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
When a mighty pillar stands, so often its strength is not fully seen.
Nor its exquisite detail.
Nor its exceptional courage.
Nor its boldness of vision.
When a mighty pillar stands, so often its protection is not felt.
Nor its tireless dedication.
Nor its humility.
Quietly, ever still, it holds up the sky.
Beneath it is created a space, a safe space, for others to take in the view of the world.
A place to imagine, to create, to conquer.
A place to think, to dream, to ponder, to reflect, to grow.
A place to focus one’s eyes on the future, aligning one’s mind, heart, hopes, and actions to what can be.
A place to find courage, to fuel ambition, to hear a calling.
A place to take one’s first steps into the sun.
There it stands, silently, watchfully, forever – seemingly.
And then the unimaginable happens. It falls.
When a mighty pillar falls, each and every second of its crumbling down can be heard, can be felt, cannot be escaped.
Cannot be stopped.
Each and every piece of marble – marble that has stood strong, solid, silently – can be heard as it crashes loudly and painfully to the ground.
Deeply, hauntingly, the rumble of the fall shocks our spirit, strikes our emotions, penetrates our hearts.
The earth beneath is left shaking.
We are left grieving.
when a mighty pillar falls,
we are reminded of the profound blessing of its presence while it stood tall –
holding the sky above us,
inspiring us to look up.
Inspiring us to continue to quietly, humbly yet boldly, build.
For your life,
for your leadership,
for your love,
Thank you, Sir. x
SST 1930 – 2021
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2021 https://www.stanleytollman.com/about/
noun: trauma; plural noun: traumata; plural noun: traumas
- a deeply distressing or disturbing experience.
- emotional shock following a stressful event or a physical injury, which may lead to long-term neurosis.
The trauma of COVID-19 on the international travel, tourism and hospitality industry in 2020 is now well known:
- Loss of over 1 billion international travellers,
- Loss of close to 80% of sector activity,
- Loss of over 60% of international air routes connecting airports,
- Loss of over three decades of sector growth,
- Loss of est. US$ 2 Trillion in GDP
- Loss of over US$ 1 Trillion in T&T receipts,
- Net losses of over US$126 Billion in Aviation revenues (passenger),
- Loss of over 120 million direct jobs in Travel, Tourism, and Hospitality,
- Loss of over 40 million jobs in Aviation, and
- Loss of countless jobs in restaurants, and restaurants per se,
not to mention,
- Loss of momentum of industry learning across a world of Tourism & Hospitality universities, colleges, and vocational schools,
- Loss of work experience, and
- Loss of progress on projects in pipelines,
and sadly even,
- Loss of confidence in working again,
- Loss of ability to wait for the industry to re-open and recover, and
- Loss of interest in working in the industry again.
That was 2020.
2021 is proving to be a year of sustained trauma. As new mutations and waves of COVID-19 force new restrictions on travel in parts of the world, easily extinguishing excitement as domestic, regional, and even some international travel slowly starts to regain momentum in others.
As a global industry community desperate to break through this traumatic time, our focus has been heavily weighted towards how we are going to rebuild confidence in safe, secure, seamless travel – travel free of worry, free of excessive costs of time and money for testing…free to exhale and stretch once more. The desperation of a world of travellers to reconnect with loved ones, loved places, loved memories and loved feelings of freedom, is well known. ‘Pent up demand’ has become a collective call to action.
What is often overlooked, however, is the internal trauma to the industry. Especially as relates to those on the front line of service.
Ours is an innately inspiring, engaging, and social community. It attracts and retains people from different nations, cultures, ideologies, identities, and aspirations who love, absolutely love, making personal connections with others – both new faces from new places, and those with whom bonds have already been built. With the sector growing between 3% and 5% every year for over a decade, the future of Travel, Tourism & Hospitality looked certain. What could possibly go wrong?
And then it happened. In March 2020, globally, hundreds of millions of people in our highly social industry were suddenly grounded, forced to be alone, asked to stay at home, away from their hospitality jobs in the bars, in the restaurants, in the hotels and resorts, in the tour groups, in the parks, in the venues, in the airports, in the sky. It was a time that none of us, wherever we are across the experience chain, will ever forget. Spring (northern hemisphere) 2020 was to see 100% of international borders close to non-essential travel. Over 18,000 commercial aircraft were grounded, cutting off the major artery of global travel and trade. By mid-year glimmers of hope were starting to emerge as restrictions eased, the COVID beast believed to be tamed. It was time to step out into the sun, meeting, and eating outside in fresh air, to the sounds of free-flowing laughter. People were understandably nervous, stay-apart mindsets making getting close unnerving. Adjusting to limitations on carrying and seating capacity was non-negotiable. But it was worth it to be able to get out again. Finally.
And then, at different times and in different places around the world, as soon as they were asked to return back to work (albeit with significant protocol-based adjustments to ways of service and numbers served), lockdowns were reimposed. Long, frustrating, fear-generating periods of waiting alone resumed.
For many the waiting was not deemed to be worth the future risk, future re-openings (and possible re-closings) presenting very real concerns including:
- severe limitations in job stability, fuelled by pandemic-related work pauses,
- renewals of work-dependent permits for right to remain (not to mention bi/multi-lateral government relationships and regulations),
- threats to personal security, including continuous contact with potential COVID-19 carriers, and
- limitations of future opportunity as businesses cancel and/or suspend investments in training and development.
Not to mention the very real issues many young people in the industry faced re. work Money needed to be made, decisions needed to be made. For a significant proportion of the industry’s frontline service community, changes needed to be made.
The exodus from the industry was not a new phenomenon. The entire industry was already struggling with next generation leaders leaving for more stable, secure, skills-investing and celebrated careers. COVID-19 magnified the weaknesses within. In the middle of 2020 as furlough programmes ended, an estimated less than one third of the industry returned to work.
As we re-open the global travel and tourism industry, it will not be as simple as opening the door to lines of travellers from near and far excited to be out, re-visiting their favourite people and places, and doing so calmly. As is already seen across the industry, to a large degree these are people who have been aching for rest and relaxation, to unwind, to have a change of scenery, to be looked after, to be pampered, to be fed and watered, to do what they want when and how they want it, and to get away from their screens. They are wanting to be seen and served. Now!
Nor will it be a situation where travellers are received by people who have simply been waiting until the door re-opened. Waiting will be less people working more, acutely aware of the fact that they are now expected to take care of a that pent up, impatient, feeling-entitled, demand.
Sadly, the needs of the front line of service are being muted out. Gratitude in being open, being employed, being able to serve pushes all of the emotional strain, the internal trauma, to the background.
The impact of trauma, any trauma, is long lasting. It changes our wiring. It makes us sensitive and fragile to future risks. Importantly, trauma takes away our trust in safety. For people working in the travel and tourism industry, especially on the frontline of hospitality, the wounds of the trauma are deep.
Those people working in hospitality need to trust that they will be seen. They will be taken care of, and they will be warmly invited back. We no longer can speak about the industry being the industry of the future if so many in the industry have left because they simply saw no future.
At the beginning of the pandemic, the Secretary General of the UNWTO was one of the first global voices to articulate with clarity and compassion that “trust is the new currency”. Many internalised and interpreted his words from external perspective. Internal trust of our sector to take care of its own people who are tasked with taking care of others is going to be the lifeblood of the industry going forward.
People committing their careers to the industry need to trust that the industry is committed to them.
People respecting the industry need to trust that they will be respected.
People investing in their future in the industry need to trust that the industry is investing in them.
And critically, people taking care of the guests/travellers/patrons need to trust that they will be taken care of by their employers, as well as by guests/travellers/patrons themselves.
Trust is, and remains, our new, shared, single global currency in our future of travel, especially as we all now step forward to rebuild what we know to be a vital sector for global unity, opportunity, and humanity. At the heart of the future of a strong, confident, caring, and inspiring industry is an industry that offers strength, confidence, care and inspiration to its own. x
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2021
COVID-19 has united us all – one global community bonded through challenge, through fear, through stamina, and through patience. The tireless, tenacious nature of the beast, with its omnipresence, invisibility and increasingly rapid transmissibility, continues to leave our shared world in a state of sustained trauma – everyone, everywhere, even now.
As much as this pandemic should have inspired and unlocked sustained global empathy, compassion, and cooperation, sadly it has reinforced risk of re-entry into a divided world from which we thought, hoped, we had evolved as we entered the roaring (20)20s – a time defined as “a period of economic prosperity with a distinctive cultural edge”.
That world we hoped we had left behind? A world that is divided between the haves and the have nots.
So much work had been done between nations, between communities, to build a stronger, collective future focused on sustainable growth, development, opportunity, liberty, and wellbeing. The UN SDGs created a framework for moving forward. The plans and policies were in place, call to action was heard, the planet was ready to act.
And then January 2020 happened, the term ‘Coronavirus’ becoming a part of our personal, professional, and social vocabulary, soon to be replaced by ‘COVID-19’.
For a brief time the speed and shock of the first wave of shock and spread united the locally and globally locked-down world. Month after month after month. And then the discoveries were made – record speed development of vaccines. Collectively the world exhaled. Hope was felt by all. Finally!
But then started the other waves: divides, between countries, between communities, between families. Sadly, as with the virus, the divides are only increasing as time passes.
COVID? Have had versus have not.
Long COVID? Have versus have not.
Vaccine access? Have versus have not.
Jab? Have versus have not.
Antibodies? Have versus have not.
Underlying condition? Have versus have not.
New variant? Have versus have not.
Another wave? Have versus have not.
Another lockdown? Have versus have not.
Mask mandate? Have versus have not.
Quarantine requirements? Have versus have not.
Job security? Have versus have not.
A safe place to call ‘home’? Have versus have not.
A good place to WFH? Have versus have not.
Lost weight? Have versus have not.
Lost a loved one? Have versus have not.
Lost control? Have versus have not.
Missed funeral? Have versus have not.
Missed wedding? Have versus have not.
Missed a milestone? Have versus have not.
Indoor socialising? Have versus have not.
Plans for cross-border travel? Have versus have not.
Return to office date? Have versus have not.
Fear of another wave? Have versus have not.
Confidence in the future? Have versus have not.
Hope? Have versus have not.
Compassion? Have versus have not.
This separation of the haves and the have nots in the short- and medium-term is something that is going to shape our shared world in the long-term.
Sadly, we have found that through the pandemic separations are severe in terms of access to healthcare and vaccine supply. Similarly, deep, increasingly fierily audible divides are occurring in terms of demands for freedom of mobility, opportunity, job security, and core ideology.
We live in a world, sadly, that is at a decision point. We either all move together, or we divide and move apart. The haves and the have nots that have been created by COVID-19 are no longer purely about science, health and economics. It’s about humanity.
The question to us all is this: as we move into the latter part of year two of COVID-19, are we committed to the quest to move forward together, or are we willing to accept that some (turning to many) are going to move forward with a feeling of ‘freedom’ without any desire to look back at those locked in new stages of trauma, clearly left behind?
The bottom line is clear: are we willing to accept a new era of deep, painful divide?
The challenge of COVID-19 goes beyond the pandemic. The challenge is a humanitarian one. In many ways it is a mirror being dropped by Mother Nature, asking us to look into our eyes – as individuals, as communities and as nations – and ask: for all the momentum, progress, and opportunity felt in late 2019 on the eve of the roaring twenties, have we honoured that collective hope and strength of roar for all?
Or are we going to find that the lion behind these roaring twenties is going to bite?
A decision must be made to determine the fate of the divide. Confidence we can tame time the lion? Have versus have not?
Have…whispered with a prayer. X
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2021
‘Long COVID’ is one thing, suffered by some. It is serious, not to be overlooked.
‘Longtime COVID‘ is quite another, suffered by everyone. It too is serious, yet under-explored.
Both are very real. Only one, however, we really hear about.
The term ‘Long COVID’ has become part of our pandemic vernacular. It’s something that is experienced by millions upon millions worldwide who have suffered COVID-19. ‘Long COVID’ represents the lingering after-effects experienced by people who have suffered COVID-19 and feel unable to regain the level of health that they held previously. In the UK, the Office for National Statistics estimates up to 30% of people testing positive for COVID-19 may suffer symptoms for twelve weeks or more. Some are shorter, some longer. Symptoms vary in strength, sustained periods, and parts of the body suffering. Importantly, symptoms have no connection to severity of the actual COVID-19 experience.
‘Long COVID’ is a reflection of the fact that COVID, in whichever variant, is random. How we experience it, the degree to which we suffer, and the ultimate long-term effects, differs person to person, situation to situation. Even if it’s the same variant, how one actually experiences it – asymptomatically or aggressively, as an attack on the respiratory system or neurologically – remains a mystery.
What is less spoken about is the ‘Longtime COVID’ – something from which everyone is suffering, everyone around the world who has been waiting and waiting and waiting for the tragedy of COVID-19 to come to an end. Something that seems, for millions upon millions now entering Wave 3 fuelled by the Delta variant, endless.
‘Longtime COVID’ is not a technical term. It is not an official diagnosis. It is a term that was created, quite honestly, for the purposes of this piece of writing as it was a term that connected comfortably with the words ‘Long COVID’. It may not be a real diagnosis, but we all know it is real.
The way in which COVID-19 entered all our lives in early 2020 stripped us all of any sense of comfort, confidence and control. With unprecedented speed, trauma and terror, COVID-19 took over. Skies, borders, and businesses closed, one after the other, one country after the other, as never seen before in this or any other generation. Through 2020 COVID-19 cost the global community lives, livelihoods and liberties. The longing for freedoms of movement, of connection and of community grew stronger and stronger.
We missed smiles.
We missed hugs.
We missed laughter.
We missed together.
And then, as the seasons changed with leaves turning from green to golden brown in the northern hemisphere, sunrays reaching out wider and warmer in the south, hope grew.
Regulations were easing, bubbles were widening, hearts were strengthening as vaccines were being discovered, curves were being flattened, cases were reducing.
But then our doors were forced shut again. It was too much, too soon, too close.
Months, milestones, marriages, memorials, memories, all passed.
COVID-19 soon became simply endless, with all the complexities associated with personal and professional isolation, physical separation, growing frustration, natural irritation, unnatural virtual world habitation.
And then signs of release and relief start to emerge as seasons continue to change. Hope, as doors open a little wider every few weeks, every shift in the statistics, every jab of vaccine, every sign of something looking like ‘normal’. It had been a long time, a very, very long time.
And then news breaks somewhere in the world of outbreaks of new cases of new variants. Stigmatisation is felt in country after country as discoveries occur of one new variant after the other.
Again, back in. Borders close, bookings are cancelled, plans collapse, hopes are crushed.
‘Longtime COVID’ reflects the intense strain that sets in when, one by one, people feel they are simply ‘done’: Zoomed out, ****ed off, feeling alone, abandoned and angry, tired of waiting, tired of masking, tired of limited living. Done.
Now, one year and many months on, our world continues its waiting and watching wondering what will happen next. Parts of the world excitedly ready to finally travel once more, desperate to get away, get together with loved ones, yet not 100% certain of government regulations going unchanged. At the same time, other parts of the world are being locked down once more, wave after wave threatening national stability, both economically and emotionally. The optimism fatigue is real.
When it comes to ‘Longtime COVID’ there is so much still unknown. The consequence of the world being shut down for over a year and a half will be significant. Maybe not shut down physically, but certainly emotionally. ‘Longtime COVID’ is our next great mystery.
What damage has been done? What healing will be needed? How will we, individually and collectively, deal with all the loss, the prolonged longing, the waiting and waiting and waiting?
Everyone in the world is suffering from ‘Longtime COVID’. No one has been spared, as comfortable in the discomfort zone many may appear. For everyone, everywhere, this has been a long, long, hard time.
The treatment? At least for now?
With immediate effect the following is prescription is strongly recommended. All ingredients are 100% natural, and easily accessible:
- Every morning give oneself a good, strong dose of compassion
- Accompany with kindness and forgiveness
- Repeat in evening before bed
- Double-dose if needed
- For lasting results continue taking daily even if feeling strength restored
- If any signs of discomfort call a loved one, and keep holding on.
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2021
‘To cherish a desire with anticipation,’ is Merriam-Webster’s lovely definition of HOPE. This week, we wrapped up RISE – Season 3. Taking a break until Season 4 launches in September, many around us look towards the mid-year holiday season and the ‘next normal’ as parts of the world begin to ease border restrictions and destinations welcome back tourists. Our wish is to leave behind apprehension, and advance with hope. This is done, however, whilst acutely aware of the fact that many parts of the world are still suffering, with COVID-19 continuing to threaten lives and livelihoods. Prayers remain strong. As does hope.
The ongoing uncertainty of these times embeds how, during the past year and a half, we’ve all strived to remain positive and hopeful whilst trying to predict personal and professional outcomes. Any risk assessment and mitigation process requires looking at worst case scenarios – being prepared for those whilst hopefully anticipating the best outcomes! This is sensible, and it remains the only viable approach because, let’s be honest, the one thing we’ve learned this year is that predicting the future is a risky business in itself! The brilliant Dan Richards, CEO of Global Rescue was our Executive in Residence for last Monday’s Season 3 Finale of RISE, and the timing was perfect, because Anita and Demian were able to ask him all the questions we’re all thinking and are desperate to have answered.
What we need to know
Mostly, we want to know what the travel sector – destination governments, tour operators, airlines, etc. – are doing to ensure we can get back out there and safely enjoy our vacations. For you, our RISE viewers, this is relevant from a business perspective as Travel, Tourism and Hospitality practitioners, but also as people who just want to have a holiday!
We need reliable information to feel safe to travel – we need to re-establish some sense of control in terms of health & safety, mobility (especially around border crossings), and cost. There are just too many risks emerging as rules and regulations seem to keep changing.
Dan emphasised the value of predictable protocols. He also stated the importance of destinations having adequate resources and infrastructure in place, suggesting that ‘well-prepared places with tourist – centric posture will attract travelers.’
What we do know
Our RISE audience poll told us that forced quarantine and isolation is still the issue that concerns 2/3 of travelers most when considering overseas holidays. Dan agreed that this reflects his experience, saying ‘traveller confidence in being able to travel and not get Covid is skyrocketing, but unfortunately the concern with respect to border closures, quarantine, and friction in the travel process continues to be significant.’
Our wish-list for the next normal
- Clarity and consistency around travel regulations and requirements from Governments
- Clear communication and messaging of the protocols from all stakeholders
- A smooth transition from restrictions to travel freedom (with no surprises of reversal back to restrictions)
- Co-operation and collaboration between industry sectors
- Empowerment – we all crave a sense of control again. Yes, we need to know that risk is being managed at government and organisational levels, but we also want accurate and reliable information that allows us to make our own decisions again, with a degree of security that we can make the right ones based on the correct information.
- A greater focus on sustainability, finally
- A changed approach to labour within the industry. We said this is a wish-list, so yes, we are going there! The lovable grouch Demian suggested that Anita was dreaming when she argued in the TKO debate that the industry would change their approach to labour, being more conscious of and responsive to employee wellbeing. We all (even Demian) hope that positive change will come from the past year!
- Sustained resilience – we’ve learned much from the pandemic, and our hope is that the resilience we’ve built personally and professionally will be carried with us as we move forward, and that we’ll work together, assisting each other in maintaining this too.
Lastly, we hope the technology that’s been developed in response to this pandemic will assist in preventing the next, so the traumatic experience of the past year may remain there… in the past.
For now, ‘arm doors and cross check!’ We move forward with hope and confidence. Whether you are looking to safely enjoy a long-awaited holiday, or staying put and productive behind a computer screen, RISE is here with you to embrace the next normal. And we are excited to welcome you back for RISE Season 4 in September! Until then, well you know the drill: stay safe, stay strong, stay hopeful.
Register here to catch us live, or to watch previous episodes. Thank you for being an invaluable part of RISE.
It was a sound that made the mind’s eye think of a dark, cloud-filled sky cracking open to release heavy, quenching, monsoon raindrops falling onto dry, parched, cracked desert ground.
It was a sound that broke through silence, flowing swiftly, soaking into the ground, feeding the spirit.
From every direction, through every sense, it was a sound so consuming, so desperately sought after, so dearly needed.
Finally, as with the monsoons after a period of intense waiting, it had arrived – a sound that poured down onto the performers on the stage, wave after wave, as though bathing desert flowers thirsty for life.
It was applause, for the first time in such a long, hard, trying time.
London’s Royal Opera House was open once more. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z-Gau5cVBu0
In late May 2021, with cautious relief and delight, Covent Garden’s centre for the performing arts carefully opened its doors. Returning to its magnificent heart, staring out across the vast, velvety expanse of theatre seating to the Main Stage, one could almost feel:
- the moment when sleeping lights were re-awoken to reveal the grand theatre shaking awake after a lengthy hibernation,
- the moment when the stage was quietly stepped upon with a gentle tap-tap-tap from each touch of the pointe shoes,
- the moment the orchestra pit first filled with fresh, flowing sounds of musical instruments warming up, marking the end to a year of silence,
- the moment hundreds upon hundreds of plush, red velvet seats were lovingly dusted and tied off with ribbons to welcome a 50% capacity limit audience home.
Finally, the lights glowing gold readied to be dimmed, the stage stood tall and proud dressed for the occasion, and the orchestra was anxious to start. The audience looked at each and every detail, taking the ‘here and now’ in with a quiet intensity, an audibly beating heart, a hint of a smile, a feeling of freedom.
Showtime. 21st Century Choreographers was about to begin.
As the curtain rose the feeling of anticipation, excitement, relief, and gratitude of each and every performer was evident as they stepped onto the stage with a distinct sense of purpose. Together, once more.
It was impossible to watch on and not wonder ‘how did they do it?’ How did they manage all these months, unable to be together, to train together, to perform together, to practice together, to laugh together, to bond together, to feel appreciated and adored?
In the early months of the pandemic awe-inspiring videos were shared around the world, our small screens filled with images of professional dancers training in their homes, on their balconies, in empty streets. Videos of hope. Videos of solidarity. Videos of remarkable creativity not only in dance but in determination. But then the music seemed to have stopped. Life in unknown, uncertain times stretched on far longer than the world ever expected, putting lives and livelihoods at risk far more severely than ever imagined.
For those in the performing arts worldwide, COVID19 forced them to find ways to stay fit, to stay focused, to stay hopeful that their careers would return to the stage.
- How does one keep strong and supple when they cannot stretch?
- How can one be creative when there is no reason to create?
- How does one feel inspired when they cannot feel the presence of an audience?
- How does one know when to move when they cannot hear the music?
- How does one take a bow when surrounded by silence and empty space?
- How can one leave the stage when their finest performance is yet to come?
For months and months and months there were questions, very valid questions, around whether or not so many performers would be strong enough, capable enough, willing enough, to put on their ballet shoes and costumes, and stand under the glowing lights. Ultimately, would performing artists worldwide ever again hear those heavy, healing raindrops of applause.
To be in a live audience again, to feel a rebirth taking place, was an absolute gift. A sense of blessing and gratitude was omnipresent – being able to be there, seeing and feeling it all in three dimensions, full of life, full of music, full of grace. With each performance the dancers were showered with applause, and more, and more. The orchestra performed magnificently, each and every piece played with a distinct sense of joy and relief. It was magical to experience months of dry, deafening silence being filled by floods of clapping, to feel the feeding of the starved spirits of the performers. For the audience, it was like rain washing dust off of one’s heart…
The pure magic of the moment brought to the fore a deep sense of release, a reminder of all that we have all been starved of.
We have all endured a year+ of suffering, of loss, of deprivation. While we have found ways to become comfortable in the discomfort zone, this discomfort cannot, must not, become the norm. Nothing about this time, this way of living, is normal.
As our shared world slowly, cautiously re-opens, returning to the stage will require of us all a readjustment to the sound of the music, the brightness of the lights, the presence of an audience, the test of our strength and stamina to continue dancing. It will not be easy, it will not be comfortable, it will often feel unnatural, but we will dance once more – with new steps discovered, new partners found, new purpose in our movements.
And a new sense of gratitude for the healing power of the rain. x
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2021
LEADERSHIP – STEPPING UP AND CHECKING IN
They say crisis reveals one’s true strengths. This crisis, this year, has been revealing like few others – a surreal year in which we’ve all experienced moments beyond belief. Moments when we consciously acknowledge we’re seeing a different world from what we’ve seen before or could ever have anticipated. Throughout this past year RISE has been here to report, help make sense of, and discuss new developments, separating the noise from the news.
Contributing so richly to these conversations, have been our Execs In Residence, an array of extraordinary leaders from all sectors of our Travel, Tourism and Hospitality industry. Each has brought a fresh perspective and inspired us with their insight and their calm and optimistic approach to dealing with each challenge as it’s arisen. The RISE team has also observed, as our hosts Anita and Demian have facilitated thought leadership through RISE and have led their clients and students in navigating the way forward.
Last week on RISE we were joined by Fred Dixon, CEO of NYC & Company as well as the CEO of Singapore Tourism Board, Keith Tan. Both are forward-thinking leaders from iconic global Tourism Cities. They shared their challenges and their perspectives on supporting tourism in their cities and remaining future-focused. One of our viewers asked Keith what was the most important thing he’d learned as a leader this year. His response became the inspiration for the topic of this Blog; “Stay calm and prepare for all possibilities. There are all sorts of things that could happen, surprises that come along the way. The crises and the challenges can come from anywhere, so I think as the leader of any organisation, we have to be prepared to roll with the punches and continue to imbue our teams with a sense of optimism.”
Why? Because it’s absolutely true that this is what’s expected of leaders, whether you’re the leader of a family, a class, a company or a country. And it’s what great leaders do – they deliver on the expectation that they remain calm in the face of adversity, and they instill that same sense of calm and resilience in those they’re leading safely through the crisis. But what is the personal cost and toll on those who lead? Who checks in on them to see how they’re coping? Self-care seems another responsibility they themselves must undertake. As we move through and beyond this crisis, it’s important to remember that sometimes the psychological effects are only felt when the immediate crisis is over, once we have the time to reflect and assess. So, we looked a little closer at what this means and how we can mitigate the personal toll of leadership through crisis. We all feel the weight of leadership to some degree, whether we’re leading a small family or a business empire!
A Professional Perspective
RISE – AND SHINE talked with Colin Wilford who is a Clinical Psychologist, Leadership & Executive Coach and CEO of Wilford Scholes. We asked him about his observations and experience of the psychological toll on leaders during crises. He states that any organisational crisis, whether financial, emotional or medical has a profound psychological effect on the leaders of that organisation, for these 3 reasons:
The leader, like a parent, feels directly responsible for the safety and well-being of all those under their care. This deep sense of responsibility dramatically increases the amount of stress experienced by the leader concerning those they lead especially when that leader is empathic and people orientated.
When anyone suffers from the effects of a crisis, the leader naturally feels it’s their fault even though this may be irrational. During the past year many have faced painful decisions like reducing staff numbers or discontinuing contracts. Taking on that guilt is a common response and they wonder why they can’t sleep or why they are less patient than before.
RELUCTANCE TO DELEGATE
Often the leader feels solely responsible for fixing the problem. Despite their own training and mentoring, they feel the weight of it all being up to them to provide relief and resolution and so they often neglect to share the load and have others provide solutions.
Colin suggests these 5 steps when leading through and beyond a crisis:
1. Never try to deal with the crisis on your own. Always involve other capable work colleagues who can share the load.
2. Make sure you talk with a mentor or trusted associate about your feelings, fears and thoughts. This process will help you be more aware of the impact on you and what you can do about it.
3. Know that there is a solution to every crisis and you may need to research who has dealt with this before and what they did to resolve it.
4. Remind yourself that you are not expected to know all the answers and that often all you can do is merely facilitate and encourage others to find their own solutions.
5. Change your perspective to realise that a crisis is there to teach you and make you more effective and experienced as a leader and try to avoid focusing on the crisis always being a bad thing.
WE’RE ALL DIFFERENT
Anita points out , “we should try to refrain from judging how other leaders have responded to a crisis, especially when a shared crisis like this past year. We all have different wiring, and therefore different responses. We all need to be sensitive to different people’s abilities to endure struggles in different ways.”
As travel restarts, lockdowns ease in some parts and we look to the next normal, it’s important to check in on our resilient selves, take the time to acknowledge the toll this year has taken and take the necessary steps to ensure that resilience remains and that we’re able to enjoy moving forward!
So…‘Arm Doors and Cross Check’ – which also happens to be the title of our final episode of Season 3 next week! Don’t miss any clues about what Season 4 will bring. Anita and Demian are delighted to be sharing the RISE stage with Dan Richards, CEO of Global Rescue. Be there, same time and place to hear what Dan has to say about what destinations and travel companies are doing to help us all get back out there safely.
Register here to catch us live, or to watch previous episodes. Thank you for being an invaluable part of RISE.