AS THE GROUND SHAKES APART, THE WORLD UNITES

 

For all of the awe and analysis that comes with observing the evolution of the global travel and tourism industry, one truth remains at the core of the ‘why‘ of global travel: the world wants, and needs, to connect. And there is no greater force than travel and tourism to enable people of different places to find common interests, common bonds, common understanding.

Since 2015 began, so much has occurred to show just how divided the world we live in today is. Geography. Ideology. Politics. Economics.

And then something happens that causes a shaking of the global psyche, bringing us all together.  Uniting us around a common value: a life lived.

Just days ago the Earth shook and Nepal fell. As the rubble rolled its way towards a stop-point the world stopped to catch its breath, and find ways to keep survivors strong, hopeful, breathing. It’s not about national efforts – it is about millions of people across nations coming together to help, simply because it is the right thing to do. Because ultimately we are one global community.

Today, at this point in the post-tragedy phase, here is where we are in terms of global response: http://edition.cnn.com/2015/04/25/world/nepal-earthquake-how-to-help/index.html

How can one help? this is the best way to find the best route of support: http://edition.cnn.com/2015/04/25/world/nepal-earthquake-how-to-help/index.html

However we respond, however we choose to show our support, may it create a deep sense of, above all, above all nations, we are one global community. And in times of crisis, we could only be so fortunate for the world to respond to our personal need in the same way.

 

http://edition.cnn.com/2015/04/25/world/nepal-earthquake-how-to-help/index.html

 

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2015

 

 

 

ONE WORLD, ONE HURT, ONE HOPE


 

As the month of March began, the first anniversary of the disappearance of MH370 was just days away. One year on, not one concrete clue has emerged around what happened to the aircraft with its 239 souls on board. The one great aviation mystery of our generation still hangs heavy on our hearts and minds. One aircraft, one hurt, one enduring hope that maybe, just maybe, one day we will know…

Just a matter of days on, as the month has moved on, the eyes of the world were forced to suddenly shift. From Malaysia our eyes travelled to other points on the world map suddenly gripped by crisis. Often they were places unfamiliar to sight. Just this past weekend it was Vanuatu, a pure, picture-perfect, tiny island paradise forced into the headlines as  Tropical Cyclone Pam forced her way through, leaving a path of destruction and despair not seen since the tragedy of 2013’s Super Typhoon Haiyan in Tacloban. http://reliefweb.int/report/vanuatu/infographic-tropical-cyclone-pam-march-2015. At once, the world’s eyes watched with anxiousness, seeing the hurt, looking for the signs of hope.

And then suddenly, like the switching of a television channel, and in fact through the switching of a television channel or refresh of a webpage, the eyes of the world travelled from the South Pacific to North Africa. Tunisia, the nation seen as the single success story of the Arab Spring, shaken to its core by a brutal terror attack in Tunis, one carefully targeting a high profile centre of culture and tourism. A single blow hits at the hearts of Tunisians and several nations, as 23 lives are lost (as of 19 03 2015 count) including those of 18 foreign tourists. Horror where once there was such hope. Today, the day after the nightmare the day before, the shadows still block the sun, the darkness and fear thick. The threats of “more” echoing.

Again. And Again. And again.

As the 2015 calendar moves through the months ahead, again and again the world’s eyes will be shifting to new locations of loss, learning of places and people whose lives are suddenly left in one overwhelming state of shock. More prayers will be said. More sadness will be felt. One world….united by one hurt.

Yet despite, or maybe it is because of, all of the physical separation of geography, and often separation of ideology, an invisible yet powerful unification is taking place. One world’s shared hurt, one without borders, is emerging as one shared need to hold on to hope.

Hope – the innate, deeply rooted need to believe that tomorrow will be a better day. And with that, tomorrow our world will be a better, safer, kinder place.

Some call such hope ‘audacity‘, some ‘naïveté‘, some ‘impossibility‘, some a reflection of being out of touch with reality.

And yet, the human spirit continues to hope, turning to those right next to us and across the globe to fuel its ability to endure. Because it has to.

It might not be tomorrow, but soon, no question about it, something else will happen to shift out focus, to shake our faith. Something will scare our inner child.

In that moment, once again, we will be forced to dig deep, turning our shock and chilled states of heart into a glue that binds us all together with a need to believe that tomorrow, maybe tomorrow, we will be better. Our world will be safer. The sun will break through the cloud.

One world, with the remarkable ability to turn one hurt into one unextinguishable hope….with all of its beautiful, borderless, breathing easy, bonds.

 

 

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2015

 

BEING STILL TO TRAVEL BEYOND


 

With the world around us opening more and more each day to personal exploration through travel, a natural excitement and energy bubbles up in the hearts and minds of  passport, smartphone and credit card carrying nomads from far and wide. The ability to enter locations and lives, seeing sights, inhaling scents, and responding to smiles different from those of ‘home’, and gaining deeper understanding of not just other worlds but one’s worlds within – these are just some of the blessings of travel.

Yet, with all of the places to go, people to meet, foods to sample, handcrafts to purchase, views to absorb, photographs to post, and ticks to put against the lists, all too often the busy, busy pursuits of travel turns moments and memories into a blur. ‘Being there’ has become so packed with experiences to absorb, followed by a pressure to move on to make more memories happen, that all so easily it can result in missing out on making ‘real’ the here and now. The moments long dreamt of from afar continue to feel out there.

Sadly, the details that most deeply touch one’s heart and penetrate one’s memories, can become lost:

Listening to the lapping of water at the side of a boat as it sits peacefully on the waters of the Nile…

Spotting the tiny heads of Hype Park spring flowers courageously coming out of wintry ground in search of glimpses of sunshine even though the change of seasons is still weeks away…

Watching a local parent watching his young child carefully eat an ice cream cone, the little lad’s intensity of focus unwavering, unaware of the sweet mess looming…

Looking into the eyes of Luxor’s horses pausing for a break and brief feeding before their next guests arrive to be taken on a city tour via carriage…

Standing quietly in the darkness to find the faint yet formidable lines of the Great Pyramids of Giza, illuminated by a mere handful of stars above…

They are all out there. Tiny moments, precious moments, that bring to life dreams of travel.

For all of the picture-perfect images that can be captured by cameras, the perfect moments of travel go far beyond when they are captured by being still – listening to the silence as the scene is being absorbed. And feeling the heartbeat of the subject of one’s attention and affection, whether animate or not.

These are the lifelong, worldwide, travel inspired moments all around us, little gifts waiting to be uncovered each and every day.

There they are, to be discovered and held dear as deeply personal, favourite memories…..though only found and felt, by being still.

 

 

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2015

 

 

 

 

 

THE AWE OF OUR WORLD’S OPENING DOORS


 

Just 5 years ago it would have seemed beyond belief, beyond border approvals, beyond principle.

And then the world changed – Myanmar (Burma)’s doors of possibility – politically, economically, logistically, philosophically – were thrown open. For millions around the world, never in their lifetime did they expect to see the day that Aung San Suu Kyi would walk through her front door as a free woman. And for millions of travellers, never did they think they would be able to walk through Myanmar’s front door as a warmly welcomed visitor.

Yet today, just a matter of a 5 short years later, it is all possible.

And at this moment, it is happening with accelerated momentum and elevated excitement.

This week the ASEAN region’s leaders in tourism gather in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar’s capital, for the 2015 ASEAN Tourism Forum (ATF – http://www.atf-2015.com/). Ten economies making up one of the powerful growing regions in the world. Through the presence of the highest level of VVIP leadership from across the region – Hon. Ministers of Tourism from Thailand, Cambodia, Thailand, Japan, Laos, Indonesia and India, along with Vietnam, Brunei, China, Malaysia, the Philippines and others from across the region, accompanied by the UNWTO, WTTC and PATA, the future of regional tourism will be shaped.

Together they unite as leaders working in unity for collective, cooperative ASEAN growth and development rather that competition.

And together, they make clear their welcome Myanmar as one of the ASEAN community, one more nation and destination to benefit from the exemplary ‘all for one’ approach of ASEAN.

For all VVIP attendees at ATF – heads of tourism authorities, Government leaders in tourism, global and regional tourism bodies –  this year’s annual reunion of tourism leaders will be, as always, an opportunity to advance discussions and commitments around tourism sector enablement and empowerment. It will be a chance to check in with one’s neighbours, reflecting on the year just past, sharing insights, learnings, and personal favourite stories. Within professional associations and collaborations, personal relationships are embedded. It will also be, as always, a chance to recalibrate and ready for all that is ahead, defining opportunities, deciding shared programmes, and detailing areas of caution.

And yet, permeating through this year’s ATF will no doubt be, for all attendees across all elves and ASEAN nations, a quiet yet powerful sense of “We are in Myanmar!”

This deeply personal, yet collectively shared, sense of awe is what should always be paused, always be absorbed, never be forgotten.

The world in which we live today, as wide and fragmented and challenged and stuck and overwhelming as it may appear at times,  is changing every single moment. With these changes, doors are opening, eyes are opening, minds are opening, and hearts are opening!

We are here!

And because of this, our world is a place of blessed awe!

 

 

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2015

PRESSURE POINTS

 

To stand in a security line in any airport across the globe, between the period of December 16th and December 24th, is to feel the peak of pressure of a year gone by. Exponentially more people, going more places, in a rush, with stuff in tow, and little patience packed in carry-on. And nerves can be felt. People crowd, people get cross, patience thins and thins and thins. It is an annual event, a global migration of festive cheer yet chaos, a natural nomadic phenomena – we go excitedly to those we love, growling at those in between, too tired and tested to show consideration and compassion for strangers.

Peak travel period, peak pressure, a peak into how anxiously people across the globe look to travel to ensure their hope are realised. And yet we growl! The routine of lining up to remove laptops, belts, shoes, liquids – a routine experienced hundreds of times through the year, just becomes irritating. Especially when those in front become bottlenecks. The reality of the complexity of heightened levels of passengers, more and more parents with distracted little people and plenty of little bottles and other bits and pieces to place in bins, becomes magnified and unable to me pacified. The possibility of pausing and pulling back more and more unlikely.

Which is why…..

‘Tis the season to reboot.

It is these trying times that bring out our true colours – the softest and most sparkly as we so hope to share, and yet often the darkest and most prickly that can even give ourselves a scare.

It happens, it’s natural, and it’s ok….as long as it is corrected, with patience and ideally kindness, “I’m sorry / Please, you first / Can I help you” is all we need to say. As foreign as that thought may be in that deeply trying travel moment.

Our ability to go from here to there, from work to play, from laptops to loves ones, in one simple flash of an itinerary, is a remarkable thing. We all get to where we ultimately need to. And we are so blessed to do so. This gift is something never to be forgotten. Will the travel season be testing? Absolutely. Will we make it through unscathed? No question about it.

The trick to surviving the pressure of year-end, especially for the business/busyness nomads of the world? Exhale, remind oneself of the blessing of the here, now, where to next and why….and move forward.

However busy air traffic control, Santa never fails to deliver.

Merry travels to all, and to all a good flight.

 

 

 

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2014

LOVE IT. HATE IT. JUST PLEASE DO SOMETHING.

 

It has been called a stream of unflattering adjectives – “offensive”, “clumsy”, “patronising”, “self-indulgent”, “idiotic”. It has been called “un-African” and “inaccurate”.

What it has not been called, once, is “ineffective“.

Whatever Band Aid 30 is being called, what it unmistakable is that it is a calling. And the direct response to a call for help from the United Nations to Sir Bob Geldof as, desperately needing funds to step up the scale and scope of fight on Ebola’s epidemic spread across West Africa and the world, they knew their call would be answered. And it has been – quickly. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aUzHVIDCbMM#t=20 Within the first 24 hours of release, over 200,000 copies of the single were sold (at GBP 0.99/copy, which equates to US$ 1.55/copy), not to mention outright lump sum donations to the Band Aid 30 appeal (and others).

Still the firestorm around the song continues. As time passes, criticism grows, and adjectives become more fiery. But so too does the epidemic grow, and risk, and the losses, and the fear, and the heartache.

Energies and emotions are being pulled away from where focus needs to be – giving. As expressed by Forbes magazine, “Band Aid 30 backlash is fair, but damaging.”

As recently created by ONE, waiting is not an option, action is needed, now. http://act.one.org/sign/ebola_psa_us?source=twDC84511192014

Whatever the sentiment towards Band Aid 30, the fact remains is that it has raised huge awareness and emotion around the Ebola crisis, and once again shown how the global community can respond, immediately, whether with commentary of teary praise or attack.

Love it. Hate it. It’s not about the rights and wrongs of the lyrics. It’s not about the musicians. It’s not about supporting one side of the argument or the other.

Whatever the judgement of the song, credit where due – the donations are happening. It’s about the call. And our ability to respond to the call, helping to bring the epidemic to an end by hitting the ‘Donate” button on websites taking part in the fight against Ebola.

Love it. Hate it. Just please click here: http://www.msf.org/donate

 

 

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2014

AS ONE STAR FALLS, ANOTHER RISES

 

Slowly, methodically, thoughtfully, she reads out, word by word, punctuation by punctuation, her analysis of the past seven months.

Without pressure or prejudice, she takes her time to make certain her thought process, her reason for awaited final words, are clear. Knowing full well the overwhelming weight of her words, on her shoulders, and on the country, she focuses on what will most likely be her career’s most important and remembered moments. In her written words, she is also writing her history.

The thickness of silence of those watching in the courtroom, and the millions holding their breathe watching through televisions, tablets and other tech across the world, is deafening. Her judgement, her singularly determined sentencing, will have ripples across the lives of millions.

She is Judge Thokozile Masipa, “My Lady” to millions following one of 2014, and the sporting world’s, most high profile and heartbreaking cases.

Front and centre, the accused. A broken man, a shattered icon, a fallen star – Oscar Pistorius

Surrounding him, families whose lives have also been broken, one losing their daughter Reeva because of his actions….another losing their son Oscar, again because of his own actions. There have been countless casualties coming out of that tragic moment that early morning of Valentine’s Day 2013 – broken hearts, broken hopes, broken futures.

Still, with intense presence and grace she sits, up above the courtroom, concentrating on her words and the comprehension of same by those around her. Unswayed by the hectic media interest glued to her every breathe, the harrowing task of determining the fate of a now-fallen South African hero, and unprecedented high profile of the case, Judge Masipa found a centre ground between a complex array of extremes: celebrity and community, past fame and future pain, lost and losing, hurt and healing. Remarkably, a centre ground accepted as justice servedby the families on both sides of the spectrum.

So many things could have gone wrong. So many accusations could have been made. So many concerns were voiced upfront as the trial began. Racism. Celebrity. Favour. Unfairness.

And yet now, as the nation and world look forward, with Oscar Pistorius serving the beginnings of his 5year jail sentence, the sadness of a role model now jailed is lessened by the reality of a new role model who has emerged for the nation to embrace as a source of pride, inspiration and identity: Judge Masipa.

With her own remarkable story of faith, vision and determination, she too has become reason to believe in  South Africa as a place of miracles, making the impossible possible, as captured in CNN’s profile of her life, http://edition.cnn.com/video/data/2.0/video/world/2014/09/10/pkg-curnow-judge-profile.cnn.html

As one star burns out, another rises and shines brightly.

And as the first anniversary of President Mandela’s passing nears, in Judge Masipa the signs are strong that his legacy is still, thankfully, alive.

 

 

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2014

 

EVERYONE IS SOMEONE

 

“Welcome to ____, Helen Mirren.”

Those were the words making their way across the radio to thousands of listeners across the city early one morning while they quietly made their way to work. Words meant to fill listeners with a sense of pride and curiosity around the visiting VIP. Words being shared even before the city’s arriving guest had even made it to her hotel.

Before she could even get out of the airport her photo was out, shared to many a friend and follower through Instagram and Facebook, caveated that she was sans makeup (no doubt as an overnight flight). With best of intent, the radio announcer as wishing to welcome the VIP guest to the city.

However….

In doing so, and as welcoming as the radio announcer may have been wishing to be, in an instant the potential private get-away of a public face was ended. Anonymity was no longer. Privacy was past tense.

The social media age in which we live today is an incredibly exciting, engaging one. It allows people near and far to ‘connect’ in ways never experiences before – geographically, emotionally, ideologically, instantly.

Suddenly a mobile device becomes power in one’s hands.

And with this great power, as the credo goes, comes great responsibility. Thoughts suddenly need to be entertained, with oneself, centered around one question: “is it ok?”

Privacy vs exposure

Celebrity vs anonymity

Restriction vs entitlement

Which begs the question: does owning a camera mean it is acceptable to access another person’s personal space?

There is no external, single answer. This is an internal question that one needs to work through, for oneself. From both sides – as the onlooker, and as the subject. How would one feel if the tables were turned?

As social media embeds itself in the lives and lifestyles of the global community, with it will emerge mindfulness and manners. And with that will come a fascinating new global ‘code’.

Still, at the essence of ‘social’, be it within the media context or otherwise, is people coming together. When temptation sets in to capture a moment, any moment, as with all human engagement, the question to be taken to heart should ultimately be: ‘is it bringing us closer together, or pushing is apart?’

Whether subject or observer everyone is someone, of worth, of importance.

And deserving of respect of face, place and space.

 

 

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2014

 

A WORLD OF CHOICES FOR SOUND, AND SILENCE

 

Every day for the past several weeks, the headlines have been beyond fiction. Wars flare up despite the 100th anniversary of WWI urging us to never forget the costs of war, aircraft fall from the sky victims of wrong place/wrong time at a time when even air air has lost its purity of place, and a deadly, invisible force now takes the lives of hundreds upon hundreds with just one tiny drop of its terrifyingly rapid viral reach.

How can it be these are the times we are living in?

How can it be this is the degree of uncivilised behaviour 21st Century civilisation is willing and able to show.

And how can it be that this is how we showcase how close the world has brought us together through technology, through aviation, through the basic desire to connect?

The reality is so raw. How remarkably far away from one another we seem to be in times when information, technical innovation and imagination are seemingly working so much harder to inspire and excite us to come closer.

And then more news breaks….a beloved artist’s life comes to an early end, his laughter, and his ability to create laughter, is eclipsed by the horror of his aloneness. And now the world cries.

How do we make such choices of when to come together, and when to look away? How do we hold our focus when sometimes what we see, and feel, is so overwhelming, ‘out there’ not only in physical geography but in the emotional. There is just so much to absorb…

And still more will happen, more choices will need to be made.

For all that we are able to see, all we are able to say, and the silence we are so often left with, may our silence be as embracing of those in need as our audible expressions of support.

And may all, everywhere, find rest in peace.

 

 

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2014

KEEPING THE DRAMA ON THE PITCH

 

The 2014 FIFA World Cup (FWC) is now past. The global grip of the Games is released!

In classic World Cup style, the world’s top tier competition of the beautiful game brought player and fan energy to a fever pitch, with seconds becoming the turning points between dream and devastation. For a period of one month, billions of people were united by one focus, one remarkable force, one spontaneous question: “did you see the game?”

As expected, host nation Brasil shocked the world. But not with its playing prowess. Sadly it was its painful defeat, painfully early and goal-divide embarrassingly defeat, defying pre-Games predictions of home soil advantage and triumph. Likewise other leading football nations, the first upset of the tournament being the reigning champions, Spain, being forced to leave the event early, far too early, with heads heavily bowed.

On the flipside, the unexpected awe to created by otherwise unwatched Croatia as they score the first goal of the 2014 Championships over host country team Brasil, and the fierce fight put up by team USA as they joined the field of the world’s finest, performing with remarkable determination worthy of standing ovation, even if not able to stand up to their ultimate rivals to get past the round of 16 and onto the top of the tournament. Countless goals, moments and memories unfolded over the duration of the tournament across the 32 nations of football heroes, to make 2014’s FWC one for the history books.

And with Germany proving to be the champions this time ’round, bringing the finals to an exhaustive yet exhilarating close, FIFA, Brasil, and the global football community can be congratulated for bringing the world together – sports fans and curious spectators standing by, sworn followers and otherwise strangers, all nations, all backgrounds, all electrified by the build-up and the bonding caused by the truly beautiful game.

Yet, sadly, as seems to be the case with megaevents around the world, off-the-field drama eclipsed, in so many ways and at so many stages, focus on the real stars of the events – the athletes.

In the build-up to the 2014 FWC, even into the early hours of the tournament, other issues shifted attention away from the players from the exceptional capabilities and determination of 32 national teams. Arriving into Brasil with deflated levels of applause, athletes need to wait until political, protestor and other pre-event storms have passed before the sun could shine on them. Once momentum of the matches could be felt, challenges on the field took over from challenges off, thought he latter were never far from the focus of FWC critics. The 2014 FWC was not the first time this has happened. In 2014 alone, it has happened in Russia with the Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games, and now in Brasil, with the FIFA World Cup.

What is happening to these once globally unifying forces of the human spirit? When did the beautiful game lose so much of its beauty?

When did our love for the athletes become the afterthought?

Issues need their focus, points need to be made by those feeling a need to have their voices heard.

But there needs to be a way to allow these two forces to coexist, so that the years of blood, sweat, tears, training and dreaming invested by the athletes, not to mention the efforts invested by those supporting them, can be honoured.

Are mega-events worth it? Can there ever be a calculation that yields an acceptable ROI?

With an estimated total of 3.4 million people attending matches at the stadiums and a further 5 million people at the Fan Fests:, the 2014 FWC’s twelve host cities are projected to have seen over 1 million international tourists and over 3 million domestic tourists over the duration of the tournaments. Such is the post-Games calculation made by Brasil’s Ministry of Tourism. The estimated impact of the 2014 FWC on Brasil’s economy?  Recent study  by the Economic Research Institute Foundation (FIPE) estimates  that the sum of public and private investments in infrastructure was BRL$ 9.1 billion/US$ 4.1 billion. Direct spending by local tourists is estimated at BRL$ 346 million/US$ 146 million and foreign tourists BRL$ 102 million/US$ 46 million, and investments by the Local Organising Committee (LOC) on the 2014 Games BRL$ 311 million/US$ 140 million.

Some projections of earnings are even higher. As stated by VISA early on into the tournament,: “During the four-day opening period of the tournament (June 12 – June 15, 2014), Visa found that international visitors spent more than US$27M on their Visa accounts. This represents a 73 percent increase over the same four-day period in 2013. Visitors from the United States, followed by the United Kingdom, France, and Mexico represented the largest overall tourist spend in Brazil during the four-day period. On Saturday, June 14, 2014 alone international travelers to Brazil spent more than US$10.7M using Visa products. This was the highest tourist spend day in the country in 2014.”

Even richer than the gains in earnings are the gains in what sadly cannot be quantified, yet we know is invaluable – the return on inspiration.

Megaevents such as the FIFA World Cup and Olympic Games have the ability to yank the global community out of the “I” and into the “we“. National flags transcend individual identity in a way that no religion, no politics, no other force can.

And in so doing, it ignites a flame of hope that maybe, just maybe, we can rise above our differences at a common time to find a common love, common goal, common good.

As the 2014 FWC champions now take the trophy home to Germany for proud, celebrated safe-keeping, and attention shifts to Russia in anticipation of preparations for the 2018 FWC (though with Rio remaining on the radar for the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games), somehow we need to find a way to allow social and political issues to be aired without taking the air out of the purpose of the Games themselves.

Somehow, hopefully soon, expressions of challenge around issues, organisers and activations need to find their rightful place within the greater mega-event infrastructure, keeping the playing fields open to drama of only the finest sporting kind.

 

 

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2014