19 CANDLES. BIRTHDAYS IN THE TIMES OF COVID19

35,000 feet.

That is where today – 17.06 – is always wished to be spent each year if not able to be with loved ones. Neither are an option this year.

COVID19 has turned the days of 2020 into a long blur – days turning into weeks turning into months turning into a year beyond fiction, beyond explanation, beyond imagination. Through it all, punctuation marks have appeared: question marks, exclamation marks, characters covering up letters for words growled but not to appear in print. And then there are dates in bold text: birthdays.

And so, as this date neared – my birthday – reflection began. Heading to LHR to board a long-haul flight to call in the first moments of the day up at 35k was clearly not going to happen. 17 06 2020 was to be spent in the same place as the past 100+ days of 2020 lockdown. The usual, loved pause of reflection up in the air – anonymous, uncontactable, surrounded by silence, in a bubble of time and space (with bubbles in hand) – was to be a tradition skipped in 2020.

But that did not mean that the pause was to be passed by.

Quite the contrary.

If lockdown of COVID19 has shown us anything it is that time, this time, is vital to making sure that we do not waste the opportunity to stop, centre, see all we have around us, and whisper a word of thanks. Never again (probably, hopefully) will we be asked, demanded, to suspend our daily existence, staying apart, even if it means our livelihoods, economies, communities and future certainties falling apart. Something bigger mattered. COVID19, with its invisibility, and its terrifying ability to take life with evert droplet, mattered more than anything before.

As the world entered lockdown, geography after geography, month after month, together or apart, ready or not, the world stopped. Suddenly coping mechanisms took over – one’s wiring working to make sense of days without routine, without regular access, without a real sense of timing of ‘for how long?’. The ‘new normal’ was in fact a ‘now normal’ until the ‘next normal’ came along. Facts vs fears. Connection vs isolation. COVID19 vs the world.

100+ days on, slooooowwwwly the world is starting to open up, restrictions easing, living the ‘next normal’ getting easier as rules, regulations and routines are more familiar. Comfort in the discomfort zone.

But wait. Not so fast.

As much as we are focusing our fearful yet hopeful hearts and minds on leaving these times behind us, let’s not rush out just yet. Why? Because there will be moments in these times that, unquestionably, we will miss. Moments of stillness, of newness, of awareness, we will miss. And critically, moments for which we must always remain grateful.

For this reason, not wanting to let this birthday pass in a blur, a pause took place to think: from these 100+ COVID19 days, what are my 19 moments/memories/milestones of pure, unedited, undeniable appreciation.

What will I forever remember this time by?

These, without hesitation and filter, are my 19 COVID19 birthday candles:

  1. Heroes, first and foremost, standing on the front line taking care of what is most important: our health, our safety, our stability
  2. Health….mine still strong, still safe…and that of family, both family by blood and family by choice
  3. Satellites, keeping us connected, every second, every day, every conversation, every virtual hug
  4. AM2AM, every a.m. to p.m.
  5. My gorgeous AM&A Girls – Jessica & Grace
  6. My Clients, acronyms so adored across the world, across the alphabet, across an array of challenges and emotions we never thought we would share
  7. Springtime – its rhythm, its hope, its softness & freshness
  8. Foxes spotted running through central London, because they can
  9. Swans, squirrels and other feathery and fluffy sweeties
  10. Fresh milk and fresh flowers, throughout
  11. Ideation inspired through crisis, now absolute labours of love: RISE – http://www.rise-weekly.com / & HospitalityTomorrow – https://www.hospitalitytomorrow.com
  12. Hearing a new calling, working non-stop with no desire to stop
  13. Her Majesty
  14. Bubbles! Groups, girlfriends, shared clinks, quiet solo toasts
  15. Alice in Wonderland
  16. Amazon / Nike / M&S / F&M – lockdown essentials just one click away
  17. In-home studio lights / mics / virtual magic!
  18. SW1W 0AJ
  19. These 100 days

And a bonus #20: British VOGUE, no question about it. https://www.vogue.co.uk/

For these 19 (+1) am I thankful, deeply, deeply thankful.

Before any more time passes, please take the time to pause. Capture the 19 signatures of this time that a year, 5 years, 10 years from now, you will look back on with a quiet smile.

Do it now, while memories are fresh, hearts are open, before the world reopens….

Good will come from this time. It must.

May we never feel 2020’s purpose was wasted. x

 

 

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2020

 

 

 

“CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?” – COVID19’S CRITICAL QUESTION

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shhhhhh. Listen.

What do you hear? Anything? Anything at all?

That is the sound of COVID19. Breezes. Birds, Distant hum of cars,

Occasionally voices. Occasionally sirens.

Rarely horns.

Sounds of COVID19 are defined more by absence than by presence.

Can you hear me now?” These five words have become the start to our now daily routine of virtual meetings, virtual summits, virtual sundowners. An acceptable tech-check to ensure that the speaker, visible, is also audible. Prelude to something important about to be said.

Yet remarkably, as our world now passes the 150 day mark of COVID19 shutdown of 2020 with global case count crossing 6 million and lives taken 365,000, there is one voice that has not asked ‘Can you hear me now?’ It is the voice of someone known worldwide, recognised worldwide, respected worldwide….yet not heard worldwide when he had something important to say – 5 yrs ago in a TED Talk – https://www.ted.com/talks/bill_gates_the_next_outbreak_we_re_not_ready . It took 5 years for the world to stop the daily noise of life and listen, really listen, to the message he had to share – the next, greatest threat to our shared world is a pandemic.

Who is he? Bill Gates.

But we didn’t listen….until 5 yrs later.

His global warning became a link shared wildly in early 2020 as our shared world saw this new, wild virus travel, terrifyingly because of its invisibility and merciless nature. COVID19 is known yet not fully understood, it is everywhere yet unable to be seen, it is directly challenging systems and priorities of government, it is redefining words such as essential, leadership, community and responsibility

Speaking recently to CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, exploring what exactly is happening in terms of vaccine development, how many avenues are being explored, how many may deem to be successful, and how quickly and thoroughly can this be rolled out, worldwide conversation naturally leads to what did we know? What could we have done? What could the analysis have been in terms of how could we have been better prepared?

It’s an easy conversation to have, understandably because we’re at a much more comfortable place in terms of our own sense of self and sense of security, as surreal as these social distancing and WFH days may be. Now we can look at the world around us and, in our bubbles, form a point of view, to create an opinion and often to judge.

Who is to blame? Who will find a cure? Who has demonstrated leadership? Who has failed? Who is the ‘who’? And what is the responsibility of the WHO?

All of these questions, all of these debates, are examples of what is interesting about Bill Gates. He desires to share, to support, to separate news from noise. He does not demand to be heard.

Not once, not once since the 2015 pandemic TED Talk, not once since China first sounded the alarm around a dangerous wave of illness, not once since a pandemic was declared by the WHO, not once since the map was covered from East to West with confirmations of cases, not once since there has been questions around funding of global support to address this as a global issue, not once has Bill Gates stopped to say: “I told you so“.

Not once has he questioned: “Can you hear me now?”

There is something heroic about this truism, something incredibly classy about his silence when so many would seek recognition for having called it first.

This is especially true as we are seeing people becoming more comfortable in the discomfort zones of COVID19 – being stuck at home, gaining access to internet intelligence, forming opinions, finding platforms for personal positioning, voicing judgment.

These opinions can become incredibly hurtful. And hasty. We may be 150 days into 2020, but we still have many days / weeks / months to go. There may be stirs of activity visible around us new sounds starting to full our streets, there may be hope of when homes can reconnect, hugs hopefully not too far off. But we are not there yet – we are nowhere near the finish line. We still have many frontliners to support. We still have much to learn as we face risks of further spikes as restrictions ease, second waves as social exposure restarts, impact of curves, inroads of vaccine quests. We are a case study being examined in real-time.

The 20-20 hindsight assessments, assumptions and analysis can wait.

This is the greatest opportunity for us as a global community to act as a community, focusing on the solution, not fighting over the problem. This is the call to action for our generation. Why? Because unless we all win, we all lose.

Shhhhh. Keep listening. x

 

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2020

 

COVID19: 2020’S SPARK FOR STEP-CHANGE

 

 

 

 

The warnings were there about the platform possibly not holding.

The warnings were there about the 5000+ registered participants possibly not joining.

The warnings were there about the content not holding interest for 6+hrs.

The warnings were there about the audio dropping.

The warnings were all there. We were ready.

But no one, absolutely no one, warned us about how terrifying the excitement of going ‘live’ would be!!

Since the start of the 21st Century our shared world has been busy turning the noun ‘innovation’ into a verb, into an adjective, into a sign of success, into a badge of honour, into a form of status. However we express it – disruption, ideation, new world creation – all of the terms talk calmly about what it takes to be innovative, to create something that step-changes how we think, how we act, how we live, how we conduct business, how we connect to one another. The possibility of a dramatic shift from the now to the new has been a force of growth for industry, for humanity.

We talk about it calmly. We talk about it in classrooms. We talk about it in textbooks. We debate it. We debate it. We debate it. And then we debate some more. The analysis around innovation life cycles, investment models and human dynamics is plenty – the subject of innovation is not embedded in many an institution.

Yet interestingly, it’s only when one actually dives into it – when an idea emerges that just feels so right, and so right for right now, that the alchemy of innovation takes hold.

It is exactly as French playwrite Victor Hugo once said: “Nothing else in the world…not all the armies…is so powerful as an idea whose time has come.”

Such was the case just a handful of days ago in March 2020, as the world was settling into lock-down country by country, that an idea’s time came.

The working world was grounded. Suddenly no one is going anywhere, and yet we started to find ways to be everywhere. Meetings were zoomed and skyped and logged into. For millions worldwide, working from home became a whole new way of not just working but living. It erased boundaries – geographic, professional, social and emotional. Suddenly we were all sharing each other’s lives. There has been no way to escape what our homes look like, what our lives look like, what our personal styles look like. We are who we are, from wherever in the world we may be connecting.

But all has not been without its ache. Millions sharing this new way of life have also been bonding over shared loss – loss of momentum, loss of motivation, loss of plans to meet somewhere else, sometime soon. Somehow, in the blink of an eye and with the closure of borders, business and meeting stopped, and with that, the advancement of professional bonds, the building of future plans and setting of priorities, and the business of yesterday, today and tomorrow.

But why must it stop, especially when now more than ever people need to come together to find the collective strength to face one of the greatest professional and personal challenges of our lives? To not feel alone?

Why not create a way of staying connected, continuing to learn, continuing to build, continuing to hope? Build the future of our industry? No – it is not credible to begin that process, the spread and impact of COVID19 as a global human crisis, forget industry, is still being understood. We cannot credibly start looking at the solution. We can, however, come together as a community of leaders ready to interrogate the problem, from different geographic, technical, economic, political and personal perspectives.

And so was born less that 4wks ago (at time of writing this piece) through a conversation with Jonathan Worsley (a long-time trusted and respected colleague with whom I have been blessed to work for several years, he giving me the honours on-stage across his global portfolio of events), the idea for the world’s largest ever (over 6hrs), over 6600 participant strong (far beyond estimation), Travel, Tourism and Hospitality virtual conference: https://www.hospitalitytomorrow.com/

As soon as ‘why not?’ was accepted in mind and heart, with trust in partnership implicit, principles of conference design and debate were agreed, platforms were explored, plans were made, PR began, personal networks were contacted, programme slots were filled, and preparation briefings were conducted.

Fast forward three weeks, and the morning finally came when it was time to go ‘live’!

Suddenly one’s lounge becomes a studio,

One’s bathroom a dressing room,

One’s conference link a back-stage pass to a global stage,

One’s heartbeat is a pounding drum!

Prayers to the Tech Gods eclipsed all thoughts as the number of participants online grew wildly, 100, 300, 800, 1200, 1500, 1700, 2000, 2300…on and on the numbers climbed. “please let the platform hold, please let the platform hold…!!

We could hold no longer – it was time!! April 07th, 2020, 10:00am BST. Jonathan was ‘on’, the backstage team watching each and every second pass by with concrete weight. It was a cocktail of thrill and terror, making us all feel like giddy children trying to contain our nervous screams of excitement!!

And so the day began.

Over the course of the following 6 hours were there technology challenges? Of course there were. Were there continued intense prayers that things going wrong would go right? Absolutely. But everyone, every one of the 6000+ people participating backstage, onstage and online across the globe was with us.

We were all in this together.

What was happening was not just a moment of innovation of our global meetings and conference industry, it was a defining moment of our lives. Together.

This was the dimension of innovation, the art of the possible, that, reflecting on the experience now, seems missing from articles, books and analysis on innovation. Why? Maybe because it is just too difficult to put into words. It is an experience that leaves one speechless (and nerve-knotted!)….with only a quiet smile to reveal what had occurred.

What turns an inspired idea into an inspiring innovation? It’s not just about the idea. It‘s about the people who show up because they believe in it, however the ‘it’ is defines, and they don’t want you to be alone in the quest to create what could be a defining moment of awe.

In the case of HospitalityTomorrow, as the conference was rapidly engineered, carefully selected international leaders were called on to join us on the virtual stage not just because of their expertise and the logos on their business cards, but because they were also loved colleagues that we knew we could trust and count on to take this leap of faith with us. Together we would throw ourselves into an ocean of possibility, we would swim together.

And we did! We swam hard, we swam strong, we swam fast, we swam towards a vision that we shared (even if we didn’t know exactly the conditions of the water), somehow confident we would somehow get there together.

That is a critical, unquantifiable, unmeasurable, yet essential part of innovation. That is the of bringing people together who are not just creative intellectually, but are incredibly creative in their power of belief. They show up, they feed confidence, they fuel conviction, and they’re there just in case support is needed should we feel we are drowning in overwhelm.

That is the magic of innovation.

And that, through this COVID19 chapter of our lives, will forever be a critical reminder of the power of crisis.

Scary innovation, innovation that grabs us by the collar and shifts us forward, can, like now, require scary circumstances that push us into the ocean. COVID19 has taken so much from our shared world. Lives, livelihoods, hopes, homes and hugs – nothing is taken for granted.

At the same time COVID19 is giving us the chance, and time, to rethink a new world – one we never would have naturally co-created given the unnatural way we were ‘progressing’. Mother Nature knew our focus was faulty.

Through these defining COVID19 moments in which we will create new ideas, new innovations, new possibilities, as precious are the new bonds of trust and deep appreciation formed by now knowing with whom one can jump into the ocean, confident they will help us find the starfish!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With special appreciation and love to:

  • Jonathan Worsley, Chairman & CEO of Bench Events
  • Sally Marwaha. Event Director of Bench Events (and our technology Wizard of Oz!)
  • Hon. Minister Najib Balala, Minister of Tourism and Wildlife, Govt. of Kenya
  • Amr Al Madani, CEO of Royal Commission for AlUla
  • Puneet Chhatwal, Managing Director and  CEO of Indian Hotels Company Limited (IHCL)
  • Roger Dow, President & CEO, US Travel Association

Ever-grateful, ever-awed. x

 

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2020

 

 

 

 

 

 

BE GENTLE: COVID-19 IS ALSO OUR SHARED GLOBAL MENTAL HEALTH CHALLENGE

#COVID-19: 2020’s great, global lock-down.

As this invisible, inconceivable threat spreads swiftly and mercilessly across the globe, it has put us all into a completely different state of mind. An unnerved, uncertain, one.

Our shared world is finding itself in a position of never experienced before isolation. It is shutting off its borders. It is grounding our ability to travel and be with loved ones. It is closing down sports and entertainment activity and interaction. It is turning social places into areas of risk. It is turning grocery stores into empty scenes of earlier hysterical buying activity. And it is turning homes into home-offices, home-schools and mini-gyms.

COVID-19 is turning our world upside down and inside out. It is turning our shared world into a brave new world where we must live with something we are not able to see and do not yet understand, for a period of time we are not yet not quite sure about, severely restricting our funds and fun, severely threatening our way of life and lifestyle, alone…even if we are still in contact with others.

Critically, we are finding ourselves unable to turn to loved ones for a hug, for an exhale, for a safe space to escape fears, to find a sign of comfort that all will be ok.

As a result, the health crisis that is COVID-19 is not just a health crisis physically. For millions, worldwide, it is a mental health crisis.

As expressed by the World Health Organisation (WHO):

Most people affected by emergencies will experience distress (e.g. feelings of anxiety and sadness, hopelessness, difficulty sleeping, fatigue, irritability or anger and/or aches and pains). This is normal and will for most people improve over time. However, the prevalence of common mental disorders such as depression and anxiety is expected to more than double in a humanitarian crisis.”

And this is, by definition, a humanitarian crisis.

 

THIS IS A HUMANITARIAN CRISIS

This is the first time our shared world has actually had to face an invisible threat to our health, our safety, our wellbeing individually and collectively. Our greatest risk can easily be, in our mind’s eye, everywhere.

This is not like terrorism we have sadly become familiar with. This is not like a natural disaster. This is not like an economic crisis where we can see tangible proof of what is happening, and we are able to understand how we can establish some sense of control before we can move on. The event happens, the fall-out is clear, the light is visible even if the tunnel looks long and dark.

COVID-19, the invisible curse that is taking over the world, is forcing millions upon millions to re-evaluate how we are to survive when under threat, not just economically (which is frightening enough), but as human beings, as a global community. The insecurity provoked by COVID-19 has become, in some places, primal. There is no need to go into the stats and analysis around shopping aisle scuffles for products such as rolls of toilet paper, bottles of sanitiser, pasta, bottles of wine, cleaning products – the shopping list is growing longer, supplies are growing thinner – especially, sadly, supplies needed by medical personnel on the frontline, ever day.

At times, seeing the panic and even prejudice rising, a lack of control and a loss of hope leads to a feeling of emotional paralysis. Fear for health – physical, financial and now mental, poses a triple threat to our global community’s ability to move forward when the time comes when we can open our doors, open our offices, and open our arms once more.

We must, therefore, recognise that COVID-19 has unleashed a health crisis that is going to last much longer than the physical crisis. Return to normal life is not just about getting the go-ahead from governments to unlock the lock-downs, getting the economy moving again.

Now, this time, is one of high risk of a mental crisis. We need to embrace it. We need to accept it. And we need to act gently with others, and with ourselves, to manage it.

Our world is going through a profound recalibration. Starting from Asia and now moving to the Americas, we are all seeing vividly that we are all one vulnerable community. No one is immune from the risks that exist from COVID-19. This virus is completely and utterly democratic. It has no prejudice re. geography, economy, culture, colour, religion, and as we are finding in some cases, age. It doesn’t care. It moves freely. It moves invisibly. It moves silently, and it moves swiftly. Our freedoms have been taken: our freedom to move around, our freedom to look someone in the eye, our freedom to shake hands, to hug, to trust. This is a challenge of humanity like no other.

Through social distancing, through home working and schooling, through isolation, through lock-downs, we are realising how dearly we need each other. We need the talk. We need the touch. We need the time together to share, to learn, to laugh, to love, to live a healthy life.

Even once it is deemed safe to open up borders, open stores, open restaurants, open a bottle of wine, it’s going to take time before people feel safe, secure and steady walking into those restaurants, walking into those shops, walking into those bars.

The rate of recovery of momentum of hope, of faith and of confidence is going to be our greatest test – it will define how long it will take for our economy to get back on its feet, and for our society to get back into the light.

This is Mother Nature teaching us a hard lesson, rebooting civilisation to be more civilised. Why did she feel the need to reboot? There are hundreds of answers to that question, but now is not the time.

Now is the time to relook the value we have for our health – our physical health, our financial health, and our mental health.

 

TRAVEL & TOURISM’S VALUE, AND VALUES, AS A VEHICLE FOR GLOBAL RECOVERY

Interestingly, this is a crisis that has unlocked the value of Travel and Tourism.

With the:

  • closing of borders,
  • grounding of airlines and cruise ships,
  • closure of hotels & resorts, museums, trade shows
  • dropping the curtain on entertainment,
  • cancellation of events, both business and leisure,
  • transfer of meetings to e-meetings, and
  • limiting of groups to double-digits in any social space,

the value of Travel & Tourism has been exposed not just at an economic level through the critical value chains that the sector activated across products and services, but also, as importantly, the growing need for Travel & Tourism as a basis for personal health and wellbeing.

The value of the sector is now understood to go far past its impact as an employer (1 in 10 jobs worldwide), as a GDP driver (9% global GDP), as a source of investment attraction, as a SME stimulator, as a basis for national identity and competitiveness. The values of Travel & Tourism are also now shining through: understanding, respect, compassion, protection of culture, community and environment.

https://edition.cnn.com/videos/business/2020/03/13/recession-coronavirus-explainer-orig.cnn-business

Travel & Tourism will be central to global community having the opportunity to exhale again, to celebrate again, to laugh again, and to heal – to cry, to feel that we have our freedoms back.

As stated by the HE Zurab Pololikashvili, Secretary General of the UNWTO,:

“The tourism value chain touches upon every part of society. This makes tourism uniquely placed to promote solidarity, collaboration and concrete action across borders in these challenging times and also ideally positioned to once again drive future recovery.”

Until then, and for the moment, we must keep calm, keep simple, keep safe:

  1. FACTS FIRST: Check sources carefully. Untruths are unhelpful.
  2. FOLLOW WHO GUIDANCE: https://www.who.int/
  3. PRACTICE GOOD HYGIENE: Stay home – stay safe.
  4. SHOW COMPASSION: We are all in this together.
  5. TRAVEL WISELY: Essential only.

Please see: https://anitamendiratta.com/2020/03/18/covid-19-coronavirus-infographic/

 

MOTHER NATURE’S LESSONS WILL ULTIMATELY BE UNDERSTOOD

Recognising that when all of our freedoms are taken away, whether we are citizens, migrants, wherever we are in the world, we are all feeling vulnerable. How do we move that spirit forward? How do we take it forward to really find solutions that allow us to genuinely become a sustainable global community.

We are learning the hard way, but we learning the lessons Mother Nature wanted to reveal.

Good can and must come from this, eventually.

  • Medical infrastructure will be stronger,
  • Community structures will be stronger,
  • Appreciation for some of the previously under-appreciated roles – nurses, educators, retail & delivery labourers – will be stronger,
  • Family bonds will be stronger,
  • Personal care will be stronger,
  • Finally, the definition of SUSTAINABILITY is recognised as relating to Economic, Cultural, Social and Spiritual sustainability….not just Environmental,
  • Value for Aviation will be restored, flight shaming decreasing as investment in emission-reducing, sustainable aviation innovation increases,

And hopefully, hopefully,

  • Our value and protection of our shared world will be stronger.

For the moment, signs of hope – as tiny as they may be – are critical to keep spirits strong. They may be warmer temperatures bringing sunshine and new Spring flowers visible from our windows. They may be new routines of video-chats with loved ones, making connecting more frequent than ever before. They may be simply a text message to say “I’m thinking of you. Stay safe.”

Stay home, stay safe, stay calm.

And as they say here in the UK: KEEP CALM, AND CARRY ON.

We have a whole new world to look forward to, together. x

 

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2020

 

 

 

 

 

CALMING THE CONTAGION OF FEAR

 

 

 

 

Red.

Every day we are seeing more red:

Red patches across global maps,

Red letters on airport boards as flights are cancelled,

Red ink across global market charts,

Red numbers rising on temperature readings,

Red faces as fevers rise,

All alongside red decorations and highly anticipated red envelopes swept aside in massive stacks, still untouched since cancellation of Chinese New Year weeks back.

The colour of COVID19 is red.

As each new day begins, we wake to new numbers – numbers of new countries and new cases, of those now affected by the Coronavirus, COVID19….and those lives lost.

With each new day fears rise. Fears of the spread. Fears of the severity of where now. Fears of the probability of where next.

The number of those ‘affected’ is reaching in the millions.

Millions.

But how, when the official statistics indicate, as of time of writing:

  • just under 89,000 cases reported
  • across 62 countries,

and

  • taking 3,043 lives?

Source: https://experience.arcgis.com/experience/685d0ace521648f8a5beeeee1b9125cd

Where is the ‘millions’ number coming from?

Simple – those affected are not only those fearing for their physical health. It includes those fearing for the financial, social and emotional health. It is those affected by the impact of the contagion of fear, fear that is spreading even more rapidly than the virus itself as:

  • cities lockdown, shutting down manufacturing lines,
  • supply chains are stopping scheduling,
  • airlines cancel routes,
  • hotels close their doors,
  • major global events close their registration,
  • iconic attractions block off museum and theatre entry lines,
  • celebrated theme parks turn off their rides,
  • conference centres and meeting halls are hollowing out,
  • casinos switch off their lights,
  • local festivals, churches, sporting venues and entertainment complexes turn away their communities,
  • schools call off their classes,

and ultimately, not yet fully understanding what is going on, and not sure what else to do, fear that is seeing the global community starts to close its heart.

The contagion of fear is reaching three main areas, its damage reaching literally millions, without geographic limits.

First, as we know, there is the raw, relentless fear of the virus. We see the coverage of the COVID19 maps stretching daily. Importantly, we know from where the facts must come – critical, qualified entities making sure updates are managed carefully, holistically, in the most globally coordinated effort as possible to monitor, measure and message around the must-knows. At the heart of this quest of guarding global health is the World Health Organisation (WHO – https://www.who.int/)

Sadly, however, as also know of the fiction – messaging that is either passing on false information, or seeking to create fear in its own right. It is a reflection of how social media has become antisocial media. The damage being done has resulted in the WHO declaring an ‘infodemic’, the Secretary General of the UN making an early appeal to the global community to stop the false information, to stop the flames of fear.

As stated by the UN Agency:

The 2019-nCoV outbreak and response has been accompanied by a massive ‘infodemic’ – an over-abundance of information – some accurate and some not – that makes it hard for people to find trustworthy sources and reliable guidance when they need it.

Due to the high demand for timely and trustworthy information about 2019-nCoV, WHO technical risk communication and social media teams have been working closely to track and respond to myths and rumours. Through its headquarters in Geneva, its six regional offices and its partners, the Organization is working 24 hours a day to identify the most prevalent rumours that can potentially harm the public’s health, such as false prevention measures or cures.”

The fact that global bodies seeking to control and find a cure for the COVID19 challenge must also apply resources into managing false, fear-generating messaging is shameful. Our global community is better than this.

That is one dimension of the contagion of fear.

A second: global fears being generated at social and economic levels as millions fear the profound hardship that is being created around the world around job security, even if COVID has not entered their world. Millions upon millions are seeing the central source of their income being stopped, unexpectedly, indefinitely as central systems of global commerce come to a grinding halt.

In the travel and tourism industry – an essential sector required for not only global economic growth and development with its:

  • over 1.5 billion international travellers per annum (5x the number domestically),
  • 10% contribution to global GDP,
  • 1 in 10 jobs worldwide,

as well as being:

  • a critical role as a source of global unity,
  • a basis for national identity and competitiveness,
  • a vital basis for inward investment in core infrastructure (hard and soft),
  • a platform for cultural and environmental protection and promotion,
  • a powerful vehicle for fulfilment of the UN SDGs,

tens of millions of people are becoming fearful not just for their physical health, but for their financial health and as a result, the health of their families, the health of their societies, the health of their future.

It is hard to believe that it was less than 100 days ago that 2020 felt like the turning of the corner – the global community uniting around a new decade. Suddenly, unity is taking place through fear for one’s job, one’s business, one’s livelihood. Decision makers across the world are having to test their leadership minds and muscles like never before. Do we stop or do we go? Do we say ‘yes’ or do we say ‘no’? Government leaders and business leaders are frequently locking horns as cancellations and cautionary actions are debated. What is the right decision? What is the measure of right response. Bottom lines vs voting lines? 

Will we ever really know?

What we do know is that global travel and tourism is grounded at a level unseen since the 2008/9 economic downturn.

Importantly, the contagion of fear here is based on the fact that, even when airlines are ready to take to the skies once more and hotels opening their doors to host the world, will the world feel comfortable venturing out? Will they have the personal financial health to get back to the travel they love following a period of fear for the financial wellbeing for they and their loved ones?

What will it take to travel the journey from fear of heart to freedom of mind?

This fear should not be overlooked, should not be judged, should not be seen as secondary. It is real, and it will form the root of our future challenge to push past this chapter in the story of our generation to a place of recovery, returning to hope and unity.

Finally, the third fear we face: the sad reality of a panic and prejudice that has been sparked from the early days of the fear against the people of China.

Those of Chinese descent, of Chinese visible identity, of any Chinese affinity, even if not living in or linked to mainland China, are being looked at with fear. With this, doors and hearts across the globe are being closed to a population people needing compassion.

We must not forget for a moment that the nation of China is a victim of what has happened. While the Chinese people are being looked at with fear, they themselves are fearful of what this is going to mean for themselves, their families, their futures. Their value is far, far greater than the fact that their country represents the highest number of outbound travellers worldwide (close to 170 million in 2019), with the highest spend. They are human, they are hurting, they need our help.

Now more than ever, we as a global community need to stand together. We might stand a little bit more apart than we did three months ago. Still, the fact remains that the only way our world is going to recover from this virus is going to have to require that we as a global community come together.

As the great minds of medicine are coming together and find a way to identify and resolve how we break through COVID19, the great hearts of the world need to come together to find a way of making sure that we as a global community can look one other in the eye once more, with compassion and with conviction, to get our world moving forward for all.

Once again, as is proven whenever a crisis hits, our world needs travel and tourism. Our world needs to keep connecting.

So, what therefore is the best strategy for all nations to take on COVID19 and accelerate recovery?  

Simple: HUMANITY, supported by a full-strength prescription of calm, caution & compassion. x

 

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2020