We all have our limits. We all have a line where our body and/or our mind, and/or our hearts just have to say ‘Stop, just stop – I’m done!’
Over the past two+ years, those limits have been stretched further and further and further.
And now, as the world opens, people are realising how hard it is to continue to put on a brave face despite all the promise ahead.
Our shared world has indeed changed. The landscape is wider and brighter. The outlook is better.
Ambitions are bolder,
Forecasts are stronger,
Travels are wider.
Family and friends are nearer.
Handshakes are firmer,
Hugs are closer.
And yet somehow it seems harder than thought.
Something unexpected has happened – is happening.
Just when we thought the reopening of the world would make things easier, providing a rush of energy and excitement, a release from pressures of recent past, a pause to the fears and concerns, a chance to breathe deeply and freely again,
somehow it feels as though now, in these midyear months of 2022 as planning medium- to long-term resumes with schedules buzzing with busyness,
milestone reunions, remembrances and celebrations being confirmed regardless of time that has passed,
‘live’ business being booked beyond screens on our devices,
travel and social muscles being restrengthened,
professional wardrobes being removed from storage,
border, budget and before-travel testing constraints being removed,
all reflections of confidence around all that is to be gained once more,
somehow short-term the focus is shifting,
to what has been lost.
Time to think, time to reflect.
And importantly, time to rest, time to restore, time to care, for those loved and oneself.
Everyone has faced loss to varying degrees. Lives, livelihoods, loved ones, loved ways of life. There is no need to compare. COVID-19 excluded no-one from loss of time and loss of touch, not to mention loss of temper and loss of tolerance.
Which is why it makes complete sense that as much has been re-set in our COVID-reshaped world, lingering subconscious markers incl.,
- mid-year meaning mid-term/mid-summer holidays,
- September meaning ‘back to school’
- return thereafter marking the countdown to end of another 12 months,
are embedding the needs of now, vividly revealing how desperately we need a change of place,
finding a new space,
re-finding a feeling of grace,
It’s all about finding that place that allows us to just stop, a place to quietly reflect, renew, re-energise, and hopefully rejoice, ready for all that is ahead.
Which is why ultimately we all realise, deep in our hearts, whether we are practitioners in the industry or not, that it is travel that is vital, and invaluable, to our wellbeing.
Global grounding has shown that travel, around the corner or around the world, is a necessity. For wellbeing. Of ourselves, of others.
Our ability to get away, to find that new space not just in the world, but in our minds and hearts, to face our respective worlds once more, is why travel firmly remains not just a force for good, but a force for our own good. Demands on our time, energy, focus, funding, faith, are only growing. To fail to pause, if able, would be a fundamental risk to longterm personal recovery, Now, in what feels a brief, very brief, calm before the intense, year-end global travel recovery storm (heartbreaking, current midyear travel mobility and service challenges aside across airlines, airports and other T&T links in the chain), is the moment.
Wherever one chooses to go, just go.
And for the moment, as much as your heart and mind need to move forward beyond these times of intense pressure, despite their hope-filled pleasure, let go.
The gap between then and now is widening. The ability to have faith again in the world that awaits is growing.
You are safe. x
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2022
‘For what purpose?’
Three little words that have the power to ignite a flame in an individual and an organisation.
Three words that can become an unshakable compass.
An invaluable filter.
A powerful fuel.
A basis of faith.
The past two+ years the global pandemic forced us to think quietly, very carefully, about what matters, about who matters, about where matters. By stopping the world, COVID-19 offered us the opportunity to start the process of carefully articulating what we hold dear in our hearts. What is our inner voice whispering to us? What is it telling us about where we choose to give our time, our energy, our love…and our money? What has changed? And if there has been changes, what now?
Once that inner voice is heard, even if simply as a hush deep within our heart, it is incredibly difficult to mute. Rightly. As it grows louder, we find ourselves in the rare position of being able to not only elevate what we have learned about ourselves, but to translate this into our action. By choice, and purposefully, in a way that ensures that we do not allow our (newly discovered) sense of purpose to be silenced.
The concept of ‘purpose’ has become the focal point of conversations, articles and debates as the world recalibrates around both professional and personal decision making. Purpose-driven leadership, purpose-based business, purposeful community, travel with purpose.
Purpose has become a primary criterion for so many when they are considering career progression, job selection, investment determination, holiday location, even product selection. The push of BECAUSE I CAN of the past has become a pull – BECAUSE I MUST, revealing a shared DNA, a sense of clarity, and call to action around what really matters, and why.
Critical, is ensuring that our inner voice of purpose is protected from being extinguished.
The willingness to step up, and forward, with an inextinguishable sense of purpose immediately takes one to the words of the late President Nelson Mandela, the former President of South Africa, when he stood before the jury at the Rivonia trials in April 1964. It was to be a testimony. Instead, it became a four-hour long statement with remarkable sense of focus, faith, and purpose, concluding with the words now etched into history:
“During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”
President Mandela’s closing lines, his searing words stating that this was an ideal for which he was prepared to die, is one that often can be seen as a dividing cline between the principle of purpose and the action of purpose.
As made vividly clear by President Mandela, having a sense of purpose is not enough. It must be directed to create a greater, more meaningful, more helpful, impact.
And it must be deeply personal.
Which is why I share, here, now, that just a matter of days ago, my business – ANITA MENDIRATTA & Associates (AM&A) WWW.ANITAMENDIRATTA.COM – marked the immense blessing and honour of two decades of operations. Truth be told, as a business with foundations in the travel, tourism and aviation industries, the past two years of COVID-19 could very easily have seen the close of the business. Were it not for our core objectives – our reason for being – and its direct connection to what was so dearly needed across our client portfolio and the wider global tourism leadership industry, sadly, our doors would have been forced to shut. Our firmly focused, fiery sense of purpose, however, carried us through. Thankfully and importantly, it also helped carry our clients, partners and industry through.
For this reason, reaching two decades and being able to celebrate the milestone with clients and partners who have made it happen, was a moment not taken for granted. It ignited the need to never, never, ever lose sight of what has held firm for twenty years: our sense of “for what purpose?”
Whatever one is doing, whatever one is engaged in, whatever one sees as their profession, deep within our minds, hearts and actions there needs to be a sense of purpose – the ability to stand for something, to feel the flame of purposeful determination burning so strongly that it allows one to endure the times of challenge. And yet, at the same time, it allows us to put moments of joy into perspective, leaving us whispering a humble a prayer of thanks.
Such was the case when the day arrived to honour the 20th anniversary of AM&A. It was a moment of not just deep celebration, but deeply felt tears – tears of gratitude, tears of privilege, and tears of purpose.
AM&A’s purpose, my tears, have become the water that will be channeled towards feeding parched soils of places around the world that are trying to recover from crisis. The vehicle through which that is being done: https://anitamendirattafoundation.org/
Now registered as an official Charity with the UK Charity Commission, this Foundation enables the business to direct its impact – its earnings, network, reputation, relationships and deep sense of purpose – towards helping people in places around the world become stronger, become safer, and become more hopeful. AMF is a reinforcement of not only the power of purpose, but the ability to turn purpose into action, not losing one moment of time, one ounce of energy, one partner, one penny of investment. Everything has context. Everything is driven by compassion. Everything is fuelled by purpose.
To reach 20 years with such clarity of purpose is a gift beyond measure.
As we re-enter the world, getting busy making up for lost time / access / insight / opportunity…may we never lose connection with the time / access / insight / opportunity found.
And may the inner voice of our hearts only grow louder, and louder, and louder….x
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2022
The UK is turning a royal shade of purple!
The streets are fluffily-festively flowered,
the horses are lining up,
the marching bands are warming up,
the corgis are dressing up.
And Mother Nature has promised to keep the skies gloriously lit up!
Alongside Buckingham Palace, adoring royalists are already choosing their spots, readying themselves for the long wait to see their Queen. Tents are being put in place, accented with flags from across the UK and the world.
Within the same space the stands, the stalls, the staging, and the flags are all lined up in perfect symmetry.
The countdown is on. One sees and feels it everywhere. A hurriedness, wishing the special days of celebration closer. Early morning passersby on the way to their last days of work before special Jubilee public holidays and committed joggers alike break their stride to take in sights of Buckingham Palace shining brightly in the early morning while rigging companies and landscapers buzz about building what will be a gala stage soon to be seen across the globe. Just in case, generators hum, elevating energy levels.
Soon, very soon, the air will fill with the scent of scones baking as classically British fare is consumed across the land, accompanied by joyful toasts echoing far and wide. Bubbles, bunting, fascinators, full tails, all the frills one would expect at a time so significant, so special, so celebratory.
And so healing.
Time for a celebration that will be a marker of a lifetime, in all our lifetimes.
Symmetry, once more.
The Platinum Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will be – has already become, in fact – an event of immense anticipation and unification.
So too was the Coronation of Her Majesty on June 02nd 1953 – her crowning as Queen marking the turning of a page for the country and Commonwealth in the post-war years. A bookmark in her life.
70 years on, another bookmark in the story of her life, and all our lives.
In so many ways it feels as if, like Mother Nature, Her Majesty knew then, and now, what was needed to embed the eyes of her people on the future, with hope, with a heart-smile. To give one and all a chance to confidently meet again, hug again, dream again…
In the buildup to the Jubilee, one can feel a distinct decompression in minds and hearts across United Kingdom. Even globally, excitement for Her Majesty is felt. There’s a feeling of finally, finally, we’re able to breathe again.
For this reason, in so many ways, this moment, this Platinum Jubilee, is an essential part of the therapy that is needed to bring people through what has been one of the darkest times in our generation. There’s a poetic symmetry, not just in the flags that so majestically line The Mall leading up to Buckingham Palace, but a symmetry in these times.
70 years ago, and now, people are coming together, knowing that the intensity of the COVID-19 trauma experienced had passed.
70 years ago, and now, there is acute understanding of the work needing to be done to rebuild lives and livelihoods.
And still, 70 years ago, and now, there is respect for the need to also rebuild hope and hearts.
Importantly now, like then, national budgets are tight. So much money has been spent in recent past on pure survival – keeping people, businesses, and communities strong, healthy, and alive. But now, like then, investment in the Platinum Jubilee is accepted as a priceless investment in resetting spirit and the sense of direction. Now, right now, the Platinum Jubilee is this generation’s one chance to bring everyone together – the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth, and even parts of the world, to be tightly, warmly and confidently held together in a deep, loving purple ribbon.
Her Majesty, like Mother Nature, knew we would reach this point. And that when we did, pausing to mark the moment was critical so as to not only reset our eyes and hearts on our tomorrow, but appreciate the journey taken in our past. To breathe again.
Symmetry, in her actions, and words – most recently on April 5, 2020, when Her Majesty delivered her speech to the United Kingdom in the early days of national shutdown due to COVID-19: Symmetry of thought, statement, guiding spirit:
“Together we are tackling this disease, and I want to reassure you that if we remain united and resolute, then we will overcome it. I hope in the years to come everyone will be able to take pride in how they responded to this challenge, and those who come after us will say the Britons of this generation were as strong as any, that the attributes of self-discipline, of quiet, good-humoured resolve, and of fellow feeling still characterise this country. The pride in who we are is not a part of our past, it defines our present and our future.
It reminds me of the very first broadcast I made in 1940, helped by my sister. We as children spoke from here at Windsor to children who had been evacuated from their homes and sent away for their own safety. Today, once again, many will feel a painful sense of separation from their loved ones, but now as then, we know deep down that it is the right thing to do. While we have faced challenges before, this one is different. This time we join with all nations across the globe in a common endeavour. Using the great advances of science and our instinctive compassion to heal, we will succeed, and that success will belong to every one of us.
We should take comfort that while we may have more still to endure, better days will return. We will be with our friends again. We will be with our families again.
We will meet again.
But for now, I send my thanks and warmest good wishes to you all.”
Thank you, Ma’am. May the celebrations, and healing, begin. x
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2022
We all knew the symptoms.
We all knew the signs.
It wasn’t something unfamiliar.
And yet being told it’s COVID can be quite a surprise, especially when it’s COVID for the second time.
Now it all makes sense. All the symptoms, and all the signs.
As we move into year three of COVID around the world with different countries facing different levels of openness and closure, it is so easy for us all to start to become quite lazy about the situation.
“It’s like the flu.”
“It’s like a common cold.”
“Once you test negative after having tested positive, you’re in the clear.”
“It’s given me antibodies!”
It’s not the case.
It’s not as easy as that.
It’s not suddenly over.
The fact that it’s always going to be with us. And when one gets it, especially for a second and possibly third, the shock can be quite significant.
Because the surprise is not having felt the symptoms, not recognising the signs, again.
A simple cough is assumed to be a simple cough, a restriction on lung capacity simply thought to be something else.
A blip in strength refusing to move on.
And then suddenly it all makes sense.
It’s COVID, again.
And then consider this: how many people go through the symptoms, go through the signs, with no sense at all that they’re going through another positive, and in doing so, that they’re at the risk of infecting others again, for the first possibly second time?
COVID 19 is showing us that the numbers do not have a limit: the cases, the losses.
COVID 19 is showing us that the damage can continue: across the body, across borders, across industries and communities, across the world.
COVID 19 is showing us that Mother Nature is still in charge. x
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2022
What difference can it make?
What difference can one word,
As the world watches in shock, one country continues to face immense trauma. Over 4 million people have fled their country in desperate hopes of finding a place of peace. Over 6.5 million have found themselves internally displaced. All in just over one month. (Source: UNHCR)
What difference does it make for one voice to call out, to express a thought, to say a prayer?
For millions upon millions seeking shelter, seeking safety, seeking to not be left alone and forgotten, it makes all the difference in the world.
In just a matter of hours one of the world’s most unifying events will come to a close: EXPO 2020. A six-month celebration of unity across 192 nations, EXPO will have brought together close to 25 million people of different countries, cultures, faiths, ages, and ideologies from across the globe – all sharing a commitment to a stronger, safer, more sustainable and sincerely unified future world.
At the heart of EXPO 2020 has been three central, symbiotic themes: Sustainability, Mobility, and Opportunity.
In the closing weeks of EXPO there was, however, one theme that emerged in one national pavilion which eclipsed all others: Humanity.
The pavilion: Ukraine.
The creators of pavilion architecture: the nation.
The exhibition curators: ultimately the world.
The indication of the message to the world from the outside: invisible.
The impact on entering the pavilion and feeling its message: an immediate flow of tears that was simply unavoidable.
What was once a national pavilion exhibition showcasing opportunities for connection to the world through innovation and investment had, in the past month of 2022, and last month of EXPO 2020, become a global show of sympathy and solidarity.
Immediately entering the pavilion visitors walked straight into literally a world of messages from the world to the people of Ukraine. Thousands and thousands. Everywhere, as far as the eye could see and heart could reach.
Unplanned, un-curated, and un-campaigned, the building had turned into a love letter from the world to the people of Ukraine across the world.
The power of the sight was penetrating. Thousands and thousands of times over, visitors to the pavilion left their mark:
one expression of love,
times thousands and thousands and thousands.
can indeed unite the world,
including those who have watched from afar and found themselves voiceless, helpless, yet wanting to do something to show their solidarity, their care,
even if simply sharing a message of love.
The Ukraine EXPO pavilion became, so beautifully and so powerfully, a way of magnifying one voice, one message, and one prayer to tell the people of Ukraine that they were not alone.
Through a small pavilion a huge contribution was unexpectedly made to the legacy of EXPO, the Ukraine reinforcing the heart of the meaning, of EXPO:
reinforcing the message that wherever we are in the world, no one nation, no one person, no one prayer, should ever stand alone. X
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2022
With each crisis that the world faces – each generation defining crisis that is put in our path to challenge us, to teach us, to unite us, we work through and push past with a pledge to “Never forget”. And yet we do.
The crisis becomes familiar. The crisis becomes acceptable.
We become bored.
COVID-19. It just seems to go on and on and on and on…
For over two years now, Mother Nature has been looking each and every one of us across the global community straight in the eyes, spending her limitless time and energy to teach us to come together as a true ‘community’,
how to work together,
how to solve a problem that has us all bonded together in fragility, in fear, in hope,
how to care.
At times it seems she has been unwilling to release her pandemic grip on the globe despite all of the global community’s remarkable speed of response honouring first signals of danger, exceptional speed and creativity in medical innovation, immense logistical strength of reach and roll-out of vaccines and essential supplies. Progress, unparalleled progress, was being made, but she was simply not impressed. It’s just goes on and on and on.
And so, people have become bored.
In parts of the world one where masks are coming off, one can feel a distinct feeling of having moved on – a dangerous acceptance that COVID 19 is simply going to be like any other flu. The fear has faded, the respect for risk has been lost. The widened lens of compassion for ‘we’ inspired by COVID is starting to pull back into a setting of ‘me’.
Yet in other parts of the world the case curve is suddenly going up. The level of audibility of conversations around a next wave of spread is going up. Threat of renewed border closures are going up.
The crisis continues, it goes on and on and on…
And then BOOM! Suddenly something else attracts attention. The world is thrown into another crisis – war in Ukraine – as one nation unleashes its muscle and might on another, stripping it a nation of its security, of its stability, of its humanity. The noise is louder, the images darker, the interest stronger.
COVID-19? The world looks away.
The world has become bored with COVID. People have forgotten the fact that it’s still with us. It might not be as loud, as dramatic (anymore), as incomprehensible. It might not be as visible, as shocking. It might not be attracting the attention it used to, but it is still going on and on and on.
We cannot afford to become bored – we cannot look away, putting ourselves in a position of not caring, be it about enduring COVID crisis, or the escalating Ukraine crisis, or the next, and the one after that, and the one after that. The emergence of new crises will go on and on and on and on.
We cannot become bored. Or we will forget.
And Mother Nature will never forgive us. x
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2022
Airline Agent (AA): “Passport?”
Hopeful Passenger (HP): “Passport.”
HP: “Visa on arrival.”
AA: “COVID Test?”
HP: “COVID Test – right test?”
AA: “Right Test. Vaccination certification?”
HP: “Vaccination certificate”
AA: “Passenger Locator for X?”
HP: “Not needed – in transit to Y.”
AA: “You still need for X. Please scan here and make sure you fill it out before you board. Travel Insurance?”
HP: “What travel insurance? Not needed – in transit to Y.”
AA: “Still needed for X, even if in transit. Look – it says it here.”
(AA shows HP her screen)
AA: “No travel insurance?”
HP: “No, no travel insurance.”
AA: “Able to buy now?”
AA: “So no travel insurance. I’m very sorry. Boarding denied.”
HP: (Heartbroken silence)
This conversation line is not fiction. It happened. Personally. Horribly. And no doubt it will happen somewhere, to someone, again.
The countdown to travel. Pre-2020 it was a heart-lifting sleep count, a time of joyful readiness to venture out, people and places loved just a short/medium/long-haul journey away. And then came COVID – our shared world’s immense, intense challenge to travel ecosystems. And travellers.
Long gone seem the days of arriving at an airport for international travel, stepping up to the check-in desk, having passport checks rapidly completed, being handed a boarding pass, and then wished a good trip. Today the process is one where anxiety can so rapidly eclipse sweet anticipation.
An unfortunate expectation of travel in 2022? Disappointment – being prevented from travel due to:
- changes in regulations,
- changes in airline schedules,
- changes in return protocols,
Two years into the global pandemic, the travel world we once knew as a wide-reaching collection of exciting connections sadly remains a complex, ever-changing matrix of carefully and cautiously reopening of borders, reconnecting of routes, and reuniting people. While parts of the world are enjoying the restoring of domestic and international travel momentum, confidently feeling a sense of “we’ve made it”, in other parts of the world continued restrictions and tight travel regulations are faced, along with the enduring angst of “we’re not there yet…”
The required travel ‘extras’ continue to grow:
- Extra time for protocols and paperwork, at every stop,
- Extra costs for COVID tests, pre- and /or post,
- Extra patience.
Which is why continuing to be highly sensitive to the raw, rapidly changing realities of travel in 2022 is critical. Navigating through ever-changing travel headlines, stats and mobility systems is one thing – undertaking the experience of global travel is quite another. Right now, wherever a traveller’s ‘right here’ may be, it is hard, because of the innate uncertainties – uncertainties around macro, widescale travel systems:
- Borders unblocking,
- Flights flying,
- Hotels re-opening,
- Attractions re-attracting,
and micro, individual travel capability:
- Paperwork in place,
- Barriers unblocked,
- Hopes fulfilled.
At times it can so easily feel that travel confidence can only be felt when physically sitting on the plane. Until then, nothing is for certain.
Travel, international travel, is not easy. Not now.
But these travel pains are not forever.
Travel joy will be with us once again, once our travelling world has mastered living with COVID, living through the now inescapable realities of moving around the world.
In 2022, as new year optimism provides the global community with greater buoyancy, each and every one of us need to rebuild our travel muscles. Being grounded for two years has left us weak – weak in walking lengths through the airports, carrying luggage, navigating our way through small spaces, stretching our way through those that are large. This restrengthening is critical.
So too is re-strengthening of our travel hearts – finding and showing compassion that has never been seen before when see people struggling in airports with paperwork that has not been fully completed, struggling to find someone to help them make sense of the fine print that was invisible until check-in, struggling to accept their plans have been dramatically altered, struggling to keep their travel dreams alive.
We as a global industry need to dedicate 2022 to re-strengthening the mind, the body, and the heart of global Travel & Tourism as country by country, region by region, journey by journey, the world reopens to travel once more.
Never before have the words of one of our world’s most missed travellers been more true:
“Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.” – Anthony Bourdain
Onward. Our world awaits. x
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2022
Slowly, slowly, the seconds count down. In a matter of hours 2021 will be no more. Another long, long year is coming to a close, the longing for the chance to start anew just a matter of hours away.
What happened?? 2021 was supposed to be the year we all came together, stronger, safer, closer, more hopeful, more helpful. What happened? Mother Nature happened, or rather continued to define what felt to be happening to us:
Promises of recovery turned to enduring pain.
Promises of freedoms turned to pouts.
Promises of ‘normal’ turn reality of ‘normal‘ into an enduring strain,
Promises generally fraught.
The temptation to fast-forward is real. It is raw. And it is rife. But it would be wrong. There is work still to be done before midnight strikes – hard work, heart work. Healing. And releasing.
For with every new vista ahead of us, there is the opportunity to leave what we choose behind.
This year, as final moments near, the opportunity is immense, and can be intense. For this past year forced the world into a state of sustained stamina that has tested the strength of each and every one of us. Especially these past months.
To learn at what we thought was the last lap that a whole new race faced us all unleashed a wave of emotion that has tainted what should have been a peaceful, hopeful, joyful countdown to 2021’s close. ‘F’ words have dominated the vocabulary of the world as Mother Nature’s latest COVID creation – a new variant that was not unexpected but certainly undesired – re-activated, again, raw, very real feelings of:
so many simply fed up,
so, so many forgotten.
As midnight 31.12.2021
nears, now is the time, our chance, to leave the anger, angst and abandonment behind,
clearing our minds and hearts for all that is ahead,
cleansing the view. Restoring our faith.
Shut your eyes, breathe in, center,
focus on what stays behind – be angry, be clear, be selfish,
and then be still,
find the eye of the storm,
find the calm,
find the safety.
‘Ready’ for 2022 is not a growl, it is not a yell, it is not a war cry for others to hear.
It is a hushed, soothing, silent whisper for our hearts to hold tight.
And now it is yours.
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2021
It was meant to be a day of thanks. On one side of the world, Americans were sitting down to Thanksgiving meals surrounded by loved ones, each pausing to openly express for what they were most grateful. In a similar spirit, across the world minds and hearts were quietly holding on to what has become a daily thought, even if one not overtly articulated: ongoing gratitude for general health, general wellbeing. Such are the times in which we live.
A mere 36 days from the close of 2021 it was to be, in a way, kick-off of the countdown to the close of the year when stealth and stamina made possible long, long awaited reunions with family and friends, desperately needed rest, emotional recharge having made it to the end of another uncertain year, and quietly whispered hopes that the worst of this COVID chapter of our lives was over.
As the hours of the day ticked on, announcements started to appear through global newswires: a new strain of COVID had been identified in South Africa: B.1.1.529 – one with a spike protein dramatically different from the original COVID virus, and one feared dramatically more dangerous due to high transmissibility.
And then Black Friday hit. As the world woke, immediately it started to see red:
- Red geo-blockings on maps as countries were put onto travel ‘Red Lists’,
- Red arrows as stock prices of travel-related business plummeted as much as double-digit, and,
- Red hot words as people in a country once again being stigmatised for scientific expertise capable of identifying a dangerous new mutation within the molecular make-up of the virus turned to social media.
From East to West, the growing sense of panic around a mutating virus unleashed a terrifying speed of mutation of response never seen before:
- New COVID variant confirmations mutating into travel bans by governments,
- Travel bans mutating into immediate flight cancellations by airlines,
- Flight cancellations mutating into future airline, hotel, tour, cruise, and attraction booking cancellations by travellers, as well as wedding and events cancellations by planners,
- Cancellations across the travel experience chain and tourism economy ecosystem mutating into a sickening sense of déjà vu across the global Travel, Tourism, Hospitality & Aviation industries,
- Cancellations mutating into tears. Tears, tears, and more tears. Again.
In just 24 hours, over 22 months of the global community living with and working through COVID19 seemed to be brought back to day 1. The slow regaining of momentum of recovery of travel economies around the world was stopped. All had been grounded. And sadly, trust and confidence of travellers has been broken.
Now, just a handful of days on, we continue to feel as if our hands are tied. The global healthcare community have indicated we have ten to fourteen days of waiting before we understand the risks of this new variant – now known as OMICRON following an unfortunate passage of time between connection to South Africa as the source of identification and the renaming as a global variant to eliminate (already now established) national prejudice.
As the world waits, the range of mental gymnastics across questions, concerns, commentary, and critique continue to mutate into a range of emotions: anger, fear, disappointment, abandonment, anxiety, depression. Once again, our shared world is feeling very alone.
Alone as individuals,
Alone as countries,
Alone as regions.
Everyone, exhausted, again alone.
But how to regain strength, how to heal?
By focusing on what cures us, focusing on how we stop the spread of anger, frustration, and isolation.
As a global community it is not about focusing on past tense: Who said what? To whom? When? Where? Why? These questions do not concern COVID, in whichever strain it appears. Anything ‘then’ is done.
Our challenge is now:
- Who needs to say what? The WHO – helping us understand this latest strain of COVID 19, and those that risk following on, in a way that also helps us respond to future crises with greater calm, unity, data-based credibility, and compassion.
- When? Now, ongoing, to keep us informed of the current reality to help tame temptation to panic without pausing for perspective, and yet allowed the time and respect the WHO need for the analysis to be done, the implications to be understood, the data-based plans to be made.
- Where? Priority on ‘boostering’ the baseline – getting the right vaccines to the right (currently low availability & accessibility) places across the globe, through the right people, in the right quantities for full coverage, right now.
- Why? Because that is the only way to protect one another holistically, equitably, sustainably, and aggressively as members of an interconnected, interdependent global community.
‘Mutation’ is a theory of nature that is inevitable, it is unavoidable, and it is manageable. In these times of COVID crisis and resulting chaos, our challenge, our chance, is mutating our energies from arguing problems towards finding solutions – global solutions – rapidly, as if, and because, our lives depend on it. x
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2021
It is quite special being asked to go back to school when you’re almost 30 years into your career.
Going back to school as an ‘Executive In Residence’, that is.
It is quite a surprising invitation to receive.
It is a humbling ask.
It is a very thought-provoking request.
It is a question that can make you feel a little bit old.
It is a question that makes you feel deeply honoured.
And importantly, it is a rhetorical question.
To go back to school as an Executive In Residence is to be able to visit directly, meet personally, and hopefully inspire meaningfully, the future of our industry. There are very few honours that can truly be more touching.
It is an interesting responsibility. It forces one to think quite deeply about the core messages one wants to leave behind, whatever the subject matter one is asked to speak on. These messages go beyond the technical – the area(s) of experience and expertise one brings with them through their life’s work, the over transfer of knowledge and insight one goes to impact. As importantly, if not more, it is messaging around a spirit of commitment, confidence, and care one hopes to seed in the minds and hearts of those ‘teaching’.
Never in this generation has this been more true, or more important.
All of us in global travel and tourism, and the global community per se, have faced an endless time of devastation. This we know, we feel, we see, every single day, even now, over 600 days since the WHO declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. COVID-19 has caused untold damage to lives, livelihoods, and liberties. Slowly and cautiously as the world starts to reopen, to travel slowly and carefully, we keep an eye on growing numbers of new cases around the world. With a curious mind and quiet prayer, we watch vaccines rolling out, growing our understanding and confidence in how they work, and with great hopes in our hearts, look at those tiny little bottles as dearly needed doses of hope.
As we look forward to 2022 with deep desire to come together, finally, and take control of this challenge in a way that is stronger, healthier, and more united, we need to think carefully about what we seed as thoughts as opportunities and as directions for the future leaders of our Travel & Tourism industry – which core messages will take root, be nurtured, and inspire purposeful growth.
Therefore, talking about the future of Travel & Tourism, and all that is ahead, can prove to be an interesting challenge. As an Executive In Residence, it was a challenge that provoked a great deal of thought around looking at not just what is ahead, but comprehending what has happened in our recent past, and how this is going to make us stronger as an industry in the future. As well as individual practitioners.
Which is why taking on this special assignment was one which required taking on a different perspective to knowledge sharing, and seed planting, embracing the fact that sometimes the greatest learning comes not from providing the right answers, but rather posing the right questions. Especially when we are this crisis’s living case study.
In the case of COVID-19 and its impact on the future of Travel & Tourism:
What has shocked us?
What has confused us?
What has challenged us?
What has taught us?
What has inspired us?
What will we never forget?
What must we never forget…?
And with this in mind, what must we now do to not waste this time given to rethink the future of our industry, and our personal role within it?
These are the questions that one of our greatest teachers, Mother Nature, is quietly asking us all as we slowly and cautiously move into the ‘next normal’ of living and travelling with COVID-19.
At the heart of our ability to establish new hypothesis, strategies, and programmes to rebuild momentum of confidence and conversion is recognising that, as shared in the past, there has been a fundamental shift in not only the value of travel but the values of travel. This pandemic-provoked truism is an essential seed to plant if our industry is to be not only strong, smart and sustainable, but sensitive, supportive and sincere.
We know it. We feel it. Why? Because we are ‘the travellers’.
Travellers are no longer ‘them’ – the people out there.
They are all of us – a world of people grounded for over a year, kept from the people and places they love, reminded why our ability to be together is a critical part of who we are. The numbers that we analyse, the trends that we review, the predictions that we make, they are us. They are all of us – all who have been separated from our families, from our holidays, from our aspirations, from our business opportunities over the last almost two years.
The transition into a new world of travel, with all of its choices, challenges, and changes that continue to generate fears and frustrations for travellers, needs to be understood, and respected. To understand what it means to venture out once more simply requires we look into our own mirrors, and into our own hearts. It is a whole new adventure. And again, they are us.
Which means we must lead not just confidently and creatively, but consciously, compassionately, and gratefully.
As we look to the future and consider what is required for industry growth, stability, safety, security, and unity, for all of the uncertainty, what we can be certain of is this: no one singularly owns the solution. This shared challenge of global industry recovery requires that we come together to create a shared solution – one that we believe in our hearts makes use of the time that Mother Nature has given us to think, to really think, about what is important as the world opens up once more.
With the above in mind, it is impossible not to feel that to receive the call of duty to be an Executive In Residence is not only a request to share one’s point of view on core industry learnings, it is an invitation to share perspective on critical industry leadership. And it is an incredible opportunity to re-articulate for oneself what truly matters.
For the opportunity to plant these seeds in the minds and hearts of tomorrow’s leaders looking today for reasons to stay confident in, and committed to, the future of travel, I am so deeply grateful.
Time to go to school…x
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2021