock, and keep locked, until deemed safe to re-open. Until trustworthy to be opened. A dry, creaking sounds give way to silence. Only a heartbeat can be heard, a heart that beats stronger and stronger and louder as clear, fresh, pure, light, cool air brushes past.
You are free.
Not next door, not nearby. Somewhere new. Briefly, very briefly. But you are away. Regulations respected. Protocols observed. Experience expectations adjusted.
After a long, painful blur of months blending into countless months, suddenly moment counts.
Every sense is alive.
How incredible it is to realise, after being constricted of breathing for month after month after month, that the window is open, even just that little crack.
How almost disturbing it is when you in fresh air. Then and only then is the staleness recognised.
As the sound of birds is carried in on the breeze, only then is the thickness of silence broken.
Only in looking out to the big, wide open, blue sky are the boundaries of the ceiling visible.
Only in touching clean, clear waters is the dryness felt.
As our world opens up once more – slowly, cautiously, for some even fearfully – in tandem it will pry open a part of our minds and hearts that has, over time, over trauma, that has been tightly shut out of necessity, out of self-protection, out of even, for some, boredom.
In so doing , it will open up the flow of tears.
In so many ways, travel, which is often seen as being recreational, is actually medicinal.
Why? Because it helps heal.
It helps heal our minds from suffering limitations in creativity and inspiration, vision and imagination.
It helps break patterns of intensity of busy-ness, waves of intense anxiety, overfocus on the micro.
It heals us emotionally – widening our perspective, rebooting our spirit of optimism, reigniting our confidence, re-strengthening our hope.
It heals us psychologically by, giving us a sense of humility of honor and a blessing.
And it heals us socially, reconnecting us to the wider, kinder world around us.
Suddenly, strangely yet so beautifully, all that matters is to be able to feel balance, feel freshness, feel freedom, feel gratitude.
Suddenly, for the first time after a long, hard, challenging, exhausting, trying time, layers of self-protection and self-preservation begin to melt.
Suddenly every cell feels the same sensation: freedom.
This time, our shared world, is a new creation yet to behold.
Who we are, how this COVID19 chapter of our lives has impacted who we are, is yet to be understood.
Herein lies the profound value of the gift of travel – the blessing of being able to touch the world once more:
The beauty of travel will be, as always, not simply about going out and discovering the world.
It is being able to stand still in the world and re-discovering oneself.
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2021
We’re almost there!!
With Out Of Office notifications now activated, menorahs being carefully packed away, wrapping paper being collected from the base of Christmas trees, another round of turkey sandwiches being prepared from feasty left-overs, and playful off-line pauses being enjoyed before countdowns begin towards New Year’s Eve, a new excitement is building – a feisty one.
The close of 2020 is soooo close!
The sleep-count is shrinking. A new wave is growing, one reaching millions across the globe. It’s not the latest COVID-19 wave, though sadly that too is also moving swiftly, widely, mercilessly once more, putting strain on global healthcare systems and frontliners – new strains starting to emerge and travel.
This particular wave is spreading through a hashtag: #FU2020. Quickly, with variations of cursing. The hashtag is sharing millions upon millions of reasons to raise a fist to the sky, and a glass at midnight on 31 12 2020, for all 2020 has been for us all. The editing filter has been dropped.
First articulation of frustration and fiery sentiment started to appear as our calendars reached the Winter Solstice of 2020: “The shortest day of the longest ____ year of our lives”, one posting read. There was something almost permission-granting about the overt admission of just how long, hard, and hope-challenging 2020 has been.
Growing momentum of growling is impossible to ignore. Humorous messages and memes capture all that has been missed out on this year, all across the world, the agnostic, aching nature of this unnatural year out there for all to see.
The bubbling anger, angst and anxiousness for 2020 to be ‘done’ is so very real, so raw. In the final seconds of 2020 countdown there will be, no doubt, swearing accompanying singing – laughter a needed release after long months needing to stay strong, stay hopeful, hold on. Sparks of the confidence and courage reignited to take us into 2021.
But please, please just stop – please don’t just rush into 2021.
Not just yet…not until the tears have been allowed to fall.
As tempting as it is to write off 2020, we can’t – our hearts might not be ready.
Midnight will come, and we will hopefully be together with loves ones – those we can within the rules and regulations. But before that moment happens, before looking forward, please just wait a moment.
Allow your heart to breathe, to feel the year now closing. To cry.
2020 has been redefining, rewiring, really, really hard. For everyone.
There is no competition: everyone has suffered, everyone is grieving in some way.
Loved ones, loved moments, livelihoods, chances of a lifetime,
No one has escaped 2020 unscathed:
Children or grown-ups,
Friends or foes,
Near or far,
Which is why before we raise our glasses to 2021 we need to let the 2020 tears fall.
Healthy tears – quiet, thoughtful, cleansing, healing tears.
Tears from as far back as the first months of 2020 when shock first hit, when we knew something was scary-wrong, when doors and borders and businesses and skies and hearts started to close.
Tears marking the changing of the seasons, all other signs of time passing feeling a blur.
Tears tightly holding in the emotions felt when bad news hit, and then hit again, and then hit again.
Tears of simply being tired, tired of the uncertainty, tired of the endlessness, tired of being tired.
The wounds of 2020 are deep, the scars will take decades to erase, if ever.
But the healing must start. Now. As our minds register the milestone of the close of 2020.
Now is a time for healing.
In time, at some point in time, our storytelling will select memories of this time, sifting through the hurt and heartache to find ways of creating a hopeful, helpful narrative. That time will come.
But for now, right here and right now is what matters.
May the gift you give yourself in the final hours of 2020 be the chance to allow those waiting-patiently tears to rise, be released, and quietly run down your cheek in a way that releases your heart of all of the holding-on that has been so needed each day of this year.
Whatever is ahead in 2021, 2020 will soon be done.
We’re almost there.
Make a wish….x
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2020
Tomorrow will be December.
A new month – the final month of what was to be a new year: 2020, unlocking all of the hope and possibility, confidence and certainty of a new decade. Little did we know what 2020 would bring, how locked in we would all be, not just physically…and how grateful we would be for it to end.
As we look to close 2020, understandably wishing to forget so much that has happened – the horror, the heartache, the losses, the longings – moving too quickly into 2021 would be missing the point. It feels it would be such a waste to have it as a chapter in the history books with the pages left blank. As hard as it is to find the words to describe 2020, or as risky as it would be to put the words in writing for fear of their heat burning through the pages, they must be written.
Why? Because to leave the pages blank would be to leave 2020 unfinished in its messages, its meaning and its memories worth remembering.
Think about it……..
What if “2020” had not happened?
What if 2020 was simply the year that followed 2019.
Where would we be?
What would we be doing?
Who would we be seeing….and not?
What would we be valuing?
Just when we thought we had it all, all under control all by ourselves, Mother Nature made it very clear who is really in charge. And what she felt was needing to be truly valued.
As soon as 2020 began the dominoes started to fall, first indications coming in January that there was trouble with this thing called the Coronavirus, now what we know as COVID-19. As it started to creep across the world from East to West borders started to shut, airline started to ground. We knew something was wrong, something was seriously wrong.
For years and years, as one blessed to be travelling over 200 days/annum with an aerial view of the world, 2020 has been a year lived, viewed, through a zoom lens. My last travels before the world shut down were mid-March – Miami for Board meetings, a full moon trying to calm stormy skies as flights were being cancelled. It was time to get home, quickly. Looking through photographs of this year a feeling of awe emerges seeing just how many images there were watching the world close up – the world of other little creatures, whether it be squirrels, swans, geese, bees, bugs, whatever it might be. And for the first time really appreciating the magic of being in one place.
It’s been a challenging year, no doubt. Milestones missed, marriages missed, memorials missed, loved ones now lost are so missed, life’s work for many is no more. Never should these moments be moved on from without pause for prayer.
Thankfully, those I love have been safe – near, far, wherever they may have been grounded. I am very blessed that my business has been safe – work more intense and purposeful than I have ever known in my two decades of operation. Every day has been as humbling as it has been exhausting, AM&A’s singular focus being ensuring no one feels alone in facing the trauma of 2020. My AM&A girls have been absolutely incredible – we have been nonstop, operating as a compass and an anxiety sponge for our Clients as the global Travel & Tourism was brought to its knees like never in its history, and it has a long, long way to go before momentum comes close to 2019 levels of travel (latest estimate is only 2024). 98% of our work that we’re doing has been from within in the eye of the storm, moving through layers of crisis: the pandemic, its resulting economic crisis, the unlocking of mental health crisis – helping clients, helping partners, helping people through, trying to make sense of what in the world is going on. Our role, our impact, our sense blessing, has been vividly clear every single day. For this reason, month after month we have given back, as much as we can, because we can.
As with all, the year has been lived in the main on-line. While geo-forced apart, like everyone worldwide, 2020 has meant hundreds and hundreds of hours on-air, our world through a small screen.Thank goodness for those spinning satellites in the sky keeping us all connected.
Ans so, as we look at the end of 2020, there’s not much more I can say other than simply this: I am thankful. I am thankful for what we have. I am thankful for those who have been spared. I am thankful for what’s been created from this time. As I have said hundreds of times this year: “There is NO going back to normal – there is no ‘back’ and there certainly is no ‘normal'” The value and values of every day have shifted. 2020 has taken much, and yet it has also given.
May 2021 bring a new hope:
- a stronger awareness of how we need each other more profoundly than we ever imagined,
- a stronger appreciation for the world around us,
- a stronger commitment to actively support its wellness – naturally, socially, culturally, spiritually and economically,
- and a stronger sense of blessings for simply being ‘safe”,
And may we carry into the year(s) ahead of us that it really is so important to stop and smell the roses….and see the swan-babies grow, feed the squirrels, and rescue the ladybugs….before boarding a next flight. x
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2020
As we near the beginning of November – awed that we are into the countdown to the end of the year, bewildered by the blur behind us – it is impossible to not pause and think of all that has been.
2020 is not over yet, but still, who could have known that the roaring ‘20s would come with such a fierce bite!
This year has taken us all by surprise. Globally grounded, it has kept us in a state of disconnectedness in so many ways, regardless of how our virtual world operating, organising and other e-social skills have strengthened.
Since the beginning, as fear spread as quickly as the virus from East to West, the world became united in a state of shock. Together we have transitioned through 2020, month after month, wondering how long will this last, how severe will be the losses of lives and livelihoods, how we will possibly get back on our feet again – especially as a member of the global Travel & Tourism community that has been brought to its knees.
COVID-19 stopped us. Logistically and emotionally. Initial closing of businesses, borders and skies forced us to look carefully at the worlds in which we operated – what we valued deeply, what values we held dear. With dramatic restrictions on our mobility, the radius of our lives decreasing like never universally experienced before this generation, we have been forced to restructure our worlds, blur our lines (if not erase completely), rethinking the role of work, the role of play, the role of family, the role of friends, the time we have for each other, the space that we have for ourselves.
Ultimately 2020 has been a defining line of text of this generation. Mother Nature, fed-up with how poorly we were taking care of her world, upset with how we were focusing on our own needs at the cost of hers, forced us all to stop, sent us back to our rooms to think about what we had done wrong. We were not to be let out until we had figured out how we could do better – we were going to build forward better.
So, how are we going to create a world that is more caring of not just ourselves, but of our communities of our countries and over our environment around us? Before 2020 we talked about sustainability. In the main the term was used, at best, as a strategic pillar of business and government strategies. At a minimum it was a strategic footnote. But did we really respect it for what it meant, past, present and future? Do we now?
Now it is THE priority.
With our world being grounded we have seen, finally, the need to recognise the definition as so much more than simply ‘green’. ‘Sustainability’ stretches across all dimensions of lives and livelihoods: economic sustainability, cultural sustainability, spiritual sustainability, social sustainability…and environmental sustainability. It is about ensuring we do not put ourselves in a position of erosion, extinction, bankruptcy, nothingness. It is about sustaining survival. Simple
The bottom line is quadruple bottom line. ‘Sustainability’ is a call to action.
How then do we look back the world we are leaving in 2020? And look forward to the one ahead in 2021? Looking back is not enough. Nor looking forward. Creating a sustainable future demands that we look into the mirror. It has been remarkable to see how now, just days before country after country in the northern hemisphere goes into the second wave of COVID-19 with second rounds of lockdowns, and just days before election day begins in the United States of America, many of us look at the challenge ahead with nervousness in our hearts, untrusting of the outcomes. Crisis, a next one, may be just around the corner.
This year has exposed very vividly the difference in our wiring – how our brains process crisis, and how our hearts and bodies respond thereafter. And that’s okay. People respond differently to crisis. People respond differently to opportunity. People respond differently to risk. People respond differently to joy.
Through each passing day, month, COVID-19 phase of 2020, we are all in a situation where we are responding differently, together. All we know for certain is that uncertainty is ahead of us. It is not about political uncertainty, social uncertainty, economic uncertainty. As our countries work through the pandemic and its impact, closing down country after country, it is about uncertainty at a humanitarian level.
Are we able to take care of each other, together, equally, for the long run?
As we look ahead, as shared earlier, this call to action has become a defining element of not just this year, but this generation. We have been so blessed to have had so much for so long. In 2020 we have been forced to stop and think: are we ready for the world ahead of us as active participants, not just admiring passengers?
Now is the time, and the opportunity, for all of us to step up, masks on, ready to create a stronger, more united, more genuinely grateful tomorrow.
2020 has roared, exposing the ferocity of its bite. This is our time to roar back. For as beautifully expressed by Benito Mussolini: “It is better to live one day as a lion than 100 years as a lamb.”
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2020