#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.
- 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.
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:
- FACTS FIRST: Check sources carefully. Untruths are unhelpful.
- FOLLOW WHO GUIDANCE: https://www.who.int/
- PRACTICE GOOD HYGIENE: Stay home – stay safe.
- SHOW COMPASSION: We are all in this together.
- 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
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.
But how, when the official statistics indicate, as of time of writing:
- just under 89,000 cases reported
- across 62 countries,
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
Numbing. The feeling was simply numbing. And it was becoming all too familiar.
First a high. A high that would carve a line in the history books of the 21st Century. And be a defining moment for millions looking on. Never did they, we, never did we all think the day would come.
As global media looked on, the sounds of pure, personal excitement in their voices were unmistakable. Real, raw. Almost relief. This was a moment they official voices of global networks would be forgiven for getting emotional. They never thought they would see the day. Air Force One’s wheels touched the runway of Havana’s José Martí International Airport airport with a profound feeling of exhale, the strength of the Boeing 747’s brakes feeling almost as though a metaphor of the strength of the brakes being put on a long, heated history of distrust, disrespect, deprivation, and for millions, imposed distance of peoples. AIR FORCE ONE LANDS HAVANA – MARCH 20, 2016
As President Obama and his family descended the staircase and walked onto Cuban soil, the first visit of a US President in almost 90 years, the promise of possibility was released. As the following hours of protocol, appearances and press conferences unfolded, history was being rewritten second by second. But no moment more powerful that when the hands of President Obama and President Castro reached out. With one simple handshake and a look into one another’s eyes, the words of the US President made clear that nothing was ever going to be the same again, saying with the sound of hope in his words,: “We have half a century of work to catch up on.”
It was, and will remain, a moment where just a for a moment, the world seemed to be looking forward as one. Hope comes alive in a handshake. Higher and higher eyes looked up, hearts soared.
And then it came – the low that would send the world’s hearts crashing down.
Half a world away from Havana, the people of Brussels would wake to look horror in the eye. First an airport bombing, and then within the hour, a metro station. 60 minutes, 30 lives taken, 230 lives escaping end with only injury, yet still shattered.
Within a period of 24 hrs the world saw, felt, shed tears, as the highs of possibility of peace and partnership, people coming together despite the history and the odds, turned into the depths of horror as terror pushed people into dark, desperate corners, grief of the day beyond comprehension.
With it, worldwide, acknowledgement of the exhausting continuation of what has become a merciless means of uniting the people of the world in terror – a terror that tries over and over to divide with its modus operandi of death and destruction. All shamefully and unjustly in the name of religion.
Now. just a matter of days on, as the experts and analysis dig deeper into what happened, why, and because of whom, the only certainty that the global community can around what lies ahead comes from one human truth: we need one another.
Across the globe, people are turning to keyboards to express their confusion, their compassion, their hurt & heartache, and their undying hope that this horror can stop. Theories around how to protect ourselves are emerging on all sides. So too are expressions of care and camaraderie for those suffering. One month it is Tunis, the next Lebanon and Paris, the next Istanbul, now Brussels….and soon, who knows. In so many ways it feels that nowhere is safe, no one is safe.
But putting up barriers, physical and psychological, will not keep us safe. Quite the contrary – this is where the danger breeds. Through judging others, damning others, and seeking to be apart from others, we lock ourselves into dangerous bubbles of ignorance, intolerance, inhumanity. We fuel the fire.
How will our world find a way to stop this tragic story of terror from writing future chapters? How can the roots of extremism be pulled from the ground, deprived of oxygen? How can the meaning of one of the world’s great religions be brought back to its true meaning as it is meant to be lived, celebrated, no longer linked to the selfish, barbaric motives of those using faith as a shield to hide behind, falsely fighting for its protection and preservation, pushing separation over diversity within unification?
There is no one solution, no one focus that will yield triumph over those resorting to such horrific means to make us stand apart from one another, in fear, inflamed by intolerance.
But there is one truth that cannot be overlooked: Ours is a world to be shared.
Time and again, history has shown us that separation only causes our decay as societies, and as economies. We need to keep working at understanding our differences, being able to be secure in our celebration of others, recognising that while externally so much may seem to differ, our hearts are the same. We love, we laugh, we dream….we cry, we grieve, we bleed.
While completely unconnected, the events taking place this week in Havana and Brussels do, in fact, share a vital connection. Events unfolding, shaking the course of history, changing the lives of millions. One – Cuba – showed how, at a time when so many forces are pushing us apart, rewriting history based on fear and fundamentalist thinking as witnessed in Brussels, there are those working to shape a future as one. This same spirit, this same determination to extinguish fear and find a peaceful way forward, is needed to face this latest challenge.
How can this happen? How can a movement of understanding occur, defusing fear in differences and setting alight appreciation of diversity of thinking and living, take off? It already has – through tourism. At its essence, tourism is about going to places unknown, exploring and understanding others’ lives, lifestyles, loves, getting to the heart of what makes them who they are, and in so many ways, discovering how similar that is to oneself when it comes to core beliefs and values. Here too, hope comes alive in a handshake.
Today two of the most previously ‘locked out’ nations across the globe – Cuba and Myanmar – now represent two of the most sought after destinations for not just travellers, but also investors in the travel & tourism sector. At the heart of opportunity for the Cuban people is the tourism industry. Not only will it bring much needed jobs, investment, earnings, essential skills, infrastructure and taxation to and for the people of Cuba, it will bring invaluable respect and appreciation for the Cuban identity. And it will bring a change to the nation that will allow it to blossom as a member of the global community.
Underlying the reengineering that needs to take place around Cuban policy, economy and industry is the very human component that will form the foundations for the future of the Cuban people. A foundation that will make the real difference when it comes to ensuring longterm change. For as was optimistically said by President Obama while standing alongside President Castro, just days ago in Havana,:
“I have faith in people. If you meet Cubans here, and Cubans meet Americans and they’re meeting and talking and interacting and doing business together, and going to school together, and learning from each other, then they’ll recognize that people are people, and in that context, I believe that change will occur.”
With a hope, a prayer, and a passport…
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2016
As differing as the world’s geography, politics, policies and populations may be, there are some things that create a global connection. Faith. This universal connection was recently on display at a level rarely seen – but clearly it is felt.
Throughout the month of March, the eyes, and in many cases, spirits, of the world have been intensely focused on a tiny location on the planet, a place so small that its population does not even reach one thousand inhabitants. Yet, while not actually living in this city, 1.2 billion people worldwide, just over 17% of the world’s population, call this place their spiritual ‘home’. Vatican City.
It all began on the 11th of February, when Pope Benedict XVI announced, to the shock of many within the cardinal community, Catholic Church and across the globe, his resignation for personal, age and health related reasons. The last day of the month would be his last day as the spiritual leader of the Catholic Church.
It was a move that shook the faith, raising the voices of millions to question not just variations on a ‘why did he really‘ theme, but for devotees, an emotional ‘how could he?‘ God only knows.
With his unprecedented departure – the first papal resignation in close to 600 years – Pope Benedict XVI took with him a sense of the end of not just a papal era, but the end of an era of the Catholic Church per se. The College of Cardinals saw the signs, embracing the calling to rise to the challenge, recognising that for the Church to move forward, it was critical to recognise how the world around them – faith and followers – had moved on.
And, importantly, the world’s Catholic population was watching to see if, when, how, the Church would respond to the growing crisis of confidence and conviction, challenging its relevancy and credibility.
But it was not just Catholics keeping vigil. Across the globe, billions were watching the chimney of the Sistine Chapel for Papal conclave voting. Remarkably, in just two days a decision was made.
The sign of change came, not just in the colour of the smoke, but in the speed of the decision making process,
and the choice of a Pope from South America,
and the new Pope’s choice of name – Francis, a humble, compassionate, there-to-serve-the-people spiritual leader,
and the choice of the new Pope’s personal lifestyle as the leader of the Church – from rings to shoes, from vehicles to new home.
Significant decisions of both symbol and substance, critical to the minds and hearts of Catholics worldwide.
But why did, the world, Catholics and non-followers alike, watch the selection process so closely? Why did it matter to billions beyond the official population of followers?
Why did the choice of the next Pope touch so many, so deeply?
Why? Because of a bond that connects billions, regardless of location, language, lifestyles: believing in believing
The Catholic Church getting it right, banishing the ghosts and guilt of the past, matters to more than can be imagined. It is not about the institution, the structure, the face. It is about the need to believe in something better that all that burdens, something that still inspires right when there are so many examples of wrong, something that keeps us waiting for the dawn through the long hours of the dark. It is about keeping the faith.
As said by Ben Wedeman of CNN while covering the election of the new Pope, “Rome was not built in a day, and the Vatican will not be rebuilt in a week.”
Will Pope Francis be able to lift the Vatican, the Catholic Church and the minds of millions, to a higher place?
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2013
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