THE LOOK, THE BOW, THE BOND – THE POWER OF (RWC2019) SPORT

It is incredible how smile-inducing it can be. And connecting.

Suddenly, unexpectedly, excitedly, conversations spark: a stranger in an elevator wearing a national team jacket, a fellow passenger with the accent of the opposition, those all around with a desperate look of knowing as clearly distracted in their here & now because of something so exciting happening right then yet elsewhere, on the field…followed by complete looks at one another tinged with “Can you believe what just happened?”

Sport. It creates the opportunity for complete strangers to talk, to smile, to growl, to cry, to hug. That is the power of sport! And right here, right now, it’s all about the Rugby!

The 2019 Rugby World Cup – global rugby and competitive sport’s celebration of remarkable physical and psychological prowess – is in its last days. In less than a handful of sleeps the 2019 winners will be crowned following a month of matches where heroes were discovered, warriors fell, sure-wins lost, and who-would-have-thoughts rose closer and closer to the top. It is truly, intoxicatingly incredible how a global event like the rugby world cup can energise, unite and focus literally millions across the globe, dissolving boundaries, finding a common language, all because of the agnostic phenomena that is the collective spirit of sport.

That is the magic. What happens on the field is one thing. What happens off the field is another. Ultimately, through sport, people of different backgrounds, with different stories of different geographies, different ideologies, different religions and different races, share common ground. Ultimately, at the end of the day, everyone is focusing on the same field in the same field. And it feels really, really good.

It’s all about the agnostic, unfiltered, unedited, unexpected excitement that anything can happen, no matter what the scores were in the past, no matter what the performance stats have been to present, no matter what the hopes are for the future. It comes down to a moment of truth when two teams need to face off and find out who in the moment is going to be victorious.

This unifying energy pulls people together, and it does it in a way that goes so far beyond nationalities, so far beyond passports, and thankfully, so far beyond politics. Importantly, however, sustaining the energy rush, sense of unity, and pure spirit of blessing in being a part of it all is not just about the play on the field. Interestingly, and so often, it is the host country that eclipses all sportsmen and women to be the hero of the competition.

Such has been the case with RWC 2019. And the people of the host nation, JAPAN – each and every one a Brave Blossom in their own humble, dignified, deeply touching way.

The stats of RWC 2019 stand tall as the host nation has broken records in national and global participation. Official numbers tell a powerful story:

  • More than 1.8 million tickets sold across all 48 matches
  • More than 864,000 fans attend official Fanzones

not to mention:

  • Brave Blossoms win hearts around the world
  • Broadcast records smashed
  • Close matches, unexpected results have characterised pool stage
  • Monumental effort to get matches on at the weekend

Every mega-event is history-making, the team taking home the crown inscribed in sporting history books for time memorial. And yet what do people remember most with their hearts, not just their heads? It is the backstories – those impacting and impacted by the time and place of one of the greatest sports shows on Earth.

In 2019, of all characters to make a defining impression on the RWC, it was Mother Nature. What host nation in the world has had to build in contingency, emergency, and recovery plans for a Typhoon? Japan.

Midway through the competition, as storms started brewing between teams convinced they were destined for the final rounds, storms brewed off the coast of Japan with a gameplan for clear, concentrated attack on cities across the map, including RWC venue cities.Players and fans were warned to take cover, matches were re-configured to take cognisance of the importance of tournament momentum. And then Typhoon 19 hit.

After millions were implored to evacuate, and finally Typhoon Hagibis had moved on, over 60 lives were lost, and countless left homeless. Millions, millions were left speechless.Everyone, absolutely everyone linked to the RWC, grieved…tears becoming the glue to rebuild a heartbroken nation.

Without a doubt, this shared sense of loss is part of what RWC athletes and followers will take home once the tournament is over, whomever the winners. To state this is not purely romanticised rhetoric. The impact of the shared tragedy, and respect for host nation suffering the most profoundly, is visible in bowed heads, and audible in silence, with every match.

Case in point: the Semi-Finals.

On both occasions, once anthems were played, and as the electricity in the stadiums became overpowering, a pause occurred – the entire stadium hushed for a moment of prayer to make sure that no matter what the excitement in the moment, moments recently passed with Typhoon 19 do not become an overlooked, undervalued part of history. Instead, these moments become a shared prayer, a shared bond, unifying the sporting world with the people of Japan. That is sporting class at its best!

And now, finally, the Finals are upon us.

History is a mere matter of hours from being made, especially if the Springboks, with their first Black Captain, prove to be the world’s finest once more, a nation once again recalibrated through sport, champions once more.

And yet, as nations like South Africa know well, rugby victory is not simply about sporting prowess – it is about national prowess. Whatever the outcome, whatever the colours of the Kings of the competition, for all participating in the 2019 RWC – on and off field – it is the Brave Blossoms, as over-performing athletes on the RWC Field and over 126 million courageous people of Japan, who won our 2019 RWC hearts.

With a simple, childish smile, with hope in heart that the Finals prove to be a final, unifying force for the rainbow of nationals supporting the Springboks, one cannot but feel an instinctive, thoughtful, deeply grateful bow to the people of Japan – the enduring heroes of the 2019 RWC.

Loving, sincere arigatōgozaimashita.

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2019

HUSSSSSHHHH. PROTECTING AND RESPECTING THE POWER OF TRAVEL PILGRIMAGE

There’s something very different about an attraction versus a place of pilgrimage.

Yes, both can be icons immediately identifying a place, a people.

Yes, both attract visitors, often numbering in their millions.

Yes, both require preplanning, often involving tour guides and groups to be able to gain access, to get around.

Yes, both have the potential to be powerful source of valuable tourist dollars, or pounds, or rupees, or rubles, or any other currency.

And yes, both have the ability to offer visitors invaluable insights through rich storytelling – their reason for being, their well disguised yet profoundly important details, their role in the greater scheme of things.

Which is why as a traveller it is so easy to get busy booking a visit to an attraction, the thought of logistics distracting from what is lingering so close below the surface – its power as a sacred place. Until one comes face to face with one of these places. The number in the world is few, yet when seen, when felt, there is no question about its unique classification.

Case in point: the DMZ – the still active, 38th parallel, 200km long and 2km wide demilitarised zone between North and South Korea – the world’s last remnant of the Cold War, and front line of enduring threat of conflict yet prayers for peace.

Less than a two hour drive from the Republic of Korea’s capital city, the significance and seriousness of a visit to the DMZ begins to set in before leaving Seoul. The list of ‘must’ s and ‘must not’s is short, but clear: passports are a must, respectable clothing is a must, signing off a waiver in case of unexpected cross-border hostilities or contact with mines is a must, restrained communication is a must, photos in military zones are a must not unless given the all-clear. Careless, politically associated hand gestures and comments are a must not. Wandering off is a must not. Taking the direction of Security Escorts is a must. These are not tour guides, they are UN-assigned, conflict trained, armed officers. Respect is a must.

Suddenly, visibly and audibly, the chemistry of the group changes. Driving into the DMZ, passing through well reinforced security gates manned by well-armed officers, only the sound of the official UN bus engine can be heard. The quiet is broken only by injections of information by the Security Escort: how far we are from the border of North Korea, how many people work in the DMZ, how many pre-war descendant families live in the DMZ, how many hectares of rice fields farmers are given if they live in the DMZ compared to those outside (17 vs 2), how many mines still lay hidden in the deep grasses around us (thousands).

And then we arrive. Ground zero: JSA – the Joint Security Area.

Sacred has a colour: Hex #5b92e5, also known as UN Blue.

Sacred stirs a reaction, an almost primal reaction. Hussssssshhhhhhh.

Suddenly the spirit of entitlement that tourists often have having paid for the right to control the where, what, when and how of travel evaporates. The ‘here & now’ transcends all else. There is nothing else that matters.

Because here it is, here, right in front of us – the line that marks separation between the two Koreas. The place where, 66 years ago, where the UN overlooked an armistice signed by North and South Korea which ended the Korean War. The place where, months ago, the leaders of the two Koreas shook hands in hopes of denuclearisation and unification. The place where the sight of UN Blue symbolises enduring hope that the history books may one day, hopefully one day, write a final chapter of peace, unity and forgiveness.

To see the place seen so many times before on a television or mobile screen, to reflect on its detail, is one thing. To feel it, however, is quite another. To try to describe it is to realise one has lost their ability to speak. There are no words – only sounds, only tears.

Hussssshhhhhhh.

Humility mutes all conversation. It’s haunting. And it’s disturbing, in a really good way. Here is where history was, and continues to be, made. Here is where horror and hurt, hardship and hunger, healing and hope all collide. Here is where we are reminded, vividly and voicelessly, the blessing that we have of being able to see completely different world that reveals to us, raw and real-time, the gift of peace.

This is what separates an attraction from a place of pilgrimage.

The intensity of the meaning of this place of pilgrimage is made clear by the fact that, in these times of selfies and see-me-here, photographs actually don’t matter. Vivid captures  are embossed in mind and heart while standing still in silence, knowing that you can’t actually capture what you’re seeing and feeling with a simple frame.

It’s about standing in the sun on a dry wooden blue bridge the one that connects North and South Korea shutting your eyes and just listening to the sound of crickets somewhere nearby. It’s about feeling the warmth of the Fall sun showering down, noticing tiny little droplets of water on overgrown grasses that once, only 50 years ago, hid soldiers still in their teens, ready to die for love of country. It’s the smell of pine trees. Here is where learning rises above leverage, where respect rises above rights, where silence rises above soundbytes and selfies.

The same is felt standing at the door of cell 46664 on Robben Island. The same is felt at the `Door of No Return’ in Ghana. The same is felt in but a handful of locations across the globe – places where meaning means more than holiday memories.

These are the moments when tourism becomes sacred, and when sustainability is about protecting and sustaining the spiritual value of a place, not just its economic, social, cultural, or environmental.

Because while one can put tourism infrastructure and policies in place to maximise the commercial opportunity of attractions, there are some places where commerce has no place.

Their power, their richness, is in the husssssshhhhhhhhh.

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2019

 

CLIMATE ACTION/SDG 13 – INSPIRING ACTION THROUGH UNDERSTANDING, NOT SHAMING

The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) takes place each year in September in New York City. Uniting 193 Member States, the UNGA is, as stated by the UN, a “unique forum to discuss and work together on a wide array of international issues covered by the UN Charter, such as development, peace and security, international law, etc.”

For just under 10 days, this coming together of international leaders puts at the forefront the critical issues that we are facing in our shared world today – issues that are going to either accelerate, or challenge, our ability is one shared global community to move forward, lifting up the baseline so that all can feel a valued, contri​b​u​t​ing part of a world in which we are all working towards ensuring longterm social, economic, environmental and spiritual growth and development.

Ultimately, we need to look at the UNGA as a way of mobilising an annual global call to action.

Interestingly, and often, an individual takes the face of the UNGA, becoming the primary messenger of the UNGA’s central message.  In 2019 there’s no question about who this individual will be. Her identity, and impact, is already well known across the world: Sweden’s young Greta Thunberg who has, with great courage, great conviction, and yet remarkable youth stood up and mobilized an entire generation, the next generation to moving forward as regards climate action.

Greta has become an iconic, invaluable figure for the world in terms of recognising that now, right now, decision makers must make sure that we recalibrate our actions, taking responsibility for decisions that need to be made today that will have a direct impact on our world tomorrow, especially the future of the young people who are increasingly sensitised to the fact that failure to do so will unleash untold damage to their future and the world around them.

Young Greta, making her way to the UNGA across the Atlantic, arrived into the US just a handful of days ago. Rather than flying from her homeland of Sweden to the US, follow​i​ng 15 days at sea she arrived in on a solar-powered sailboat, sailing into the immense sights and crowds of New York. In doing so, she carries a very important message about climate action that indeed we must all start acting. Now.

That message, however, has the risk of being oversimplified by looking at it simply as her having not taken an aircraft. Climate Action, her core message, goes beyond a form of transport. However, her activism risks drawing attention to hooks able to draw in attention and amplification, as sadly demonstrated by The Wall Street Journal, messaging out to the world that “as the 16-year-old poster child for younger generations’ climate angst, also making its way to the New World, as evidenced in the coverage of her carbon-neutral trip, was a concept that in just a few years has swept Europe: flight shame, often hashtagged in the original Swedish, #flygskam.”

The holistic message of Greta is critical: Climate Action (SDG13) needs to start now. Impact of it positively needs to happen now.

However, in today’s day and age of of social media, of hashtag activism, the heart of her wider message is being translated into a hurtful economic, social and environmental one with significant, negative consequences on the global community’s quest for sustainable global develo​p​ment. This, one cannot believe, was her intention, It may, however, result in its effect

The hashtag that many are applying to her and to her cause is #flightshame.

Yes, aviation is the source of carbon emissions, 2% of global emissions, that are indeed having a negative impact on the environment. This truth is not, however, one being lazily accepted by the global aviation community. Quite the opposite. For several years by the global aviation community has been investing exponential amounts of funding and intellect towards finding solutions to reduce and eliminate emissions to ensure that the growth of aviation occurs in a way that is responsible, and sustainable.

Critically, it must be understood: Aviation it not the problem – emissions are.

For this reason, formal, binding commitments have been made by nations and across the entire aviation value chain. Central to this is airlines.

Championed by IATA, the global trade association for 290 of the world’s airlines with membership representing 82% of total air traffic, aviation leaders are acutely aware of the need to take action, now, on the global challenge of climate change. For this reason they have “adopted a set of ambitious targets to mitigate CO2 emissions from air transport:

  • An average improvement in fuel efficiency of 1.5% per year from 2009 to 2020
  • A cap on net aviation CO2 emissions from 2020 (carbon-neutral growth)
  • A reduction in net aviation CO2 emissions of 50% by 2050, relative to 2005 levels 

A multi-faceted approach: the four-pillar strategy

IATA is determined to be part of the solution but insists that, in order to achieve these targets, a strong commitment is required from all stakeholders working together through the four pillars of the aviation industry strategy:

  • Improved technology, including the deployment of sustainable low-carbon fuels
  • More efficient aircraft operations
  • Infrastructure improvements, including modernized air traffic management systems
  • A single global market-based measure, to fill the remaining emissions gap” 

https://www.iata.org/policy/environment/Pages/climate-change.aspx

Aviation is actively, collectively and measurably making sure that it is uplifting the global impact of its overall economic drive in a way that is not doing any environmental damage.

Again, it must be understood: Aviation it not the problem – emissions are.

Our world needs aviation.

Why? Because global travel, trade and tourism rely on opportunity creation delivered through global skies.

We must must never forget that 65 million people around the world are employed through aviation. Every single day 120,000 flights take off carrying 12 million passengers and unlocking 18.8 billion and global trade.

And then there is tourism – a sector that inspired over 1.4 billion people each year to cross international borders to learn, explore, discover. In so doing, greater understanding is established, central to embedding respect and peace across people and places, across faiths, cultures, generations and ideologies. With this Travel & Tourism supports one in 10 jobs (319 million) worldwide, unlocking 10.4% (US$8.8 trillion) of world GDP.

These metrics are vital to global growth and development, creating a strong global community in which all can participate indirectly and directly, indirectly through what tourism and trade generate across the world in terms of jobs, in terms of inclusivity and in terms of creating a stronger future. To simply hashtag and encourage people to stop flying is overtly encouraging people to stop the growth of aviation. This in turn stops the growth of the global economy, global society and its ability to positively impact the global environment through solutions for the benefit of all.

We live in a time today in which it’s very easy to pass judgment, whether it’s through flight shaming, whether making it clear that one would rather eat a veggie burger than having real beef, or making a fuss over a reusable alternative to plastic.

It’s very easy to turn these personal beliefs and behaviours into finger-pointing around those of others. We cannot live in a society in which our approach to global development is increasingly becoming about turning to the person next to us, looking at what they are doing, and then telling them what they are doing is wrong. This cannot be right.

Everything we do, every day, has a ripple effect – positive and negative. Are changes needed to many of today’s actions to accelerate climate action? Yes, but through inspiration, not accusation.

That is why the global community is focused on, specifically, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to look at the 17 avenues through which we – governments, industries, individuals – can promote development of our global community socially, economically, environmentally, culturally and spiritually. We need to look at these avenues as ways of improving the way in which we live together. https://anitamendiratta.com/blog/sdgs/ We cannot look at the SDGs as 17 as ways of pointing figure fingers and telling people that what they are doing is wrong.

Please, please please ensure that when we look at what how the world is responding to young heroes like Greta (and often unsung heroes that are doing significant things to create significant change, including industries like Aviation working to create positive change), we recognise their efforts to be part of the solution. Firm focus forward on how we can all become part of the solution is needed, not overzealous blame of others for the problem.

The 2019 UNGA is our opportunity to first understand the bigger picture of the world’s workplan – the UN SDGs) – and then identify and commit to how all of our actions, even the smallest, can ensure that we are working towards creating a better world for all.

No one should be left to feel judged or in jeopardy of job loss, in this or future generations. No one can be left behind. x

 

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2019

UNWTO Special Advisor Anita Mendiratta appointed to the Board of Tourism Cares

UNWTO Special Advisor Anita Mendiratta appointed to the Board of Tourism Cares

London, United Kingdom – 9th August, 2019

Tourism Cares, a leading US-based philanthropic body of the travel and tourism sector with over 15yrs of proven global experience leveraging the power of the industry to activate social impact programmes in tourism-based communities worldwide – has announced that Anita Mendiratta, Founder and President of ANITA MENDIRATTA & Associates, has joined its Board of Directors. 

A trusted strategist in Tourism, Aviation and Development working closely with leaders in governments, businesses, and international organisations, Anita is also Special Advisor to UNWTO Secretary General Zurab Pololikashvili. Her expertise in the areas of national growth, development, and recovery is expected to contribute significantly to Tourism Care’s social impact strategy and activations, including alignment to the UN SDGs. 

In announcing Anita’s appointment, Chairperson of the Board Carolyn Cauceglia (VP Strategic Sales & Account Management at technology solutions firm Amadeus) stated: “We are delighted to share that Anita Mendiratta has joined the Board of Directors of Tourism Cares. Anita’s talent, energy and passion for our industry is contagious. Her deep knowledge of international business, governments, global tourism, sustainability, strategy and leadership coupled with a unique ability to bridge and break through compliments our vision of mobilizing travel and tourism companies’ collective power to ensure lasting impact for destinations in need.“ 

An active advocate of Tourism Cares for several years, Anita believes firmly in its value as a powerful vehicle for industry to work more closely with local communities to embed the principles and practices central to the development of their tourism as a vehicle for responsible, equitable growth and development.

Increasingly, both travellers and the tourism community are looking for ways to make a direct, positive impact on the world we are blessed to discover through our travels. Tourism Cares has invaluable experience in educating, inspiring and mobilising the travel industry in how to connect its people, its sense of purpose and its resources to social impact programmes that are meaningful and measurable. To be a part of the Tourism Cares Board is not only a huge honour, it is a responsibility I take very personally.

CHANGING OF THE GUARD

 

 

 

 

 

11:00am, London time. 24 07 2019.

To look at any global news television screen at this precise moment one will see aerial coverage of Prime Minister Theresa May performing her final responsibilities in office:

  • final PMQ in Parliament
  • final address from 10 Downing Street
  • final visit to Buckingham Palace to see Her Majesty the Queen to submit her resignation
  • final wave to the cameras

all, no doubt, with a heavy heart. She did her best. Her work is done.

In parallel, an excited, freshly suited, soon to be appointed Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, waits with, no doubt, a strongly beating heart, all set to take on the role which millions across the UK and world have known he has longed for for all of his professional political life. His work is about to begin.

A generation ago, such moments of changing of the guard felt to unfold more slowly, more gently, more honourably. Saying goodbye to one leader prompted a toast, not a roast. Yet today, literally and figuratively, it can feel as though the revolving doors of leadership around the world are only too excited to feel the winds of change as the doors spins one out, one in. An idealistic assumption of times past which may in fact have been as aggressive as present? Perhaps. Perhaps not.

Whatever the case, so the analysis begins, or rather, continues…

Four hours on, the process of change complete as the Royal Standard blows in the wind high over Buckingham Palace signifying Her Majesty is in residences, and having received the outgoing and incoming Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom, the shift is felt. Leadership has changed.

A new chapter of the nation’s history is being written, Prime Minister Johnson is poised with pen firmly in hand, ready to start writing the story of the United Kingdom with his choice of instrument and prose. Unsurprisingly and understandably, in his creatively flowing mind, his first word will be “Finally!” His promise to the nation, clearly, confidently, with conviction, was first called out on the eve of his taking office in a self-declared campaign acronym rather overtly reflecting the ‘everyman working for everyman’, the ‘dude’, he enjoys being seen as: Deliver, Unite, Defeat, Energise. Message delivered. Acronym embedded: DUDE.

Clearly (even if ever so subtly), at times like these detail matters. Carefully, thoughtfully, often poetically and even cunningly, meaning goes beyond overtly spoken messages. Nuance can, in fact, speak louder than scripted words.

For Prime Minister May, now former Prime Minister May, she knew too well that her final words as the leader of the nation would be inscribed in the history books, her final speech her parting wish and prayer to the people who entrusted her to lead the nation through one of its most challenging times – challenges not only in politics, policies and personalities, but challenges in unity, harmony, decency and identity. Standing in front of 10 Downing Street, saying her farewell, her address would be the start of endless commentary, and criticism, of how she was able to perform in the land’s highest office. How will history judge her as a Conservative leader? As a Brexit leader? As a female leader? From whichever angle one chooses, it will be about judgment – open, unedited, colourful, sadly probably unthankful, judgment.

Former Prime Minister May’s final words were gentle, were grateful, were sincere, were without tears. Her words were clear. She is thankful to, and hopeful for, the people to whom she has had the honour of her life to serve.

As for the issue of future of the UK and its relationship with the EU, into this she refrained. Or did she?

There, in front of the iconic doorway of 10 Downing Street, she stood in her (presumably thought through) choice of departure suit: a tailored suit in distinctive blue, with a bold, chunky, gold connected-bauble (star?) necklace. Strategists could not help but smile at the choice – respectful salutes to the EU noted.

Was it a coincidence? Perhaps. Perhaps not.

Now, a further four hours on, with the flag above Buckingham Palace changed back to its summertime Union Flag, nods an acknowledgement of the fact that we must, as always, keep calm and carry on. However the guard may have changed, whoever may be the next head of state, we must always ensure that we are all – each and every one of us – guarding what is, in the end, truly valued.

Today and always, ‘leader‘ must always be honoured as a verb, not a noun. For one, and for all. x

 

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2019