The concept of Responsible Tourism has, rightly, taken a front row seat in the strategies, policies and philosophies of nations seeking to grow and develop their tourism economies. Building a tourism destination responsibly, actively conscious of the impact which the tourism industry has on the place, people and promise of the destination, is critical to the long-term health and well being of the destination.
Responsible tourism is everyone‘s responsibility.
As a result members of both the public and private sector are coming together across the global Travel & Tourism community to talk sustainability, responsibility, longevity and accountability – fundamentals of sector growth and development. Principles and programmes are being created which ensure that growth of the destination takes into careful consideration the impact of travellers on:
- the natural environment of the destination
- the established culture and traditions of the destination
- the style and character of the destination
- the spirit and ethos of the people of the destination
- the immediate growth and development needs of the destination along with its future aspirations
The definition of ‘Responsible Tourism’ has evolved organically to include both the tangibles and the intangibles of the destination, both the present and the future, both the expectations and the experience.
Importantly, very importantly, it also reaches out to include both the travel destination and the traveller.
Responsibility for the well being of the destination is not only the responsibility of the tourism sector – it is also the responsibility of the tourist.
This, sadly, is so often forgotten. Boldly with our tickets, money and passports in hand we set forth to enter a new part of the word. We seek to explore and seek to experience something new. We seek to be educated and entertained. We seek to close deals in meeting rooms and close our eyes on beaches. And we feel good about it because we know our being there is good for the destination’s economy.
There can, however, be a cost to the destination through our presence. One which can do profound damage to both how the destination experiences us…and how we experience the destination.
There is a powerful, poignant passage in the closing of chapter one of Gregory David Roberts’ beautifully written SHANTARAM which goes as follows:
“The owners of the hotel received four dollars per day per room. That was their base line. The dollar or two above that minimum was all Anand and his staff of three room boys shared as their daily wage. The little victories haggled from him by foreign tourists cost Anand his daily bread, and cost them the chance to know him as a friend.”
The truthfulness of the passage hits one’s heart more deeply the more one reads it. All of us, we the travellers of the modern world, not only know what is meant by his words…we feel what is meant.
In a small collection of words is a message of one of the greatest risks of the growth of the Travel & Tourism sector today – the risk that in all of our busy-ness, bravely venturing out to see the world, we fail to see what the world sees in us.
When travelling to new, newly ‘open for business’ destinations stereotypes and pre-departure stories of ‘what could happen’ can often collide with immediate sights and sensations. This cocktail causes our behaviour to change. Our awareness heightens. Our eyes widen. For some the heart opens wider, engagingly. For others the heart can close tightly, the defensive and suspicious mind taking over. It happens, within all of us, at different levels, depending on the situation we find ourselves in.
And actually this deeply personal impact is part of the excitement and growth and personal learning of travel.
Still, it is important to remember that we travellers, through our behaviour in new travel environments and situations, can impose culture shock as much as we can experience it ourselves. Our words, our gestures, our beliefs and our behaviours – these can also be intensely new experiences for people of the destination. How we treat the destination – how we engage with the local people, how we care for their environment, how we respect amd embrace their customs, codes and character, how we share our culture and how we carry home their little corner of the world – brings to life the responsibility we have to the places we travel as travellers.
As we cross borders to learn more about and celebrate the world we live in we should never forget that we are absolutely blessed to be able to experience firsthand the rich array of new cultures and communities opening their doors and putting out the welcome mat to travellers. Our interest in exploring nations is our privilege, not our right.
We are guests.
We are ambassadors of our home countries.
We are heartbeats.
And we have a responsibility to take care of the places we visit as much as they reach out to take care of their visitors.
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2009
As recently as 5 weeks ago a world already gripped by the economic downturn was suddenly put into a new state of panic. An illness never heard of before was hitting the global headlines, generating fears of a global pandemic. Swine flu.
As numbers of reported cases increased and counts of lives taken moved into double and triple digits, the red light began to flash. Its location: Mexico.
Within a matter of days one of the world’s largest cities – Mexico City – went into lock-down (costing the city a estimated US$ 88 million per day in lost commerce over a five day city closure period). One of the world’s leading tourism destinations – Mexico – went into paralysis. The resulting tourism economy (representing 8% of GDP – the nation’s third largest economic sector) went into shock as visitors to the destination at the time were put into surgical masks (and quarantine if showing signs of flu-like symptoms), travel advisories were issued discouraging non-essential travel to the destination, hotel occupancy levels sank to single digits and bookings of imminent travellers were cancelled.
Across the globe the effects of the H1N1 scare could be felt, tangibly and intangibly. The world map started to develop a rash. Red spots began to appear on countries across the globe as international news networks began tracking numbers of suspected, and confirmed cases of Swine Flu. As quickly as airplanes could cross oceans the dots would start to appear.
Travellers went into drug stores in search of preventative vaccines. Pharmaceutical companies went into overdrive to build up supplies while their share prices built up in value. And pigs went into hiding.
The fears of a global pandemic spread with as much speed and intensity as the modeling developed during the early days of Bird Flu to help us understand how quickly a virus of this nature could travel. Worst case scenario was being planned for, best case was being prayed for.
To the relief of millions the actual reach and impact of the H1N1 virus was far less than that of previous health scares which took many lives over this past decade – SARS and Avian Flu. Yet fear has remained both within international medical systems and in the minds of travellers. In Asia where the memory of the SARS outbreak and its resulting catastrophic impact on the economy is still fresh, travellers can be seen walking around airports wearing masks, looking suspiciously at anyone who may sneeze. Where once one would instinctively say “God bless you”, today one wonders “are you?”
In so many ways 2009 has been a year of great ills – economic, medical, emotional. For those of us in the Travel & Tourism industry news of fears of a possible pandemic caused immediate concern – what will this do to an already very fragile sector? How much worse can it get?
As voiced by the WTTC in April 2009,
“The present economic uncertainties have already taken a heavy toll on demand across the globe and they will continue to endanger millions of jobs in one of the largest industries in the world. The swine flu outbreak is compounding the ailments of the global economy just as there are signs it might be starting to stabilize.”
Mexico, as a result of the Swine Flu outbreak, was the first destination to see travellers cancelling travel plans, arresting much-needed injections of energy and revenues into the destination. International news reports to this day provide updates on expected losses of the AH1N1 virus on Mexico. One month after the crisis hit global headlines Chinese press reported on May 02nd, 2009:
“Mexico’s tourism has been hit hard by the outbreak of the A/H1N1 flu, the Mexican government said Saturday. The occupancy rate for major tourist sites in Mexico is expected to decline by 44.8 percent in the coming ten days, Mexican tourism authorities predicted. A series of cultural, business and academic activities in Mexico have been canceled. In such resorts as Cancun and the Maya coast, the occupancy rate of hotels, which should have been flooded with tourists in this season, has decreased to 77.8 percent since April 23 when the government announced urgent anti-flu measures. Such countries as Cuba, Canada, Argentina, Ecuador, Peru and Chile have canceled their flights to Mexico, while the number of U.S. tourists to Mexico has seen a sharp fall.” (Source: www.chinaview.cn)
Damage to the Mexican tourism industry, greater economy, and spirit continues despite the virus now being viewed as far less severe than expected and under control. In May the impact of the crisis to the Mexican economy was expected to be US$ 2.2 billion. It was predicted that if the virus lasted eight weeks, ie. until today’s date, the impact was estimated by the Mexican Ministry of Finance to be -0.8% decline in GDP. This being in a year when the central bank is already expecting GDP to drop almost 5% as a result of the global economic downturn. Unprecedented action is now being taken by the government and private sector to communicate ‘open for business’. Heavily promoted, heavily discounted package offers support confident, highly compelling invitation to travellers. Now is the time to come and enjoy Mexico. Please.
The H1N1 virus continues to spread. As of moments ago (literally) the WHO declared a raising of the level of the virus to LEVEL 6 – pandemic – the highest. The virus has spread to over 70 countries across the globe, with over 28,000 reported cases. While the vast majority of those diagnosed with H1N1 recover swiftly (and often without medication) and a dramatically reduced rate of transmission is being seen compared to original predictions (due to seasonality stunting the spread), the concern remains. Airports continue to conduct fever-checks on arriving passengers, passengers undertake their journeys with face masks in place, and immigration cards are now accompanied by Department of Health forms tracking traveler movements. The WHO, continuing to monitor the spread of the virus and recommending no restrictions in travel, may feel thankful for its relative weakness, but are realistically cautious of its ability to gain in strength.
The red-dotted H1N1 maps have cooled. Other news issues have heated up.
Still, there has been active questioning regarding whether or not the global community – from health practitioners to pharmaceutical companies to travel & tourism professionals over-reacted to the H1N1 outbreak. Was the alarm bell sounded too loudly? Was the scale of the impact of the virus hypothesised too aggressively? Was there reason for global panic?
To look backwards, to debate the WHAT and the HOW, the WHO (no pun intended) and the WHEN, and challenge the WHY and the WHERE, is in fact academic. The global community, with its best minds and intentions, responded as was deemed necessary.
The real question is: What did we learn to keep us even safer and more secure in the future? And even more resilient as a tourism community, globally?
The identification and spread of the H1N1 virus has challenged us as a global Travel & Tourism community to come together to find a global crisis management attitude and response to address a global industry issue. We are a world on the move – borders and boundaries have faded where both travellers, and viruses, are concerned. All it takes is one flight, one cough, one touch, one headline and the virus, in fearful thought and in real form, has spread.
Which means we, as a global industry need to ensure that our recent learning is not wasted. There will be another crisis. There will be another scare. There will be another dramatic threat to the sector as people cancel plans and delete certain destinations from their ‘must visit’ lists.
To prepare for these future situations, now is the time to work together to determine, if and when it happens,:
• What do we need to do?
• Who needs to take the lead?
• How do followers need to respond?
• What messages do we need to put out during the crisis?
• And how do we rebound afterwards?
So importantly one of the greatest lessons from the recent H1N1 virus is the fact that ‘we’ no longer refers to the people of a destination. Or even a region. The ‘we’ is now global.
The H1N1 virus was, and continues to be, a critical test of the global Travel & Tourism community. As expressed by the UNWTO during the recent H1N1 crisis:
“In view of the current developments relating to ‘swine influenza’, UNWTO recommends that States review their pandemic preparedness plans for travel and tourism. UNWTO’s previously organized simulation exercises have shown the importance of properly integrating travel and tourism within these plans to mitigate the impact of health emergencies especially in their international dimension. It is also recommended that the tourism private sector reviews their pandemic preparations and verifies the links with the respective state authorities.”
Be it natural disasters, political, social or medical crisis, the response of the destination, and the wider global community, plays an important part in managing the impact of the crisis on the destination:
• as a Brand,
• as an economy,
• as a society, and
• as a member of the global tourism community.
Our focus needs to be on the holistic health of our industry, ensuring each muscle of the global Travel & Tourism sector – our associations, our partnerships, our cooperation and collaborations, our policies, our infrastructure, our invitation, our experience delivery, our stakeholder community, our government leadership, our private sector partners, our investors, our local communities, our environment and our travellers – are able to strengthen through through times of challenge. Strengthen in body, mind and spirit.
At an individual destination level proactive planning for crisis is vital to the ability of the destination to recover in all key metrics, including:
4) investment attraction, and
5) sustainable competitiveness.
At the centre of destination recovery is communication – the ability to manage messaging during and after a crisis. A comprehensive Brand-based COMMUNICATIONS STRATEGY is required for the Tourism destination as a part of the greater long-term TOURISM GROWTH AND DEVELOPMENT STRATEGY.
But it doesn’t end there.
The spreading of key MESSAGES during and following a crisis requires alignment of key MESSENGERS – partnerships with industry leaders, industry stakeholders from the private and public sector, and importantly the media. Communicating correct information and core messages when a destination is stunned by a sudden shock is a massive challenge. The establishment of communications networks and guidelines for disseminating accurate information around the destination is something which should always be a part of the destination’s mandate, in good times and those more challenging. The stronger the networks, the wider and more acurately messages will be carried across the industry, destination and world.
In the case of the latter the importance of strong, informed and actively engaged partnerships with the media cannot be overemphasised. Global media sets the tone of global communications – the key source of information for travellers when something has gone wrong…and when things are right again, ready for the return of visitors. It is in the interest of all destinations to build relationships with the world most trusted news networks such as CNN. It is these Messengers with their massive audience reach who will be feeding updates to people around the world wanting to be the first to know, and to know the news is trustworthy. Importantly, it is also these global news networks who become the fuel for destination recovery as it is their news wires carry the invitation to the world to come visit – the destination is back in business.
Prevention. Response, Recovery. Growth. Together.
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA / CACHET Consulting 2009
One of the most visible, powerful and unavoidable signs of a change in our times, in the world as we know it, is language. Across the globe, across cultures and borders, the evolving formulation, form and expression of words has been a natural occurrence with the passing of time. As we have moved from one generation to the next, one phase of history to the next, one culture to the next and even one period in a nation’s redevelopment to the next, the language used to communicate has always acted as a mirror of change.
Today, however, the rate evolution of language, and communication per se, has been dramatically accelerated through the injection of new technologies into the human desire to ‘connect’ with others. Not long ago when we wanted to communicate with another person a phone call would be made to arrange for a meeting, be it social or business. Time was invested into communicating through words and physical expression. The quest and actual fulfillment of desire to communicate could extend over a period of hours even days. But alas carefully crafted was ultimately replaced by more staccato statements. Tight telexes and faxes took over as time – sending time – started to become a constraint. Communication became curbed. To connect more and more meant simply to be in contact.
And then the cyberworld broke open for the common man across the globe. While the internet dates back to the 1950s and 1960s, the invention of the worldwide web unlocked a platform for data sharing, from information to invitations, which took us into a mode of communication beyond anything we had ever seen before or could ever imagine. Boundaries of language, style and time were dissolved. Take email for example – a staple in daily communication for a significant proportion of the western business community. Suddenly, with the push of a ‘SEND’ button we were able to communicate across the world in a matter of seconds. And, where once we were patient for a reply, we soon began to want, and expect, immediate reply.
From that moment on there was no looking back. Not only were new forms of communication changing our ability to communicate, they were beginning to change our communication behaviour.
Importantly, our ability to connect to one another became not only an expression of desire to communicate, it became a statement of practical technical capability to communicate.
What has been equally fascinating to see is just how our written word has changed, dramatically, in the past five years. Computer based email was soon complemented by mobile text messaging – SMSing. With SMS text messaging came a complete reinvention of how words and expressions are created. Short-form became smart-form. Code became cool. Sadly, however, correct spelling became laborious, etiquette became lame.
And now today when we find ourselves reprogrammed. We see any line of characters – numbers or letters – preceded by www. and our brains automatically begin to dissect the statement. Not long ago we would have looked at the illegible collection of letters (and now numbers) and not thought twice. It was incomprehensible. But today, without a moment of hesitation, we absorb the letters and allow our brains to break the code. More times than not within seconds a statement emerges – a name, a phrase, a message which makes sense and acts as a call to action to click and find out more.
These changes in our written word, and methods of spreading them, have created a confidence of self-expression which has been allowed to explode, in breadth and exhibitionism, with the latest wave of technology trends. Whenever and however we wish we are able to post our thoughts to the e-world. We text and we twitter, we blog and we skype, we facebook and we youtube and we chat. And when we are not sure about something, we google. Communications nouns have become verbs.
24/7/365 our words reach out to our ‘friends’ in our now socially networked world. And the more friends we have, the more important we can often feel and the more courageously we write.
So, has the communications explosion of our generation been a good thing or a bad thing? The answer to that question is highly personal. Just like our very personal, globally reaching messaging.
What we should never forget, however, is where it all began.
The essence of communication is connection. True connection. The kind that brings people closer together in thought and spirit as a basis for building relationships, not just in wires and websites and wide-reaching networks of our friendlies. Our technology – the tool for communication – should never become the reason for our communication.
Today’s array of formats for sharing thought and ideas are, without question, great advances in our ability to come together as a global community. They have enhanced our ability to reach out. It is then up to us to be able to meaningfully touch the minds and hearts of those with whom we connect. It is our responsibility to ensure that our words continue to reflect, with accuracy and authenticity, who we are and how we wish to come closer to others. First as faces and heartbeats.
Then and only then as e-addresses.
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2009
Since the first days of the 21st Century people around the world have felt ‘something different’. Initially the world seemed ours to embrace, control and command. It was safe to live somewhat asleep, rhythmically and confidently moving from day to day – one’s own day to day. Worldview was limited, self-focused, through selective glasses…some with rosier tints than others.
And then the clock stopped. 9/11. Even today, years on, saying it stops one’s heart for a moment. Instantly the world as we knew it, as we chose to know it, was redefined. We were forced to open our eyes to the world around us, forced to see how we were in fact all connected. We were forced to wake up.
From that moment, consciously or unconsciously, people started to widen their view of the world – looking into the world, not just at it.
And looking more closely at themselves. Values, belief systems, hopes, fears, wishes, dreams and legacy become more clearly defined, more loudly shared. A vividness occurred.
Over the past decade as peace, unity and stability of nations have been openly challenged, and as Mother nature has unleashed her fury in ways unimaginable, people from all corners of the world have started to look for ways to make sense of it all, ways to connect the dots. Borders have dissolved as nations have united in the quest for peace. And as a series of natural disasters from tsunamis to hurricanes to earthquakes swept away hundreds of thousands from their lives, the world began to reach out with a showing of kindness and generosity never seen before. The eyes of the world had moved beyond the ‘me’ to the greater ‘we’.
Our ability to live ‘asleep’ is gone forever.
This awakening of social consciousness has become the signature of the 21st Century. Wherever one is in the world, the issues affecting the world are being adopted as issues which effect individuals. Social networking and citizen reporting has dramatically broadened and deepened the ability to leave one’s world and enter that of another. As a result now, like better before, the world is awake to the implications of its actions, and therefore the responsibility of the individual.
The Messages are clear: Climate Change; The War on Terror; Poverty Alleviation; Active Democracy and now Global Economic Crisis – these vital forces are shaping our security and wellbeing today and in the future as societies. They have become the basis for the global agenda. What was once socio-political theory is now practical focus.
Interestingly this shift of understanding was first unlocked at a mass scale through some of the world’s most unlikely Messengers. Individuals traditionally associated with pop culture – musicians, celebrities, artists, public speakers and business leaders – became the bridge between political rhetoric and real action, unlocking social movements determined to bring an end to the issues and ailments threatening the health of western society and the world at large.
And, equally deserving of credit, the dramatic interest and growth in activity in travel and tourism across the world has resulted in a profound growth and appreciation for other places, other cultures, other belief systems and, importantly, the dreams and needs of others.
So where has this brought us? And where to now?
There is no question that the first decade of the 21st century has been one of intense awakening. And with this awakening has come a growing commitment towards action.
A social consciousness has emerged, causing people to think, deeply and purposefully, about their choices and actions and how these impact the world which they will leave behind. Pride in, and responsibility for, global citizenship has become a mass consideration in daily life and lifestyle, no longer a niche campaign.
With all this goodness of spirit and intention, the challenge now becomes how and where to channel all of this positive, productive, purposeful energy. How do we move societies towards ‘living’ their belief systems.
And when there is an immediate need by nations, regions, people in crisis, how can one single individual make a difference to the future health, stability and happiness of others?
For all the rising goodwill and generosity present around the globe, willingness to opening one’s heart and wallet diminishes dramatically due to the difficulty in identifying which issues of today, and tomorrow, are:
• Priority, most in need of support
• Easy to support
• Able to make the greatest impact
• Able to go beyond simply sending money, offering a more participative role
• Able to show the difference made
• Safe to support, free of risk of loss and/or wastage of funds and energies
• Able to go beyond once-off ‘charity’ and actually improve the lives of others, sustainably
Human nature takes over, questions regarding validity and enduring value emerge.
And, the deep compassion in our hearts over one issue is either forgotten or replaced with another worthy cause. Today’s need fades as tomorrow’s news unfolds.
But we cannot let these questions and concerns defuse and destroy efforts to collectively create a stronger, more secure, more just world for all. Especially when it means actions which can help lift others out of poverty, anonymity, and catastrophe.
Instead we must recognise and respect these concerns, using them as the framework for turning appeals for support into social action.
So how do we make the desire to ‘do good’ actually do good?
The lessons for tomorrow can be found in the actions of today.
Looking closely at the efforts and effect of global initiatives past and present focused on creating positive, sustainable impact for people of the world, here is a list of reminders to ensure that good intentions can indeed be turned into meaningful, sustainable global impact:
1. MAKE IT PERSONAL: put a face to the issue. Enable people to understand the individuals behind the need – where they live, what their lives should be, how one individual can change one life for the better. Turn appeals for help into a hand to be held. A wonderful example of this is CNN’s “Impact Your World” initiative CNN.COM/IMPACT which offers global viewers the opportunity to directly assist people and places in need which have been profiled on the global news network.
2. MAKE IT SHARED: enable people to feel part of a larger community working to make a difference, able to tap into a greater sense of meaning and impact, not a single blip on the radar which goes unnoticed and can have little real impact.
3. MAKE IT INSPIRING: provoke involvement through pride and positive inspiration, not burden and guilt. Enable people to feel they are doing the right thing because they are lead by a set of values right for today’s caring world, not because they are trying to make things right so they won’t feel bad. Al Gore, the world’s Messenger on Climate Change, has succeeded in turning a global crises into a global culture of environmental consciousness and care.
4. MAKE IT EASY: the ‘how to help’ needs to be clear and easy for people to participate. Keep the need and the method for support simple. Turn a grand issue into a simple gesture which can be made by individuals…with grand impact.
5. MAKE IT PERMANENT: ensure that the issue, the reason for the appeal, can be positioned as a long-term solution, not a bandage. Inspire people to participate in the building of lives, the building of livelihoods, the building of tomorrow through their actions today. “Habitat for Humanity” represents one of the world’s most successful, most visible and most celebrated efforts to literally and philosophically help people rebuild lives.
6. MAKE IT TOUCHABLE: allow people to turn their daily actions into impact, linking consumer activity to vehicles for impact through, for example,
• regular consumer purchase decisions,
• corporate social investment initiatives directly tied to business results,
• foundations which channel goodwill directly to programmes for tangible good.
Credibility comes through visibility. Without question one of the shining examples of initiatives of this nature is “Product (RED)” www.joinred.com , imagined, inspired and implemented by BONO, one of our generation’s greatest Messengers of the moral responsibility to create a healthier, more secure and more responsible world.
7. MAKE IT INVOLVING: programmes seeking to (re)build lives for a more better tomorrow offer a wonderful opportunity for people to become personally involved as participants in the (re)building. Making it possible for people to give of resources beyond money, giving instead of their time, energy and/or expertise, can dramatically accelerate the desired impact…all in a way which touches the lives of all involved in ways never imagined. A number of travel companies have become focused on voluntourism (ie www.godifferently.com, www.responsibletravel.com) , enabling travellers to visit parts of the world with a desire to experience in a way which directly and meaningfully helps the local communities which they visit with emphasis on those needing post-disaster recovery, ie Asian Tsunami, Hurricane Katrina.
8. MAKE IT MAKE SENSE: meaningful connection to what is important to those wishing to help and give is vital. Tap directly into what is important to people within their life worlds and at a practical level.
• Make it make sense for the common man by tapping into social interests and activity, synchronizing goodwill with regular lifestyle habits and behaviours.
• Make it make sense as a means of business through logical, active participation in initiatives which stimulate both consumer activity and corporate responsibility.
Anita Roddick, founder and guardian angel of “The Body Shop”, was the first to institutionalize conscious consumerism, successfully weaving together global issues with consumer purchasing power.
9. MAKE THE CONNECTIONS: the most effective initiatives are those which manage to transcend ‘ownership’ and ego. Magnification of impact comes through magnification of involvement. By bringing in other parties to help drive the initiative through their roles as Messengers or Mechanics will dramatically increase the ability of an initiative to be:
• exposed to the widest audiences possible
• known of,
• appreciated as trustworthy, truthful and accountable,
• inspiring of action.
“Product (RED)” once again provides an example of a cooperative effort uniting various products, organisations and Brands around one shared cause and identity.
10. MAKE IT MARKETABLE: the fact remains that today’s world is driven by media – marketing, advertising, PR, social networks, charismatic messaging. Whatever the cause, whatever the goals, the Message must be able to be marketed through effective Messengers – individuals, images, icons – to gain the awareness and appeal to not only attract attention but retain interest and social appeal. The global campaign “One” www.one.org focused on elimination of poverty has utilised star power to attract consumer interest and appeal. Similar to “Product (RED)”, “One” has made active caring for the global community fashionable…and even sexy.
The 21st Century has brought with it a social consciousness which has dissolved global boundaries, uniting people of the world across world that share common values and hope for the future. The lens has shifted from ‘me’ to ‘we’ as people are reminded every day that our world is more than just about ‘me, for me, today’. And the definition of wealth has evolved to include the degree to which we can give back from what we have achieved and acquired.
We are awake.
As we move forward as a global community working to create a healthier world at social, economic, political and spiritual levels, we must ensure our efforts truly ‘work’ as results-orientated initiatives focusing on the highest level and farthest reaching impact possible. There is no time to sleep.
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2009
Earlier this month the world witnessed a remarkable joining of global forces. With one central focus – the quest to quickly, confidently and sustainably lift the world out of the current economic crisis – the G20 came together in London to engage in never seen before deliberations and negotiations around development of an interdependent solution. Despite the temptations to look backwards, point fingers sideways and delegate responsibility forwards, the pains of the world, both economically and socially, were too distracting for G20 members to do anything but deal with the issues at hand. Together. And now.
Through the G20 Summit, and over the past year of intensifying economic turmoil, a number of new world truths have emerged.
First and foremost, today’s global crisis requires global solutions. No single nation, no single leader, no single action can yield holistic recovery and evolution of the global economic community. Leadership is found in both the power of one and the power of all.
Secondly, every single individual has an impact on, and is impacted by, the state of our global economy. Borders and boundaries have been erased across the globe when it comes to individual buying power. Whether we are purchasing books, budget airplane tickets or foreign bonds, we are able to cross border with one single click or one simple call in to a local retailer. As a result our actions have consequences, far reaching, both in terms of geography and impact.
Thirdly, where we are today is not only a result of a crisis in the economy. It is also the result of a crisis of conscience. ‘Responsibility’, ‘accountability’ and ‘legacy’ have lost their value as verbs. The economic recession has triggered off a severe emotional recession. Critical to recovery of the global economic system is trust in the system.
Stimulus packages now being applied to major markets around the world will not only seek to restimulate collapsing businesses, they will seek to restimulate consumer confidence in buying so that banks can regain confidence lending again.
One of the areas which is being focused on by several governments around the globe for application of stimulus package funding is the Travel & Tourism sector. The reason for this goes far beyond the image and appeal of travel, be it for business or leisure purposes. It is far, far more fundamental than that.
The reason? Simply this: the Travel and Tourism sector has evolved dramatically over the past decade not only in terms of numbers – arrivals, revenues, length of stay, dispersion, repeat visitation, all of the metrics used to quantitatively measure performance – but also in its importance in four key areas of nation (re)building:
In addition to the money which travellers directly inject into the places to which they travel, the sector has proven its ability to be a powerful attractor of investment. These funds, be they FDI or other, are then able to be channeled towards the development of essential infrastructure needed by the destination for Tourism sector development, as well as general infrastructure. Mass transport systems, airports, ICT networks, safety and security services, sports and leisure facilities, hotels and attractions. All of these areas of destination engineering receive strong support from investments made to uplift and increase the competitiveness of the Travel and Tourism sector.
The Travel and Tourism sector has become a valuable driver of the strengthening of the focus, fabric and future advancement of nations. Governments across the globe have recognised the importance of the sector in the unification and development of both the economic and social dimensions of the nation. In defining the Travel and Tourism sector as a priority of the government of a destination, political leaders of the destination begin the process of shaping the identity and core objectives for growth.
Importantly, the Travel and Tourism sector has proven to be invaluable in bringing together people of the destination around a shared national identity and invitation to the world, regardless of age, race, religion, profession, personality and political point of view. The low barriers of entry of the sector make it possible for all people of the destination to play a role in the sector and therefore the tourism community and economy. Artisans, architects, advertisers, travel agents or government advisors – everyone has a valuable part to play to deliver a unique, compelling and competitive tourism experience which will sustainably attract visitors for business or leisure travel purposes. The Travel & Tourism sector empowers an increasing number and range of citizens to play a meaningful, recognised role on national growth and upliftment.
Over the past decade the world has flattened and perspectives have broadened. Travel is no longer about movement from logistical A to B. It is about social movement, economic movement, spiritual movement, the movement of cultures closer to one another. Since the bamboo curtain has fallen billions of new capitalists have entered the global ‘”because I can” community. When it comes to business, it has become essential in breaking down barriers and out of date perceptions about who we used to be. Travel & Tourism plays a role in shaping one’s individual, and greater community, identity. And, interestingly, travel has become a form of personal therapy – the opportunity to escape, experience, exhale…whatever the need may be in these increasingly stressful times.
As stated by the UNWTO in a G20 statement regarding the importance of the sector in nations across the globe:
- Tourism currently drives some 6% of jobs in G20 economies with a strong multiplier effect on related service, manufacturing and agriculture sectors, which depend on travel demand. It is one of the largest employment sectors in most countries and a fast entry vehicle into the workforce for young people and women in urban and rural communities.
- Tourism and travel represents some 5% of GDP of G20 countries and 27% of their services trade. It is even more significant for the world’s poorest countries where it is a mainstay of their economies, a key factor in employment and exports, as well as a vital lifeline for their development.
During challenging economic times the Travel and Tourism is one of the sectors which acts as a thermometer of society’s determination to endure and overcome current difficulties of today and move forward to a stronger tomorrow. Societies are more resilient, more creative, more connected and more committed to future prosperity than any other time in history.
Immediately following the recent G20 Summit in London Mr. Rifai, Secretary-General a.i. of the UNWTO expressed optimism re. the rightful appreciation and participation for the global Travel & Tourism industry.
“In many countries, tourism has suffered from a lack of political and popular support because its true economic significance has often been underestimated. Now there is increasing awareness of tourism’s role as a productive activity and its potential to generate employment, government income and other benefits whether directly or through induced effects in the economy. This is increasingly important due to the role tourism can play in combating the current crisis.”
There is no denying the crisis is touching all parts of the globe. The situation is serious. And recovery will take time.
Travel and Tourism is, however, one way to keep the wheels of the global economy turning. Increased activity in the sector will not only enable us to fulfill our personal wishes and wants – it will also help nations caught in the clutches of the economic crisis to break free and rebuild both their economies and spirits.
We must keep moving.
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2009