When a mighty pillar stands, so often its strength is not fully seen.
Nor its exquisite detail.
Nor its exceptional courage.
Nor its boldness of vision.
When a mighty pillar stands, so often its protection is not felt.
Nor its tireless dedication.
Nor its humility.
Quietly, ever still, it holds up the sky.
Beneath it is created a space, a safe space, for others to take in the view of the world.
A place to imagine, to create, to conquer.
A place to think, to dream, to ponder, to reflect, to grow.
A place to focus one’s eyes on the future, aligning one’s mind, heart, hopes, and actions to what can be.
A place to find courage, to fuel ambition, to hear a calling.
A place to take one’s first steps into the sun.
There it stands, silently, watchfully, forever – seemingly.
And then the unimaginable happens. It falls.
When a mighty pillar falls, each and every second of its crumbling down can be heard, can be felt, cannot be escaped.
Cannot be stopped.
Each and every piece of marble – marble that has stood strong, solid, silently – can be heard as it crashes loudly and painfully to the ground.
Deeply, hauntingly, the rumble of the fall shocks our spirit, strikes our emotions, penetrates our hearts.
The earth beneath is left shaking.
We are left grieving.
when a mighty pillar falls,
we are reminded of the profound blessing of its presence while it stood tall –
holding the sky above us,
inspiring us to look up.
Inspiring us to continue to quietly, humbly yet boldly, build.
For your life,
for your leadership,
for your love,
Thank you, Sir. x
SST 1930 – 2021
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2021 https://www.stanleytollman.com/about/
noun: trauma; plural noun: traumata; plural noun: traumas
- a deeply distressing or disturbing experience.
- emotional shock following a stressful event or a physical injury, which may lead to long-term neurosis.
The trauma of COVID-19 on the international travel, tourism and hospitality industry in 2020 is now well known:
- Loss of over 1 billion international travellers,
- Loss of close to 80% of sector activity,
- Loss of over 60% of international air routes connecting airports,
- Loss of over three decades of sector growth,
- Loss of est. US$ 2 Trillion in GDP
- Loss of over US$ 1 Trillion in T&T receipts,
- Net losses of over US$126 Billion in Aviation revenues (passenger),
- Loss of over 120 million direct jobs in Travel, Tourism, and Hospitality,
- Loss of over 40 million jobs in Aviation, and
- Loss of countless jobs in restaurants, and restaurants per se,
not to mention,
- Loss of momentum of industry learning across a world of Tourism & Hospitality universities, colleges, and vocational schools,
- Loss of work experience, and
- Loss of progress on projects in pipelines,
and sadly even,
- Loss of confidence in working again,
- Loss of ability to wait for the industry to re-open and recover, and
- Loss of interest in working in the industry again.
That was 2020.
2021 is proving to be a year of sustained trauma. As new mutations and waves of COVID-19 force new restrictions on travel in parts of the world, easily extinguishing excitement as domestic, regional, and even some international travel slowly starts to regain momentum in others.
As a global industry community desperate to break through this traumatic time, our focus has been heavily weighted towards how we are going to rebuild confidence in safe, secure, seamless travel – travel free of worry, free of excessive costs of time and money for testing…free to exhale and stretch once more. The desperation of a world of travellers to reconnect with loved ones, loved places, loved memories and loved feelings of freedom, is well known. ‘Pent up demand’ has become a collective call to action.
What is often overlooked, however, is the internal trauma to the industry. Especially as relates to those on the front line of service.
Ours is an innately inspiring, engaging, and social community. It attracts and retains people from different nations, cultures, ideologies, identities, and aspirations who love, absolutely love, making personal connections with others – both new faces from new places, and those with whom bonds have already been built. With the sector growing between 3% and 5% every year for over a decade, the future of Travel, Tourism & Hospitality looked certain. What could possibly go wrong?
And then it happened. In March 2020, globally, hundreds of millions of people in our highly social industry were suddenly grounded, forced to be alone, asked to stay at home, away from their hospitality jobs in the bars, in the restaurants, in the hotels and resorts, in the tour groups, in the parks, in the venues, in the airports, in the sky. It was a time that none of us, wherever we are across the experience chain, will ever forget. Spring (northern hemisphere) 2020 was to see 100% of international borders close to non-essential travel. Over 18,000 commercial aircraft were grounded, cutting off the major artery of global travel and trade. By mid-year glimmers of hope were starting to emerge as restrictions eased, the COVID beast believed to be tamed. It was time to step out into the sun, meeting, and eating outside in fresh air, to the sounds of free-flowing laughter. People were understandably nervous, stay-apart mindsets making getting close unnerving. Adjusting to limitations on carrying and seating capacity was non-negotiable. But it was worth it to be able to get out again. Finally.
And then, at different times and in different places around the world, as soon as they were asked to return back to work (albeit with significant protocol-based adjustments to ways of service and numbers served), lockdowns were reimposed. Long, frustrating, fear-generating periods of waiting alone resumed.
For many the waiting was not deemed to be worth the future risk, future re-openings (and possible re-closings) presenting very real concerns including:
- severe limitations in job stability, fuelled by pandemic-related work pauses,
- renewals of work-dependent permits for right to remain (not to mention bi/multi-lateral government relationships and regulations),
- threats to personal security, including continuous contact with potential COVID-19 carriers, and
- limitations of future opportunity as businesses cancel and/or suspend investments in training and development.
Not to mention the very real issues many young people in the industry faced re. work Money needed to be made, decisions needed to be made. For a significant proportion of the industry’s frontline service community, changes needed to be made.
The exodus from the industry was not a new phenomenon. The entire industry was already struggling with next generation leaders leaving for more stable, secure, skills-investing and celebrated careers. COVID-19 magnified the weaknesses within. In the middle of 2020 as furlough programmes ended, an estimated less than one third of the industry returned to work.
As we re-open the global travel and tourism industry, it will not be as simple as opening the door to lines of travellers from near and far excited to be out, re-visiting their favourite people and places, and doing so calmly. As is already seen across the industry, to a large degree these are people who have been aching for rest and relaxation, to unwind, to have a change of scenery, to be looked after, to be pampered, to be fed and watered, to do what they want when and how they want it, and to get away from their screens. They are wanting to be seen and served. Now!
Nor will it be a situation where travellers are received by people who have simply been waiting until the door re-opened. Waiting will be less people working more, acutely aware of the fact that they are now expected to take care of a that pent up, impatient, feeling-entitled, demand.
Sadly, the needs of the front line of service are being muted out. Gratitude in being open, being employed, being able to serve pushes all of the emotional strain, the internal trauma, to the background.
The impact of trauma, any trauma, is long lasting. It changes our wiring. It makes us sensitive and fragile to future risks. Importantly, trauma takes away our trust in safety. For people working in the travel and tourism industry, especially on the frontline of hospitality, the wounds of the trauma are deep.
Those people working in hospitality need to trust that they will be seen. They will be taken care of, and they will be warmly invited back. We no longer can speak about the industry being the industry of the future if so many in the industry have left because they simply saw no future.
At the beginning of the pandemic, the Secretary General of the UNWTO was one of the first global voices to articulate with clarity and compassion that “trust is the new currency”. Many internalised and interpreted his words from external perspective. Internal trust of our sector to take care of its own people who are tasked with taking care of others is going to be the lifeblood of the industry going forward.
People committing their careers to the industry need to trust that the industry is committed to them.
People respecting the industry need to trust that they will be respected.
People investing in their future in the industry need to trust that the industry is investing in them.
And critically, people taking care of the guests/travellers/patrons need to trust that they will be taken care of by their employers, as well as by guests/travellers/patrons themselves.
Trust is, and remains, our new, shared, single global currency in our future of travel, especially as we all now step forward to rebuild what we know to be a vital sector for global unity, opportunity, and humanity. At the heart of the future of a strong, confident, caring, and inspiring industry is an industry that offers strength, confidence, care and inspiration to its own. x
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2021
COVID-19 has united us all – one global community bonded through challenge, through fear, through stamina, and through patience. The tireless, tenacious nature of the beast, with its omnipresence, invisibility and increasingly rapid transmissibility, continues to leave our shared world in a state of sustained trauma – everyone, everywhere, even now.
As much as this pandemic should have inspired and unlocked sustained global empathy, compassion, and cooperation, sadly it has reinforced risk of re-entry into a divided world from which we thought, hoped, we had evolved as we entered the roaring (20)20s – a time defined as “a period of economic prosperity with a distinctive cultural edge”.
That world we hoped we had left behind? A world that is divided between the haves and the have nots.
So much work had been done between nations, between communities, to build a stronger, collective future focused on sustainable growth, development, opportunity, liberty, and wellbeing. The UN SDGs created a framework for moving forward. The plans and policies were in place, call to action was heard, the planet was ready to act.
And then January 2020 happened, the term ‘Coronavirus’ becoming a part of our personal, professional, and social vocabulary, soon to be replaced by ‘COVID-19’.
For a brief time the speed and shock of the first wave of shock and spread united the locally and globally locked-down world. Month after month after month. And then the discoveries were made – record speed development of vaccines. Collectively the world exhaled. Hope was felt by all. Finally!
But then started the other waves: divides, between countries, between communities, between families. Sadly, as with the virus, the divides are only increasing as time passes.
COVID? Have had versus have not.
Long COVID? Have versus have not.
Vaccine access? Have versus have not.
Jab? Have versus have not.
Antibodies? Have versus have not.
Underlying condition? Have versus have not.
New variant? Have versus have not.
Another wave? Have versus have not.
Another lockdown? Have versus have not.
Mask mandate? Have versus have not.
Quarantine requirements? Have versus have not.
Job security? Have versus have not.
A safe place to call ‘home’? Have versus have not.
A good place to WFH? Have versus have not.
Lost weight? Have versus have not.
Lost a loved one? Have versus have not.
Lost control? Have versus have not.
Missed funeral? Have versus have not.
Missed wedding? Have versus have not.
Missed a milestone? Have versus have not.
Indoor socialising? Have versus have not.
Plans for cross-border travel? Have versus have not.
Return to office date? Have versus have not.
Fear of another wave? Have versus have not.
Confidence in the future? Have versus have not.
Hope? Have versus have not.
Compassion? Have versus have not.
This separation of the haves and the have nots in the short- and medium-term is something that is going to shape our shared world in the long-term.
Sadly, we have found that through the pandemic separations are severe in terms of access to healthcare and vaccine supply. Similarly, deep, increasingly fierily audible divides are occurring in terms of demands for freedom of mobility, opportunity, job security, and core ideology.
We live in a world, sadly, that is at a decision point. We either all move together, or we divide and move apart. The haves and the have nots that have been created by COVID-19 are no longer purely about science, health and economics. It’s about humanity.
The question to us all is this: as we move into the latter part of year two of COVID-19, are we committed to the quest to move forward together, or are we willing to accept that some (turning to many) are going to move forward with a feeling of ‘freedom’ without any desire to look back at those locked in new stages of trauma, clearly left behind?
The bottom line is clear: are we willing to accept a new era of deep, painful divide?
The challenge of COVID-19 goes beyond the pandemic. The challenge is a humanitarian one. In many ways it is a mirror being dropped by Mother Nature, asking us to look into our eyes – as individuals, as communities and as nations – and ask: for all the momentum, progress, and opportunity felt in late 2019 on the eve of the roaring twenties, have we honoured that collective hope and strength of roar for all?
Or are we going to find that the lion behind these roaring twenties is going to bite?
A decision must be made to determine the fate of the divide. Confidence we can tame time the lion? Have versus have not?
Have…whispered with a prayer. X
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2021
‘Long COVID’ is one thing, suffered by some. It is serious, not to be overlooked.
‘Longtime COVID‘ is quite another, suffered by everyone. It too is serious, yet under-explored.
Both are very real. Only one, however, we really hear about.
The term ‘Long COVID’ has become part of our pandemic vernacular. It’s something that is experienced by millions upon millions worldwide who have suffered COVID-19. ‘Long COVID’ represents the lingering after-effects experienced by people who have suffered COVID-19 and feel unable to regain the level of health that they held previously. In the UK, the Office for National Statistics estimates up to 30% of people testing positive for COVID-19 may suffer symptoms for twelve weeks or more. Some are shorter, some longer. Symptoms vary in strength, sustained periods, and parts of the body suffering. Importantly, symptoms have no connection to severity of the actual COVID-19 experience.
‘Long COVID’ is a reflection of the fact that COVID, in whichever variant, is random. How we experience it, the degree to which we suffer, and the ultimate long-term effects, differs person to person, situation to situation. Even if it’s the same variant, how one actually experiences it – asymptomatically or aggressively, as an attack on the respiratory system or neurologically – remains a mystery.
What is less spoken about is the ‘Longtime COVID’ – something from which everyone is suffering, everyone around the world who has been waiting and waiting and waiting for the tragedy of COVID-19 to come to an end. Something that seems, for millions upon millions now entering Wave 3 fuelled by the Delta variant, endless.
‘Longtime COVID’ is not a technical term. It is not an official diagnosis. It is a term that was created, quite honestly, for the purposes of this piece of writing as it was a term that connected comfortably with the words ‘Long COVID’. It may not be a real diagnosis, but we all know it is real.
The way in which COVID-19 entered all our lives in early 2020 stripped us all of any sense of comfort, confidence and control. With unprecedented speed, trauma and terror, COVID-19 took over. Skies, borders, and businesses closed, one after the other, one country after the other, as never seen before in this or any other generation. Through 2020 COVID-19 cost the global community lives, livelihoods and liberties. The longing for freedoms of movement, of connection and of community grew stronger and stronger.
We missed smiles.
We missed hugs.
We missed laughter.
We missed together.
And then, as the seasons changed with leaves turning from green to golden brown in the northern hemisphere, sunrays reaching out wider and warmer in the south, hope grew.
Regulations were easing, bubbles were widening, hearts were strengthening as vaccines were being discovered, curves were being flattened, cases were reducing.
But then our doors were forced shut again. It was too much, too soon, too close.
Months, milestones, marriages, memorials, memories, all passed.
COVID-19 soon became simply endless, with all the complexities associated with personal and professional isolation, physical separation, growing frustration, natural irritation, unnatural virtual world habitation.
And then signs of release and relief start to emerge as seasons continue to change. Hope, as doors open a little wider every few weeks, every shift in the statistics, every jab of vaccine, every sign of something looking like ‘normal’. It had been a long time, a very, very long time.
And then news breaks somewhere in the world of outbreaks of new cases of new variants. Stigmatisation is felt in country after country as discoveries occur of one new variant after the other.
Again, back in. Borders close, bookings are cancelled, plans collapse, hopes are crushed.
‘Longtime COVID’ reflects the intense strain that sets in when, one by one, people feel they are simply ‘done’: Zoomed out, ****ed off, feeling alone, abandoned and angry, tired of waiting, tired of masking, tired of limited living. Done.
Now, one year and many months on, our world continues its waiting and watching wondering what will happen next. Parts of the world excitedly ready to finally travel once more, desperate to get away, get together with loved ones, yet not 100% certain of government regulations going unchanged. At the same time, other parts of the world are being locked down once more, wave after wave threatening national stability, both economically and emotionally. The optimism fatigue is real.
When it comes to ‘Longtime COVID’ there is so much still unknown. The consequence of the world being shut down for over a year and a half will be significant. Maybe not shut down physically, but certainly emotionally. ‘Longtime COVID’ is our next great mystery.
What damage has been done? What healing will be needed? How will we, individually and collectively, deal with all the loss, the prolonged longing, the waiting and waiting and waiting?
Everyone in the world is suffering from ‘Longtime COVID’. No one has been spared, as comfortable in the discomfort zone many may appear. For everyone, everywhere, this has been a long, long, hard time.
The treatment? At least for now?
With immediate effect the following is prescription is strongly recommended. All ingredients are 100% natural, and easily accessible:
- Every morning give oneself a good, strong dose of compassion
- Accompany with kindness and forgiveness
- Repeat in evening before bed
- Double-dose if needed
- For lasting results continue taking daily even if feeling strength restored
- If any signs of discomfort call a loved one, and keep holding on.
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2021
It was a sound that made the mind’s eye think of a dark, cloud-filled sky cracking open to release heavy, quenching, monsoon raindrops falling onto dry, parched, cracked desert ground.
It was a sound that broke through silence, flowing swiftly, soaking into the ground, feeding the spirit.
From every direction, through every sense, it was a sound so consuming, so desperately sought after, so dearly needed.
Finally, as with the monsoons after a period of intense waiting, it had arrived – a sound that poured down onto the performers on the stage, wave after wave, as though bathing desert flowers thirsty for life.
It was applause, for the first time in such a long, hard, trying time.
London’s Royal Opera House was open once more. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z-Gau5cVBu0
In late May 2021, with cautious relief and delight, Covent Garden’s centre for the performing arts carefully opened its doors. Returning to its magnificent heart, staring out across the vast, velvety expanse of theatre seating to the Main Stage, one could almost feel:
- the moment when sleeping lights were re-awoken to reveal the grand theatre shaking awake after a lengthy hibernation,
- the moment when the stage was quietly stepped upon with a gentle tap-tap-tap from each touch of the pointe shoes,
- the moment the orchestra pit first filled with fresh, flowing sounds of musical instruments warming up, marking the end to a year of silence,
- the moment hundreds upon hundreds of plush, red velvet seats were lovingly dusted and tied off with ribbons to welcome a 50% capacity limit audience home.
Finally, the lights glowing gold readied to be dimmed, the stage stood tall and proud dressed for the occasion, and the orchestra was anxious to start. The audience looked at each and every detail, taking the ‘here and now’ in with a quiet intensity, an audibly beating heart, a hint of a smile, a feeling of freedom.
Showtime. 21st Century Choreographers was about to begin.
As the curtain rose the feeling of anticipation, excitement, relief, and gratitude of each and every performer was evident as they stepped onto the stage with a distinct sense of purpose. Together, once more.
It was impossible to watch on and not wonder ‘how did they do it?’ How did they manage all these months, unable to be together, to train together, to perform together, to practice together, to laugh together, to bond together, to feel appreciated and adored?
In the early months of the pandemic awe-inspiring videos were shared around the world, our small screens filled with images of professional dancers training in their homes, on their balconies, in empty streets. Videos of hope. Videos of solidarity. Videos of remarkable creativity not only in dance but in determination. But then the music seemed to have stopped. Life in unknown, uncertain times stretched on far longer than the world ever expected, putting lives and livelihoods at risk far more severely than ever imagined.
For those in the performing arts worldwide, COVID19 forced them to find ways to stay fit, to stay focused, to stay hopeful that their careers would return to the stage.
- How does one keep strong and supple when they cannot stretch?
- How can one be creative when there is no reason to create?
- How does one feel inspired when they cannot feel the presence of an audience?
- How does one know when to move when they cannot hear the music?
- How does one take a bow when surrounded by silence and empty space?
- How can one leave the stage when their finest performance is yet to come?
For months and months and months there were questions, very valid questions, around whether or not so many performers would be strong enough, capable enough, willing enough, to put on their ballet shoes and costumes, and stand under the glowing lights. Ultimately, would performing artists worldwide ever again hear those heavy, healing raindrops of applause.
To be in a live audience again, to feel a rebirth taking place, was an absolute gift. A sense of blessing and gratitude was omnipresent – being able to be there, seeing and feeling it all in three dimensions, full of life, full of music, full of grace. With each performance the dancers were showered with applause, and more, and more. The orchestra performed magnificently, each and every piece played with a distinct sense of joy and relief. It was magical to experience months of dry, deafening silence being filled by floods of clapping, to feel the feeding of the starved spirits of the performers. For the audience, it was like rain washing dust off of one’s heart…
The pure magic of the moment brought to the fore a deep sense of release, a reminder of all that we have all been starved of.
We have all endured a year+ of suffering, of loss, of deprivation. While we have found ways to become comfortable in the discomfort zone, this discomfort cannot, must not, become the norm. Nothing about this time, this way of living, is normal.
As our shared world slowly, cautiously re-opens, returning to the stage will require of us all a readjustment to the sound of the music, the brightness of the lights, the presence of an audience, the test of our strength and stamina to continue dancing. It will not be easy, it will not be comfortable, it will often feel unnatural, but we will dance once more – with new steps discovered, new partners found, new purpose in our movements.
And a new sense of gratitude for the healing power of the rain. x
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2021