In just over one hour the first whistle will blow on the 2010 FIFA WORLD CUP in South Africa. Finally, following 12 years of visioning, 6 years of organisation, an estimated US$ 4 billion in direct capital investment, selection of 32 international teams, and millions of man-hours of preparations, KE NAKO – it’s time!
And for 49 million people, with the world watching alongside, a life-long dream will come true.
For South Africa the hosting of the 2010 FIFA World Cup has been a remarkable project. Packaged as an international Mega-event, the 2010 Games are the greatest single injection of investment the nation has seen since its liberation in 1994. A national upgrade programme, the 2010 Games demanded that the country get to work, ensuring that the fundamentals were well in place to host the largest, most watched sporting event on Earth. Estimates of investment levels vary – there are as many projections as opinions.
SA2010.GOV.ZA predicted in late 2009: “Before adding new stadiums in Cape Town and Durban, the original estimate was $295 million. Don’t be surprised it at the end of the day, it’s a lot more than the £3.7 billion.”
In early 2010 the Government’s total contribution to infrastructure and stadiums stood at R17.4 billion. Of this:
- R9 billion was allocated towards transport and supporting infrastructure
- R8,4 billion funded the building of five new World Cup stadiums and the upgrading another five
In addition to World Cup infrastructure projects, funding has also been channeled towards non-infrastructure projects – sports and recreation programmes, arts and culture programmes, policing, emergency medical services and telecommunications upgrades. The source of these massive funds? The people of South Africa, through the National government, though these will be supplemented by contributions from provincial government, local government and other private sector and investment partners.
Immense amounts of investment, in a nation hungry for the foundations of a nation in rebuilding mode.
So why make such an investment into what could be simply a tourism event? Why not hospitals, and schools, and utilities? Why this, now? Why, where there are so many risks of “I told you so!” if something goes wrong?
Because of what we will build beyond 2010, once the Games have ended, champions been crowned, fans departed and stadium lights turned off. We know there will be red ink when it comes time to balance expenses vs. earnings. The global economic recession, troubles with games and airline tickets, accommodation challenges. There will be losses. There will be questions re. viability. There will be questions re. R.O.I.
But there is one more important question which a nation needs to ask when weighing up the pros and cons of massive Tourism investment, especially in Mega-Events:
“WHAT IF WE HADN’T?”
Think about it. What if, on May 15th, 2004, South Africa had not been awarded 2010 World Cup host nation status?
Or if Beijing had not been awarded hosting of the 2008 Olympic Games?
Or India the 2010 Commonwealth Games?
What would we see? Today, six years on, would we actually see any difference to the day before?
And considering the job and earnings losses caused by the global economic crisis, would we have endured had we not had the 2010 Games to deliver on?
As recently expressed by Dr Laurine Platzky, Deputy Director-General, 2010 FIFA World Cup Coordinator in the Department of the Premier, in the Western Cape (home of host city Cape Town) in a speech at the book launch of the new, iconic CT Stadium:
“Imagine if we had not had the World Cup. Would we by now have housed and employed all the people in the city? Would we, with all those billions spent on the World Cup, instead have educated all our children, fed the hungry and restructured our city – probably not because we would still have been arguing on how to do it all. Forgive me but without a tight deadline, budget and dedicated teams of skilled people, structural change is not possible. Nothing like time and money to focus the mind. “
What if we hadn’t?
- What would our streets look like?
- What would our airports, stadia, telecomms, security and transport systems look like?
- What would our society look like?
- How would our future be different?
- How would the world look at us?
- How would we look at ourselves?
- And how would we feel when we look at our flag?
The calculation of the ROI of Tourism Investment, be it a major event, a major development or a major campaign, includes a number of metrics. And not all of them are numbers, quantitative, black & white.
The challenges are leverage, legacy and linkages. And they are for each and every national to make ‘work’ to ensure that the Games truly work for the nation.
To soundbyte South Africa at this precise moment would be a cocktail of the deafening sound of the vuvuzelas, the magnificent flashes of colour from the waving flags, the pure tears of anticipation as the clock counts down, the global headlines already announcing South Africa’s readiness to welcome the world…and the world’s readiness to welcome South Africa. And there is still one hour before kick-off of Game #1.
These are the moments which inspire belief, inspire relook, inspire future visitation, inspire confidence in the possibility of growth and development, and inspire future investment.
They are not defining moments, they are RE-defining moments.
But what if South Africa hadn’t?
It’s hard to even imagine.
Just as the feeling in the hearts of South Africans, here in South Africa and across the world, right now, could ever have been.
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2010
Aerial views of the world are always so incredibly inspiring. A wide-angle lens has the ability to turn our world into a textural canvas of wonder. A spectrum of colour arranged in combinations reflecting both courage and care in creation, looking ‘at’ soon turns to looking ‘within’. Blues dancing with greens, browns breaking through bands of white. Mountain ranges, seascapes, cloud formations, carpets of desert, endless beauty. Together these are the landscapes which form the greater masterpiece of the globe. Such views inspire vision, inspire faith, inspire respect and appreciation. To see the world in its pure, untouched glory inspires the purest of smiles.
Though sadly, at this very moment an aerial view of the world – the Gulf of Mexico in particular – would inspire a desire to look away. First in shock. Then in sadness. Ultimately in quiet shame.
Over a once-perfect canvas, blues now are broken by clawing bands of black, darkness swallowing up the bright. Each and every day the claws of blackness are reaching wider, creeping nearer and nearer to the green.
It started just over twenty days ago. A massive oil rig commissioned by a massive international oil company seeking energy to feed the world’s massive hunger for black gold set out on a massive operation. A small black dot of an event on the regional map, indistinguishable by the naked eye. Out of the blue an explosion lit the sky with towering flames of red and smoke clouds of black. Something had gone horribly wrong. Initial calculations – eleven lives lost. The ache life changing for all involved: families, colleagues, onlookers.
Such loss of man in man’s quest for what more there is to be found. All that was left were endless flows of tears.
And then the spillover of the tragedy – it was not only tears flowing. So too was crude oil. Massive amounts of it, oozing out from a leak in a pipe on the floor of the Gulf, flooding oil straight into the Gulf of Mexico, unstoppably. And with it, more loss of life. Little lives – feathery lives, furry lives, jelly lives, shelled lives, tens of thousands of little lives. Lives lost which broke through the corporate oil company headlines and made it possible for the world to not only see the impact of our efforts to master the world, but to feel the impact.
At this stage, over three weeks on, calculations are unattainable as the impact of the spill is exponential. Current estimates state up to 200 gallons per day, and still leaking. Ominous black dread. The costs have been, and continue to be, massive. The black spot on our waters unforgiving, untamable, unstoppable.
One of the reasons for the inability to calculate the damage has been the ever-growing increase in the number of spheres of impact, including:
Obviously, from the accident itself:
- Losses of Oil, from the leak
- Losses of Revenue, from the wasted oil
- Losses of Money, from the clean-up
- Losses of corporate Brand equity
But more importantly, from the growing oil slick and contamination of waters:
- Losses of Aquaculture
- Losses of Tourism industry activity
- Losses of Natural Environment
- Losses of Earnings and Jobs, of those dependent on the Gulf for livelihoods
- Losses of Political focus, from the emergence of crisis
- Losses of federal Funds, diverted towards clean-up efforts and compensation / support / economic restimulation of those places effected
Sadly this catastrophe has begun to show signs of a campaign, even before there are signs of repair and recovery. In the US it is being referred to as “Obama’s Katrina”. Creative questions have been raised regarding whether this was in fact a conspiracy. Sadly such creativity of thought in the political space is not being applied where it is most desperately needed – in the scientific space seeking solutions urgently required to stop the leak, contain the spill and save the Gulf. And seeking safe, truly sustainable forms of energy, for the better of all lives, including the little, voiceless ones.
As Ted Turner, the courageous and visionary founder of CNN, recently questioned in an interview with the network: how is it possible that on the same day that we launch a rocket into space we cannot plug the hole?
Because soon, in the thick of all of the oil globules sinking to the bottom of the Gulf and in the thick of all of the debate regarding blame, the little heartbeats of the little lives underwater will stop…all while the oil continues to flow.
Ultimately, the events in the Gulf of Mexico poses a critical question: when it comes to sustainable energy, where should we be applying our energies?
From every direction the current situation in the Gulf of Mexico it is an absolute mess. Industrially, politically, economically, socially, philosophically, environmentally. An aerial view alone shows what a profound dark spot this mess will leave on our record as a civilisation seeking to find a better way to create the future, to move forward.
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2010
Sitting in Africa’s largest airport, JNB, waiting to board a flight to the USA (LAX) thankfully via the Middle East (DXB), there is a strange sense in the air. A feeling not usually felt by air travellers embarking on a journey. A feeling magnified by the television in the lounge providing news updates from the UK on the latest from European airspace: “thank Heavens my flight is leaving!”
Why such inner relief? Why feeling so thankful for being able to do what has become an expectation – book, buy, board, fly? Because across the globe, since the third eruption of a volcano named Eyjafjallajokull far far north in Iceland, planes and passengers from America to Australia have been grounded. Mother Nature has spoken and sent us back to our rooms.
As a result, since April 14th, dismay has spread across airports and airlines as wide as plumes of volcanic ash. While NASA imagery showed the extent of the grey area, for aviation experts across the world there was no grey area – there was simply no way flights could continue into and out of the region.
The call was made. The engines were switched off. The departure boards translated ‘Cancelled’ into as many languages were required to alert passengers across the waiting world. Anywhere and everywhere. And the watching world taken through a 101 on the impact of ash on aircraft windscreens and engines.
As has become a pattern since the beginning of the decade, once again we are experiencing an event beyond fiction and imagination. Another event which has had us stuck in thought wondering, with furrowed brows, “but how could that happen?” Once again we have been shown that acts of God will always, always trump acts of technology, innovation and bravado.
And once again we have been reminded of just how much we have come to take for granted.
Global air travel, getting from A to B when and how one wishes, has become an expectation. Our awe has shifted from the power of flight to the power of in-flight entertainment. Our ability to come and go as we please / need absolutely has enhanced the reach, productivity and joy of our lives. To be able to board a flight, fall asleep, and wake in another culture, time zone and state of mind is a gift. Even for those who spend more time up at 35k than in their local gym, it is a gift. Often a favourite space. Air travel has become a true enhancement to quality life.
And so, to be grounded is to be stunted, practically and emotionally. Not to mention financially.
At present losses to Airlines are estimated – on a daily basis – to be:
- 66% of European Flights
- 180 Transatlantic flights
- 28,000 flights
- $ 200 million dollars
as well as prompting declines in share prices of +/- 3%.
This does not even take into account the losses in revenues and productivity for business and export.
But what must not be overlooked is the loss which takes place in, for lack of better words, heart. Moments lost, personal moments of meaning, due to lack of mobility. This article has in fact been inspired by a Client who is currently stuck in JFK, desperately trying to get back to the UK since the end of the week, in order to stand beside his brother at the end of the aisle, as Best Man. The Best Man’s wedding speech will now be an email transmission. The day will be a series of photographs. The heartbreak enduring.
Would I exchange my ticket to enable his flight? In a heartbeat.
As the days ahead unfold and the aviation skies into and out of Europe open up once more, may we not lose the sense of blessing each time we board. Our movement is now part of our identity…
Time to board.
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2010
Throughout the calendar year, throughout the world, nations stop to mark days of significance – moments in time of the creation of the history of a nation, shaping the lives, lifestyles, values and future vision of its people.
Public Holidays. Days of national ‘pause’. Days meant for national reconnection to history, to meaning, to one another. Days where events are organised to celebrate, to commemorate, to reflect and to refocus.
Days to be still, because it is important to be aware.
Sadly, however, the business and busy-ness of everyday life has turned public holidays into simply days off. Dates on the calendar set aside for national/cultural/religious observance have become opportunities for people to get personal stuff done. To get some rest. To get things in order for when the pause button is released.
When the day arrives, however, we are reminded of the reason for the occasion…and often humbled by its depth of meaning. How could it’s original, collective intent have been lost by immediate, personal priorities? How could its purpose have been taken for granted? Especially when public holidays are set aside to ensure that the story of the history of a nation is shared generation after generation, by each and every person who is a stitch in the fabric of the nation.
Almost every nation in the world can look at its annual calendar and identity two to three public holidays set aside to bookmark important chapters of the story of the evolution of the country – as a place, as a people, as a spirit…and as hosts to travellers to our land who often arrive because of the remarkable stories of our past, and how they shape our future.
In losing the meaning behind public holidays, are we losing the importance of the storytelling?
One of the world’s strongest examples of the usage of public holidays as active, on-going reminders of the story of a nation’s progress is the re-structured calendar of South Africa.
On its liberation in 1994, then President Mandela and the national congress felt it imperative that the people of the new South Africa, and the people of the world, never forget all that the nation fought – the moments which shaped the stories of the struggle, important footprints along its long walk to freedom.
As a result seven new national public holidays were created, making it possible for South Africans (and its visitors) to come together throughout the year to mindfully salute and celebrate all that took place to take the nation forward.
- March 21st: Human Rights Day – created to ensure that the people of South Africa are aware of their human rights and need to continuously honours and protect same.
- April 27th: Freedom Day – celebrating the first democratic elections held in 1994 and the nation’s new constitution of 1997.
- May 1st: Worker’s Day – commemorating the importance of workers and trade unions
- June 16th, Youth Day, honouring the young people lost in the struggle against Apartheid and Bantu Education
- August 9th: National Women’s Day – honouring the critical role which women played in keeping the struggle alive, and the importance of continuing to protect women as part of South Africa’s strength and future
- September 24th: Heritage Day – celebrating the nation’s diversity of cultures, customs, traditions, histories, and languages
- December 16th: Day of Reconciliation – a day to collectively, as a nation, reflect on the need to rise above conflicts of the past and continue to work together to build a new nation.
Still, dates on a calendar do not guarantee days of purposeful pause. Stories are words on the pages of a book until warm hands and hearts begin the storytelling.
The political leadership of a nation, particularly those in the Tourism sector, are perfectly positioned to be carriers of the stories which showcase the nation to its people and its visitors. With their profile and platform, leaders are able to ensure that understanding, appreciation and active commemoration occur, annually, with inspiration.
But this requires overt, organised and official commitment – commitment to lifting the dates off the calendar and into the hearts and minds of people, at home and across the world.
Interestingly, in making such a commitment the nation also makes it possible to create a new bouquet of traveller experiences. Through turning historical, cultural and religious public holidays into events, events which become national times of unity and celebration (whilst maintaining the essence of their meaning), a rich array of new tourism experience development opportunities are created to grow both international and domestic traveller numbers.
A natural Tourism sector growth opportunity.
But more importantly, a mechanism to keep the important stories of a nation alive.
And turning storytelling into a strategic lever for destination growth and development – in spirit, in unity, and in visitor numbers.
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2010
Across the globe the Travel & Tourism (T&T) sector has become recognised as a powerful vehicle for building economies, societies, and futures. Through the sector a destination – city, nation, region – can be joined through a shared vision, identity and sense of purpose to open its doors to travellers of the world. In sector building is nation building.
Sadly, sometimes this building needs to occur from the ground up.
January 12th, 2010. Haiti. A new year. New hopes, new aspirations, new energy, new opportunity. But then the Earth shook. And in 10 seconds the nation’s capital came falling to the ground. Buildings collapsed onto the lives of the Haitian people. Over 200,000 souls were taken by the earthquake, leaving behind millions of lives broken to rubble. All in just ten seconds.
Almost as immediately the global community turned its eyes and hearts to Haiti. Aid workers and funds started to pour in. In a spirit reflecting the times in which we now live, actions spoke clearly that we are one world, facing this crisis as one. With Haiti the world gasped, the world grieved, the world gathered to help break through the rubble to set free those still holding on to life. And the world started thinking of how to rebuild the future of the Haitian people and their homeland.
At the top of the list of ways to enable Haiti to rise again was the T&T sector.
The Island nation, already known and experienced as a destination for sun seeking travellers, has the potential to be rebuilt to once again welcome back those who, through their spending could in fact help rebuild the nation, tourism sector and beyond. T&T can have a very real role to play in lifting the structures, systems and spirits of Haiti, rebuilding off of a solid, safe, secure and sustainable base.
In addition, the process of rebuilding the sector will open up meaningful opportunities for Haitians to work, and therefore earn, again. This re-activation of the cycle of engagement, employment, earning and spending would allow the ripples of economic activity to spread stronger and wider.
Sounds like a plan.
Rebuilding Haiti through rebuilding the T&T sector is indeed a powerful, achievable vision. With it, however, needs to be sensitivity. With all building sites comes the risk of locals getting hurt, in ways completely unintended.
A nation reengineering as a T&T destination, even with the greatest of humanitarian intent in the mortar of each building to be constructed, needs to ensure that the building of a tourism sector reflective of the needs and wishes of tourists is also sensitive to the needs and wishes of the locals of the destination itself. For to build a tourism industry for the needs of visitors without being cognisant of the needs of the people of Haiti will risk severe damage.
For a local who has lost everything as a result of natural disaster (or even man made crisis) to see hotels rising and yet no homes, resorts and yet no road works, water sports & scuba centers and yet no schools, meeting places and yet no medical facilities…even if all of the development is being put in place to improve the lives of the local people through T&T, the investment into T&T will risk actually alienating the local people.
If it appears that the focus of rebuilding is on tourists, and not the people of the destination, a very natural of reaction of “what about me?” can be expected…thus creating animosity and anger towards the industry – and travellers.
By no means should of areas devastated by disaster look away from the T&T sector. Quite the contrary – the sector can in fact act as a valuable force for rebuilding of the infrastructure and economy of the destination. And the spirit of the people. There is so much good that can and will come from the T&T sector taking an active, upfront role in destination rebuilding.
The sector must simply ensure that the bigger picture is always kept firmly at the forefront of planning:
• Sharing the new vision for the destination – and its benefits for the people of the destination – with the people of the destination
• Involving the people of the destination in destination design and development
• Addressing fundamental needs of the people of the destination into integrated destination development plans.
As T&T works to build a world bringing travellers closer to global destinations, so too should the sector work to bring people of the destination closer to global tourism.
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2010
Mega events – large scale activations of sports, cultural, religious or other gatherings of people from across the globe at a single location at a set point in time – are massive drivers of Travel & Tourism (T&T) sector growth.
Major events are a powerful means of fueling growth in the key areas of T&T sector development and measurement. These include, to name but a few,:
- Increase in Arrivals
- Stimulation of Traveller Activity
- Increase in Yield
- Stimulation of Investment
- Stimulation of Employment and Skills Development
- Flattening of Seasonality Curves
- Increase in Destination Competitiveness
- Building of the Destination Brand
- Increase in Tourism Sector Structure, Stability and Impact
- Building of Legacy
2010 is set to be a year of exceptional Mega-events. Starting with the Winter Olympic Games in Canada in February the year will unfold in a series of major events opening up major opportunity for destinations. Other Mega-events include: the FIFA World Cup in South Africa (June & July); the Commonwealth Games in India (October); the World Exhibition in Shanghai, China (May to October).
To successfully pull off a major event can be, however, an event. An enormous investment of time, energy, commitment and spirit are required by the people of the destination over and above the massive investment of funding.
This applies particularly to the people directly involved in Mega-event preparations of infrastructure and communications to ensure the event is truly a success, in the moment and long after from a legacy perspective.
Case in point: the 2010 FIFA WORLD CUP in South Africa.
Since that magic moment on May 15th, 2004 when FIFA President Sepp Blatter opened the envelope to reveal South Africa had finally been awarded Host Country status the nation has been hard at work. The 2010 Local Organising Committee under the strong leadership of Dr Danny Jordaan has worked tirelessly with FIFA, South African Government and Private sector stakeholders to ensure that the Games happen in a way which redefines success:
- delivering a world-class FIFA World Cup with South African spirit and style,
- shifting and uplifting global understanding and perceptions of South Africa as a leading global nation, truly alive with possibility and committed to delivery,
- showing South Africans that, when working together, they are one team, one goal, one pride, one force for positive shared change
- leaving a lasting legacy which all South Africans can benefit from
National airports, host city stadiums, rapid transport lines, broadcasting centers, road systems, telecomms cabling – the nation became a focused, deadline-watching construction site, aligning efforts and hopes of the people of the country and, interestingly, providing a degree of employment and investment insulation to the impact of the economic downturn of 2009.
While the Games officially begin mid-2010 with the blowing of the first whistle on June 11th, 2010, delivery of the Mega-event has already begun.
On December 04th, 2009 the FINAL DRAW took place in Cape Town (one of the official Host Cities of the 2010 Games) – the critical appetiser event to the main course of the 2010 Games where the final fixtures were determined for the Games: who plays who, where, when. As the world’s football VIPs descended on Cape Town, the world’s media set its cameras firmly in place on the city and venue to ensure that over 200 million football lovers across the world had a front seat at this critical pre-event event.
Recognising what was at stake for the Host City and South Africa in terms of exposure, expectation and expertise, the 2010 delivery community worked tirelessly to ensure delivery excellence. From Dr Jordaan and his 2010 LOC leadership team, to CT Host City government officials from the Office of the Premier to the local Tourism authorities, to ACSA (Airports Company South Africa) teams, the leadership team of the CT International Convention Centre, SAPS (South African Police Services) and other critical stakeholders… every effort and ounce of energy was applied towards ensuring this moment of truth became a positive, inspiring moment for the nation’s and continent’s history books as South Africa staged a dress rehearsal for Africa’s first ever FIFA World Cup.
Visitors from across the country and world arriving into the shiny, stylish, newly-upgraded, magnificently reopened CT International Airport experienced their first moment of Host City awe. The awe continued on first sight of the iconic, elegant CT Stadium (which officially handed over the keys to the Mayor of CT just a few days after the Final Draw marking ahead-of-schedule completion of the Host City’s pride and joy). Within the city of CT itself the feeling of pride and anticipation of all Capetonians was electric, climaxing in a 20,000+ strong street party just outside the FINAL DRAW venue. The event itself, executed with cutting-edge technology and theatrical capability within the CTICC, went without a hitch – the links held and the media world was fed with footage. For the entire week media coverage captured build-up to the FINAL DRAW. The world’s news leader, CNN, brought its sports journalism and production best to CT to set up camp and cameras to capture, through the week, around the clock, around the city and around the world, the scope of sporting and human interest stories associated with the 2010 Games and Friday’s draw.
Exceptional, endless, effectively invisible commitment all around. Because the reality is this: while the world saw FINAL DRAW red carpets and on-stage razzmatazz, these unsung heroes working behind the scenes saw little sleep, little TLC and little applause. And they did not seek to. Their efforts were focused on something so much bigger – a sense of purpose.
At the close of the FINAL DRAW, while FIFA and the world praised South Africa’s hosting of the event with great success – and without incident – these remarkable, invisible event delivery teams quietly popped champagne corks amongst themselves, enjoying a private and intimate celebration.
Still, these unsung heroes across the list of acronyms and accountabilities deserve the awareness and appreciation of the people following the event, at home and across the world.
This principle applies not just to the 2010 FINAL DRAW, but to each and every Mega-event which takes place in the 2010 FIFA WORLD CUP. And, importantly, every major event in the world.
To move on too quickly to the next To-Do would be a great shame as the spirit of the moment would be lost forever.
Tourism is an exceptional sector. It is fueled by not only strategies and sizable budgets, but also people who work beyond measure, more often than not invisibly, to ensure that their destination is showcased and celebrated as a prelude to creating a safe, stable, sustainable and strongly admired place which they can proudly call ‘home’.
These unsung heroes are all around us. We know exactly who they are and the enormous difference they continue to make. Find them, celebrate them. Do not let their moment to shine, the moment to sing their praises, the moment to pause and feel deeply why we love what we do, pass by.
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2010
A new year is unfolding. Thankfully.
2009 is officially closed.
A clean slate allowing us all to reflect, re-focus, re-plan, re-dream.
Still, while the recession of 2009 may also now be defined, statistically, as over, allowing the global economy to exhale deeply and look forward with renewed hope,
the deep scars of the emotional recession still linger.
Holiday periods to close off 2009 and welcome in the new year have been needed, helpful,
But much healing is still to occur.
And it goes beyond the balance sheets.
In one year so much has been lost.
But also legends, and leaders,
Heroes and homes,
Respect for governance and regard for greatness,
Rights for security and responsibility for stability,
role models and the belief systems,
so many of the fundamentals we as a global community needed to have trust and confidence in or futures, individually and collectively.
So much happened, so much beyond belief.
Our fast-forward techno-savvy lives cannot simply fast forward into 2010.
Putting the past behind us. Closing the files. It’s not that easy.
To fast forward with haste would be to fail to take the learnings we need to build a tomorrow stronger than today.
Because still there are fears. Fears of double dips and more pink slips.
Fears which defuse consumer and investor confidence critical to economic recovery.
So, with all the best of intentions and business plans, how do we move forward?
Genuinely reemerging in 2010 in a way which is informed and inspired?
By returning to the fundamentals – the things which truly matter.
The world is curious
The world is connected
And the world is excited to keep moving.
Now is the time for courage.
And for calling on “our better angels”.
In just a few hours timezones around the world will be ringing in the new year.
2009 will be closed.
A busy year, a noisy noisy year,
A year with so much of the world on the move.
Soon it will all be hushed…
Silence. Stillness. A global holding-of-breath.
And then, in the quiet of night as fireworks turn to fading sparkles,
the page will turn,
ending a chapter full of words, edits, scribbles and bold punctuation,
revealing 365 blank pages to be written upon.
Clean new pages – rich, textureful parchment lying still. Sharp black ink waiting patiently.
The next pages of the story.
The gift which each new year brings to a world, connected.
Happy New Year.
A mere matter of days ago the world was looking forward to a global exhale. Word was spreading in speed and volume that the worst of 2009’s global economic crisis may, just may, be over. The time had come to shift into cautious, reconstruction mode of our wounded economies and societies. Much to reflect on. Much to learn from. Much to be grateful for. Many reason to keep praying.
In Mecca the Haj had just concluded, bringing together in body and spirit millions Muslims from across the world to perform an all-important pilgrimage which has become part of life’s duty and joy, and the festival of Eid was about to begin. Similarly millions of Americans across the world were coming together to celebrate Thanksgiving, an occasion which reunites family and friends to count their blessing around feastful tables. Other occasions also unfolded around the world, gatherings of cultural or personal or religious or historical significance. Millions and millions of people on the move during one of the busiest travel periods of the year. Roads, train stations and airports were chaos due to the ten-fold increase in traveller numbers. So many people – so much stuff! For travellers it was worth each and every moment of the moving madness.
Because the goal was to be together. For a few days the world was united by the joy and gratitude of being a part of something bigger.
And then news broke, news which had everyone talking. Something had gone very wrong. One by one markets across the world were starting to shake. Tremors were reaching from London to Hong Kong to Sydney to New York. Green indices were showing shades of red. The slowly untying know in the stomach of global traders and investors suddenly felt a pull. Why? DUBAI.
Without warning, with great regret, Dubai announced a request for delay of payment of over US$ 59 billion in debts owed by two of the Emirates’ most powerful, state-owned corporations responsible for transforming Dubai into a mesmerising modern oasis in the Middle East: Dubai World and its incredible development arm Nakheel. Suddenly it all looked like a mirage. A place built on unprecedented vision, deep pride, immense courage and exceptional confidence in possibility admitted, despite all projects and protestations, that it too was hurting beyond containment. And the world was about to hurt with it.
Immediately Asian stock markets went into decline. In Tokyo the Nikkei dropped 3%, Hong Kong by 5%, Shanghai by 2.5% and Sydney by 3%. By the end of the trading day Asian shares dropped the most seen in the previous eight months. As the sun set in Asia trading eyes shifted to see how London and New York would respond when they woke to hear the news – and if they could do anything about it.
Despite a world of distance and difference, suddenly we were shown once again that we are all connected, whether we like it or not, whether good for us or not. At time of writing – the first trading day since the announcement – the Abu Dhabi stock exchange has just closed 8% down, suffering its biggest one-day loss in over a year. The sibling Emirate looked to by the global financial community to buffer the impact of Dubai’s crisis through bailouts has taken its own hit.
What is remarkable about this latest global market shock is not just the fact that it has happened, or that it has happened when the world’s markets was just getting ready to start to peel off Band-Aids, but how it has revealed more vividly than previous crises in other markets just how deeply and indivisibly interconnected the world has become. The global economic crisis has X-Rayed the world. The anatomy of our now truly global economy has been exposed.
Some of the first images came through in late 2008. Housing credit in the USA, seemingly a fingertip of the world’s economy, was exposed to be linked to a major artery – Chinese banks. As the housing crisis set in the empty bellies of household Piggy Banks around the globe made it impossible for consumers to purchase basic toys – appliances, electronics – causing the bellies of airplanes and cargo ships to go empty, causing global trade to slow, causing money flows to slow, causing factories to slow, causing employment to slow, causing household spending and savings to slow… By early 2009 banks confronted with slowing inputs slowed outputs, slowing loaning, slowing investment, slowing development, slowing building, slowing openings, slowing opportunity for recovery of capital, slowing everything that could be slowed. And in some cases, stopped.
Soon, like a chronic illness, the crisis worked its way to the heart of the global economy and governments needed to step in and put their major industries on life support to ensure the heart kept beating, pumping blood – economic activity – throughout the body.
Still, looking at the body holistically, even greater than the loss in financial resources has been the loss in one of our world’s most precious natural resources: CONFIDENCE. While money may be the blood of the global body, confidence is the spirit. And it is the spirit which ultimately chooses between life and death.
What has happened to Dubai, a place where reputation and delivery are equity, has been not just a loss in financial worth, but a loss in psychological worth. Loss of face. Loss of hope. Loss of trust. It is the same loss which has happened in so many nations over the past 12 months. And it is painfully sad.
As 2010 nears and cautiously unfolds, CONFIDENCE will become one of the most powerful currencies behind economic recovery. No one has been immune to the impact of the global crisis. Directly and indirectly everyone has lost something of immense worth. The body has experienced shock after shock. Recovery will take time, understanding and careful rebuilding of strength. And it will require empathy and encouragement.
Most of all, it will require fundamental belief in the ability, and right, to heal with dignity and respect.
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2009
Over the past year, with the global economic downturn putting significant pressure on the ability for people to travel for both work and play, the global Travel & Tourism industry has seen a severe falling off in critical metrics: arrivals, revenues, investment, trade, employment to name the main.
Travellers needing more and more to get away from the stresses of today have had to turn to their computer screens to enjoy some travel escapism through the ‘I wish‘ travel planning process. Flight search engines, destination websites and other travel pages have increased in their wishful traveller audiences. Sun seekers now turn to sun.coms and sunbeds for maybe-one-day destination planning. And businesspeople now turn away from their corporate travel agents and turn on Skype and other video-conferencing technology to keep connected to key contacts across the country and world.
Business Travel has experienced a particular bruising in 2009. From small to large, businesses across the globe needing to manage costs have, since the beginning of the open usage of the R-word, recession, looked to travel budgets to find trimmable fat. Meetings, conferences, conventions and incentive trips have been cancelled. The entire MICE industry (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions) effectively shut down. There was no reason to celebrate, no reason to convene, no budget to incentivise. Banks were collapsing, businesses were closing and headcounts were being cut.
Even more painful, reputations were being ruined. Businesses seen to be conferencing were being openly accused (and often publicly shamed) for irresponsible spending on perks and parties when there were serious issues to deal with at the bottom line. The trips and tee-times and spa treatments had to stop, the politicians declared. Those days were over. Gratitude had to shift from annual get-aways to daily employment.
So even those businesses willing and able to spend on large scale business events were forced to cut back on their plans purely to keep corporate images lean and clean. Hotel rooms, empty. Banquet halls, empty. Conference rooms, empty. Plenary sessions, empty. Breakaway rooms, empty. Business centres, empty. Hopes for a return of bookings, empty.
As a result of the decline in MICE sector business the Tourism economy suffered further losses. Hotel and Conference Centre staff lost jobs in both big convention cities and on small island resorts as bookings were cancelled. Concerns grew as numbers fell. The business of Tourism, a front line business, felt both emotional and financial crisis. Destinations engineered for the MICE sector, the likes of Las Vegas and Dubai, saw black ink turn to red faster than printer ink cartridges could be replaced.
Even to this day, as the economic crisis is slowly and cautiously slipping into ‘recovery’ status in markets around the world, Business Tourism / the MICE sector, remains depressed. Alternatives to business travel have been adopted, especially in terms of e-conferencing and e-meetings. And extras are no longer expected.
There have been, however, significant studies undertaken during the Great Recession of 2008/9 questioning the risks of e-dependent business development. Particularly at the top. Regardless of how advanced our technology has become, the need for 3D grows the higher the importance of the decision becomes. Face-to-face is critical. Especially as global business forces cultures of incredible distance and differences to connect. Intuitively we all know this – there is no replacement for direct contact when the issue at hand is important to us.
The banning of business travel and events in 2009 has forced a rethink of why exactly business travel is needed. Going from 100% to 0% is not an option. There has to be a point of correction, the position on the scale where the right balance is found between investment and return.
Because the fact is this: when people meet, when they talk, when they share ideas, and when they create, opportunities and energy and excitement bubble up. And with all of this creative energy and growing possibility, solutions are found. Solutions which unlock growth, development, economic recovery and black ink.
Business travel has a role to play in economic recovery. A critical role. There is also the very real, very visible and very audible effect of the convergence of groups of people on a destination for a conference, convention, meeting or incentive event. Hotel reception desks become centres of organised chaos as wide-eyed, well uniformed staff are confronted by excited delegates seeking room keys, conference packs, tour information and currency exchange. At times the day the conference came to town can appear as the day the circus came to town. All the activity, all the running around, all that noise.
But all that noise is in fact music. It is the music of people meeting, people working, people moving forward.
As 2010 nears and begins to unfold, the challenge to the MICE / Business Tourism sector is not simply in rebuilding numbers of bookings, jobs and revenues, it is in rebuilding credibility. And the ownership of that challenge is the industry itself.
It is the industry which must step out and up, sharing with the global business community the importance of meetings, conferences and conventions to restimulating thinking, restimulating ideas and restimulating the economy.
The bottom line is this: everyone gets excited when the circus comes to town. It’s not about the clowns. It’s not about the aerial acts. It’s not about all of the theatrics taking place under the big top. It’s about all the possibility that lies within all of that creativity.
We need to get back into the tent. And like meetings, conferences and conventions which used to have golf and spa as treats, at the new circus you need to pay for your own popcorn and candy floss.
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2009