2021: A NEW DAY – A NEXT NORMAL

2021: A NEW DAY – A NEXT NORMAL

2021: A NEW DAY – A NEXT NORMAL

A new year, and a new day is thankfully upon us. For most, 2020 was hurriedly ushered – no, let’s be frank, booted out! A collective sigh of relief emitted as the smoke cleared from those few spectacular New Year firework displays that were permitted across the globe. Mostly, the arrival of midnight was enjoyed in muted celebration from living room sofas across the globe.

Did the first moments of the new year seem a little brighter, a little more desperately hopeful and inspirational to you this year? Or was that just our collective consciousness so eagerly anticipating the upswing that we all need in this enduring, exhaustive pandemic? Whilst the sun is shining on this new day, we have our umbrellas packed and ready. The forecast is still partly cloudy, with a probability of further downpours.

Maintaining a positive outlook through 2020 wasn’t easy. And even early on, 2021 is already proving to be a challenge as news of fresh surges and new lockdowns spread across the world, despite the high speed of the vaccine distribution. We all want to feel positive and hopeful, and not just have to front with a positive attitude at work. It’s okay to admit to those fearful and uncertain thoughts that creep in at 2 am, but nobody wants to dwell on them. It requires a conscious effort to put them aside. 

Which is why we are readying for SEASON 3! From Day 1 back in April 2020 the team at RISE committed to creating a safe space for the global Travel, Tourism & Hospitality industry – you and others across the world – to come together every week, to make sense of the impact of COVID19 on our industry, and all of our lives. 

We thought RISE was about “100 days.” Little did we know! 300 days, 2 Seasons and 28 Episodes later, the RISE team is still here with you, for you. 

And as a new addition to Season 3, we’ve created a RISE ‘Checking In’ blog, extending our ongoing conversation with you. We also hope that you’ll use this forum to tell us what you think, how you are taking on 2021, and let us know what you’d like to see on RISE. 

 

KEEPING IT REAL – AND POSITIVE!

So, where to from here? How do we keep moving forward, staying strong, staying hopeful while we keep our hands clean? 

Starting by asking ourselves “what has this year taught us?” is a powerful exercise in focusing on what’s important. Much has been written and indeed, discussed on RISE, about the value of reclaimed family time, and of exercising creativity and resilience on a scale that neither individuals nor businesses have needed to in the past 70 years. 

We’ve also seen a renewed focus on community, and the generosity of spirit this crisis has brought out in people. By looking at the lessons learned, as well as the unexpected gifts this forced global pause has brought us, we’re able to make some sense of what we’ve experienced and to think about the legacy 2020 will leave with us. 

We aren’t naïve enough to imagine that with the dawning of 2021, a reset button would be pushed and all would return to normal in either our professional or personal lives. We know that there’ll be new challenges to face and obstacles to overcome. “The next normal” has been a theme carried through the conversations between Demian, Anita and the over 50 industry leaders who’ve generously served as our Executives in Residence through Season 1 and 2 of RISE. There’s no going ‘back to normal’ and the best we can do is anticipate, prepare and rebuild the various sectors of our industry together, as we go through each next phase of normal. 

 

WE’RE IN THIS TOGETHER

Through Season 1 and 2 there’s always been a strong sense that we’re in this together, and that the only way forward is through honestly and openly finding common solutions to uncommon challenges. Our circumstances aren’t all alike, and in the same way that we as individuals will adjust and recover differently, so too will the various sectors of our industry. 

But one thing we at RISE know to be true is that we are largely co-dependent and so the best way forward is through continuing to work together, within our and other industry sectors as well as with governments to maintain the forward momentum and progress through this crisis. This spirit and energy of an industry united in seeking solutions is one of the uplifting legacies of 2020 that we at RISE love!

 

LEGACIES

Whilst sadly, the legacy of COVID19 for the foreseeable future will include unemployment lines, tighter purse strings, and continued travel restrictions, it has also left us a renewed appreciation for the need to create a stronger, more united, and more sustainable future for our industry, and our wider global community.

Leaders who have lived through previous crises, be they personal or professional, know this to be true. They, like all of us, also see COVID19 as a chance for renewed appreciation of the little things – those increasingly precious commodities like time together with loved ones – especially our elderly loves; of community spirit, and professional creativity and collaboration. They remind us of the importance of checking in on our own well-being, of caring for ourselves so that we’re able to take care of others and our businesses. Creating together, a positive, hopeful legacy, is now our opportunity.

Legacy will be the topic of our first episode of RISE: SEASON 3. Going ‘live’ on January 18th 2021. Our Executives in Residence are two iconic, incredible leaders who have decades and generations of industry experience. We’ll hear their stories and perspectives on businesses which have prevailed and continue to do so through generations of challenge and opportunity.

The team at RISE are excited for this new year and the fresh hopes and opportunities it brings, and grateful for our RISE Community; formed in response to a global crisis, and continuing to share, support and prevail. 

RISE: SEASON 3 will continue this forward momentum, as we move beyond crisis, to resolution, reconstruction and re-inspiration in 2021. See you there! Same time, same place, and now bi-weekly. 

 

Register here to catch us live, or to watch previous episodes. Thank you for being an invaluable part of RISE. 

 

AS MIDNIGHT NEARS PLEASE ALLOW TEARS TO FALL

We’re almost there!!

With Out Of Office notifications now activated, menorahs being carefully packed away, wrapping paper being collected from the base of Christmas trees, another round of turkey sandwiches being prepared from feasty left-overs, and playful off-line pauses being enjoyed before countdowns begin towards New Year’s Eve, a new excitement is building – a feisty one.

The close of 2020 is soooo close!

The sleep-count is shrinking. A new wave is growing, one reaching millions across the globe. It’s not the latest COVID-19 wave, though sadly that too is also moving swiftly, widely, mercilessly once more, putting strain on global healthcare systems and frontliners – new strains starting to emerge and travel.

This particular wave is spreading through a hashtag: #FU2020. Quickly, with variations of cursing. The hashtag is sharing millions upon millions of reasons to raise a fist to the sky, and a glass at midnight on 31 12 2020, for all 2020 has been for us all. The editing filter has been dropped.

First articulation of frustration and fiery sentiment started to appear as our calendars reached the Winter Solstice of 2020: “The shortest day of the longest ____ year of our lives”, one posting read. There was something almost permission-granting about the overt admission of just how long, hard, and hope-challenging 2020 has been.

Growing momentum of growling is impossible to ignore. Humorous messages and memes capture all that has been missed out on this year, all across the world, the agnostic, aching nature of this unnatural year out there for all to see.

The bubbling anger, angst and anxiousness for 2020 to be ‘done’ is so very real, so raw. In the final seconds of 2020 countdown there will be, no doubt, swearing accompanying singing – laughter a needed release after long months needing to stay strong, stay hopeful, hold on. Sparks of the confidence and courage reignited to take us into 2021.

But please, please just stop – please don’t just rush into 2021.

Not just yet…not until the tears have been allowed to fall.

As tempting as it is to write off 2020, we can’t – our hearts might not be ready.

Midnight will come, and we will hopefully be together with loves ones – those we can within the rules and regulations. But before that moment happens, before looking forward, please just wait a moment.

Be alone.

Be still.

Be brave.

Look back…

Allow your heart to breathe, to feel the year now closing. To cry.

2020 has been redefining, rewiring, really, really hard. For everyone.

There is no competition: everyone has suffered, everyone is grieving in some way.

Loved ones, loved moments, livelihoods, chances of a lifetime,

Gone.

No one has escaped 2020 unscathed:

Children or grown-ups,

Friends or foes,

Near or far,

No one.

Which is why before we raise our glasses to 2021 we need to let the 2020 tears fall.

Healthy tears – quiet, thoughtful, cleansing, healing tears.

Tears from as far back as the first months of 2020 when shock first hit, when we knew something was scary-wrong, when doors and borders and businesses and skies and hearts started to close.

Tears marking the changing of the seasons, all other signs of time passing feeling a blur.

Tears tightly holding in the emotions felt when bad news hit, and then hit again, and then hit again.

Tears of simply being tired, tired of the uncertainty, tired of the endlessness, tired of being tired.

The wounds of 2020 are deep, the scars will take decades to erase, if ever.

But the healing must start. Now. As our minds register the milestone of the close of 2020.

Now is a time for healing.

In time, at some point in time, our storytelling will select memories of this time, sifting through the hurt and heartache to find ways of creating a hopeful, helpful narrative. That time will come.

But for now, right here and right now is what matters.

May the gift you give yourself in the final hours of 2020 be the chance to allow those waiting-patiently tears to rise, be released, and quietly run down your cheek in a way that releases your heart of all of the holding-on that has been so needed each day of this year.

Whatever is ahead in 2021, 2020 will soon be done.

We’re almost there.

Make a wish….x

 

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2020

 

 

 

 

 

IN TAKING, COVID-19 HAS GIVEN

Tomorrow will be December.

A new month – the final month of what was to be a new year: 2020, unlocking all of the hope and possibility, confidence and certainty of a new decade. Little did we know what 2020 would bring, how locked in we would all be, not just physically…and how grateful we would be for it to end.

As we look to close 2020, understandably wishing to forget so much that has happened – the horror, the heartache, the losses, the longings – moving too quickly into 2021 would be missing the point. It feels it would be such a waste to have it as a chapter in the history books with the pages left blank. As hard as it is to find the words to describe 2020, or as risky as it would be to put the words in writing for fear of their heat burning through the pages, they must be written.

Why? Because to leave the pages blank would be to leave 2020 unfinished in its messages, its meaning and its memories worth remembering.

Think about it……..

What if “2020” had not happened?

What if 2020 was simply the year that followed 2019.

Where would we be?

What would we be doing?

Who would we be seeing….and not?

What would we be valuing?

Just when we thought we had it all, all under control all by ourselves, Mother Nature made it very clear who is really in charge. And what she felt was needing to be truly valued.

As soon as 2020 began the dominoes started to fall, first indications coming in January that there was trouble with this thing called the Coronavirus, now what we know as COVID-19. As it started to creep across the world from East to West borders started to shut, airline started to ground. We knew something was wrong, something was seriously wrong.

For years and years, as one blessed to be travelling over 200 days/annum with an aerial view of the world, 2020 has been a year lived, viewed, through a zoom lens. My last travels before the world shut down were mid-March – Miami for Board meetings, a full moon trying to calm stormy skies as flights were being cancelled. It was time to get home, quickly. Looking through photographs of this year a feeling of awe emerges seeing just how many images there were watching the world close up – the world of other little creatures, whether it be squirrels, swans, geese, bees, bugs, whatever it might be. And for the first time really appreciating the magic of being in one place.

It’s been a challenging year, no doubt. Milestones missed, marriages missed, memorials missed, loved ones now lost are so missed, life’s work for many is no more. Never should these moments be moved on from without pause for prayer.

Thankfully, those I love have been safe – near, far, wherever they may have been grounded. I am very blessed that my business has been safe – work more intense and purposeful than I have ever known in my two decades of operation. Every day has been as humbling as it has been exhausting, AM&A’s singular focus being ensuring no one feels alone in facing the trauma of 2020. My AM&A girls have been absolutely incredible – we have been nonstop, operating as a compass and an anxiety sponge for our Clients as the global Travel & Tourism was brought to its knees like never in its history, and it has a long, long way to go before momentum comes close to 2019 levels of travel (latest estimate is only 2024). 98% of our work that we’re doing has been from within in the eye of the storm, moving through layers of crisis: the pandemic, its resulting economic crisis, the unlocking of mental health crisis – helping clients, helping partners, helping people through, trying to make sense of what in the world is going on. Our role, our impact, our sense blessing, has been vividly clear every single day. For this reason, month after month we have given back, as much as we can, because we can.

As with all, the year has been lived in the main on-line. While geo-forced apart, like everyone worldwide, 2020 has meant hundreds and hundreds of hours on-air, our world through a small screen.Thank goodness for those spinning satellites in the sky keeping us all connected.

Ans so, as we look at the end of 2020, there’s not much more I can say other than simply this: I am thankful. I am thankful for what we have. I am thankful for those who have been spared. I am thankful for what’s been created from this time. As I have said hundreds of times this year: “There is NO going back to normal – there is no ‘back’ and there certainly is no ‘normal'” The value and values of every day have shifted. 2020 has taken much, and yet it has also given.

May 2021 bring a new hope:

  • a stronger awareness of how we need each other more profoundly than we ever imagined,
  • a stronger appreciation for the world around us,
  • a stronger commitment to actively support its wellness – naturally, socially, culturally, spiritually and economically,
  • and a stronger sense of blessings for simply being ‘safe”,

And may we carry into the year(s) ahead of us that it really is so important to stop and smell the roses….and see the swan-babies grow, feed the squirrels, and rescue the ladybugs….before boarding a next flight. x

 

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2020

 

 

 

 

TAMING THE ROARING (20)20s

As we near the beginning of November – awed that we are into the countdown to the end of the year, bewildered by the blur behind us – it is impossible to not pause and think of all that has been.

2020 is not over yet, but still, who could have known that the roaring ‘20s would come with such a fierce bite!

This year has taken us all by surprise. Globally grounded, it has kept us in a state of disconnectedness in so many ways, regardless of how our virtual world operating, organising and other e-social skills have strengthened.

Since the beginning, as fear spread as quickly as the virus from East to West, the world became united in a state of shock. Together we have transitioned through 2020, month after month, wondering how long will this last, how severe will be the losses of lives and livelihoods, how we will possibly get back on our feet again – especially as a member of the global Travel & Tourism community that has been brought to its knees.

COVID-19 stopped us. Logistically and emotionally. Initial closing of businesses, borders and skies forced us to look carefully at the worlds in which we operated – what we valued deeply, what values we held dear. With dramatic restrictions on our mobility, the radius of our lives decreasing like never universally experienced before this generation, we have been forced to restructure our worlds, blur our lines (if not erase completely), rethinking the role of work, the role of play, the role of family, the role of friends, the time we have for each other, the space that we have for ourselves.

Ultimately 2020 has been a defining line of text of this generation. Mother Nature, fed-up with how poorly we were taking care of her world, upset with how we were focusing on our own needs at the cost of hers, forced us all to stop, sent us back to our rooms to think about what we had done wrong. We were not to be let out until we had figured out how we could do better –  we were going to build forward better.

So, how are we going to create a world that is more caring of not just ourselves, but of our communities of our countries and over our environment around us? Before 2020 we talked about sustainability. In the main the term was used, at best, as a strategic pillar of business and government strategies. At a minimum it was a strategic footnote. But did we really respect it for what it meant, past, present and future? Do we now?

Now it is THE priority.

With our world being grounded we have seen, finally, the need to recognise the definition as so much more than simply ‘green’. ‘Sustainability’ stretches across all dimensions of lives and livelihoods: economic sustainability, cultural sustainability, spiritual sustainability, social sustainability…and environmental sustainability. It is about ensuring we do not put ourselves in a position of erosion, extinction, bankruptcy, nothingness. It is about sustaining survival. Simple

The bottom line is quadruple bottom line. ‘Sustainability’ is a call to action.

How then do we look back the world we are leaving in 2020? And look forward to the one ahead in 2021? Looking back is not enough. Nor looking forward. Creating a sustainable future demands that we look into the mirror. It has been remarkable to see how now, just days before country after country in the northern hemisphere goes into the second wave of COVID-19 with second rounds of lockdowns, and just days before election day begins in the United States of America, many of us look at the challenge ahead with nervousness in our hearts, untrusting of the outcomes. Crisis, a next one, may be just around the corner.

This year has exposed very vividly the difference in our wiring – how our brains process crisis, and how our hearts and bodies respond thereafter. And that’s okay. People respond differently to crisis. People respond differently to opportunity. People respond differently to risk. People respond differently to joy.

Through each passing day, month, COVID-19 phase of 2020, we are all in a situation where we are responding differently, together. All we know for certain is that uncertainty is ahead of us. It is not about political uncertainty, social uncertainty, economic uncertainty. As our countries work through the pandemic and its impact, closing down country after country, it is about uncertainty at a humanitarian level.

Are we able to take care of each other, together, equally, for the long run?

As we look ahead, as shared earlier, this call to action has become a defining element of not just this year, but this generation. We have been so blessed to have had so much for so long. In 2020 we have been forced to stop and think: are we ready for the world ahead of us as active participants, not just admiring passengers?

Now is the time, and the opportunity, for all of us to step up, masks on, ready to create a stronger, more united, more genuinely grateful tomorrow.

2020 has roared, exposing the ferocity of its bite. This is our time to roar back. For as beautifully expressed by Benito Mussolini: “It is better to live one day as a lion than 100 years as a lamb.”

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2020

 

 

 

CONNECTING IN OUR COVID-19 WORLD: IT’S ALL ABOUT THE EYES

We live in a world without smiles. At least in 2020.

Why? Because we live in a COVID-19 world of masks. Masks, protecting one another, in a year of a pandemic that is defining our generation, even though we’re still trying to define what exactly it is and how exactly it is going to impact us.

It has not been easy getting used to living in a world without smiles, especially considering how dearly we have needed smiles this year – smiles to provide comfort, smiles to provide calm, smiles to show compassion, smiles to show we care. But in our quest to care by covering up, we lose our smiles.

To remove smiles from daily life is to remove sunshine. Always there, even is cracking through heavy clouds overhead, the comfort of the sun’s presence sets a mood. There is always reason to look up.

In the first days and weeks of 2020 as COVID-19 spread across the globe, masks began to appear. Rapidly. Regulations, whether by choice or by mandate, differing though they may be country to country, became a growing presence. Some plain, some patterned, some creative expressions of personality, all were symbols of growing fears around an invisible, life and lifestyle changing phenomena. For most, the thought of a pandemic was a concept beyond all comprehension. The ability to protect oneself was beyond anything familiar. We all needed to take cover. Including covering up.

And so masks began to appear as clouds overhead only grew heavier and heavier, skies rapidly filling with trepidation, storms brewing with uncertainty around the disasters ahead. Doors, borders, skies all closed, human connection was blocked.

As time has passed, the block has become the norm. What we thought, hoped, was just a few passing months of management of this new challenge to our shared world has become a crisis defining our year.  Possibly even longer. More and more masks surround us, more and more smiles have disappeared.

With this natural, omnipresent form of emotional connection covered, with our expressions of care, love, joy, excitement, gratitude, compassion, consideration and concern covered, how are we to communicate? How are we to remain hopeful?

A new language has emerged, a new channel for communication: our eyes.

It’s all about the eyes.

Especially in these still fragile times. Like smiles, eyes have become a universal form of expression, a way of sharing, immediately, one’s mindset, a doorway into one’s thoughts.

The eyes reveal far more. When we were able to see smiles, we may never have appreciated the power of the eyes. In these COVID19 times when awareness of others is so important, eyes reveal fear, they reveal friendliness. With fatigue and frustration increasingly becoming a part of daily restrictions to life as we once knew it, choosing to ease off of caution rather than keep a mask on or keep a safe distance, eyes can reveal flippancy, and they can reveal forgetfulness.

To travel once again after so many months grounded is to see, feel, and appreciate, the power of the eyes.

As slowly our world is reopening, tourism cautiously re-starting, it is impossible to not notice the different look in the eyes of strangers, travellers, and the eyes of those being travelled to. From airports to airlines, taxi drivers to hotels, it’s all in the eyes. Whoever it is, it is the eyes that now speak.

And in those eyes, one gets a whole new understanding of the COVID-19 world in which we live, and in which we are trying to travel. Communication of the eyes has become one that we rely on to be able to trust. And as expressed by the Secretary General of the UNWTO, “Trust is the new currency”.

Trust. All of it is channelled through the eyes. There are few other ways of communicating that sense of “I will take care of me to take care of you.”

This is critical as we continue to try to make sense of so much that remains changing, rapidly. From a travel perspective, these changes have been in many places and for many people, painfully, the opening and then quickly closing of borders, hotels, restaurants, minds – lives and livelihoods changed in a moment.

How do we make sense of it all in the world of travel? At least in the next 12 months, we need to recognise that the language of the eyes is one that we need to rely onto be able to reconnect with the world, recognising that people in the world are reconnecting with their own world. The lack of a smile does not mean the lack of feeling.

For millions around us, their eyes are filled with fear – their lives and their livelihoods being taken away because of this invisible pandemic that has hit every single one of the 7.9 billion people in the world, right between the eyes, and in the heart.

In our hearts, through our eyes, we need to ensure we do not lose sight of the need to remain compassionate towards others. As hard as these times are, as hard as it can be thinking beyond the “I” to consider the “we” and the “them”, we need to appreciate that with so much around us continuing to be challenging,  and changing – all of this scary – we still have a long time until this is all over.

There is a reason why we are all familiar with the expression: “The eyes are the mirror to the soul.” In these times of unparalleled crisis, because this invisible, agnostic, inescapable virus puts everyone at risk, everyone needs everyone. As confident and courageous and cocooned as we may think we are, our eyes reveal how we need the consideration and compassion of others to maintain stamina to see the end of this generation-defining time.

Ultimately the warmth and wonder of our world comes through connecting with people. 2020’s #COVID19-defined year has unlocked a new way of communicating, a new way of connecting – giving us a new reason to look up. x

 

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2020

 

 

CRISIS: IT IS NOT LINEAR, IT IS LAYERED

Just 10 days ago the world watched in absolute horror as the Port of Beirut was shaken to the ground – the hopes and lives of the people of Beirut, and across Lebanon, altered irreversibly.

Immediately one looks for reason. How? Why? Why now? What now?

The Gods were angry.

But whose Gods, and why?

So many options. So many reasons. And so what – what good does the debating do?

Whatever the source, the stretch of recovery ahead, or the arguments surrounding righting wrongs, it feels as though 2020 has become a forced daily reflection of the fact that global complexity has entered a new creative territory: fiction, possibly even science fiction.

04.08.2020. With whiplash speed, global focus immediately shifts. From COVID-19 spikes, surges, second and third wave storylines, the story immediately, dramatically, tragically moved to Beirut – investigations around the sources of the explosion, questions around how simple fertilizer could cause such profound destruction, questions around sources, questions around survivors, questions around the future of one of the world’s most monitored cities as a reflection of rumblings of change. Beirut was already in a devastated state of infrastructure and leadership system paralysis, its people already struggling to remain hopeful around a stronger, safer, more secure tomorrow. And then, in a split second, these rumblings literally exploded, rocking the nation – its shockwaves tearing at the heart of its flag while tearing across the world.

As the numbers of lives and livelihoods lost grew, statistics turning faces and families into figures for ongoing monitoring, it was the individual stories that started to emerge that kept the world’s hearts and minds centered on what really mattered. Who really mattered. Every single person in Beirut who’s life was not broken because of the blast.

A signature impression of that now-historic day’s unimaginable moment of devastation: an exquisite bride swept away during her photo shoot, live video footage capturing the transition of one of the most beautiful moments of her life into one of the most horrific. As revealed in a touching follow-up CNN interview, her life and that of her love were spared….but her love for her native Lebanon will never be the same. Her heart is broken, her hopes for a country once adored are broken. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0kPL1MdexeA

As are those of families having to deal with immense loss of loved ones, loved places, lives unable to be lived. The challenges continue. The people of Beirut immediately took to the streets to clean up the rubble, claim back their lives.

The crisis facing Beirut in the aftermath of the port explosion, and resignation of Government soon after, has left a deep, dark, devastating crater in the country’s economic, political and social structures, not to mention emotional. It will take years and billions to rebuild and recovery. To heal.

Suddenly a variation in the scene emerges: some are wearing masks, some are not. The masks are not for protection from the dust and debris. The masks are to protect them from COVID-19.

Oh good lord, COVID-19.

“It’s just one crisis after another“, millions around the world can be heard saying in despair, disbelief and hope-fatigue.

But it’s not. There is, and always will be, a fundamental flaw in such a statement.

In times of crisis great minds and hearts come together in an effort to ensure that not only is the crisis’ impact minimised, but to try to find the truisms that will take us forward repeatedly. We keep hearing that every crisis prepares us for the next, every opportunity to learn making us stronger. Crisis after crisis after crisis.

Philosophically this is correct.

Practically, however, it is simply wrong.

Crisis is not linear – it is layered.

In Lebanon, COVID-19 did not stop in Beirut because there needed to be an immediate start to cleaning up the city – it’s infrastructure, it’s politics, it’s hopes for the future.

As we now move through August we see that in the southern part of the U S and in the Caribbean, once again, hurricane season is starting. Mother Nature will not stop the annual, cyclical clock because we are focused on COVID-19.

There will be a next crisis, and a next, and a next, be it economic, political, social, natural, beyond-fictional. These are all layers. One on top of the other, varying in degrees of duration, damage, depth of impact.

Look again at Lebanon – a place now facing one of the greatest social, political and economic challenges of its generation (if not history) with COVID19, economic and political collapse, and infrastructure eradication. All of this, all while was already facing the pressures of compassionately hosting over a 1.5 million refugees that were fleeing the war in Syria, refugees trying to find peace, protection and promise in a neighbouring nation. The refugee crisis does not stop for COVID-19. COVID-19 does not stop for cleanup. The clean-up does not stop until a new, trusted Government is created.

Crisis is layered. And what we must make sure we do is not forget one of those layers.

As we layer on the next, adding on layers and layers, it is vital that we recognise through it all that no one facing these layers should ever stand alone. Layers, their impact, and their victims, cannot be ranked. Their interwoven nature must be recognised and respected as a critical part of holistic, humane recovery.

As seen with COVID-19, our shared world’s invisible, primal, merciless, crisis completely uncaring of borders, boundaries, politics, lives, livelihoods, age, gender, culture, seasons or social standing,:

  • COVID-19’s mental health crisis does not wait until physical health crisis is over,
  • its economic crisis does not wait for the mental health crisis to pass,
  • surviving the physical health crisis of Wave 1 does not protect us from Wave 2.

The layers are all connected.

As are we all, wherever on the map, on the curve, on the news lineup, we may be. And in today’s 2020+ world of layered, logic-defying, longevity-redefining crisis, the message from Mother Nature is clear, the human truth undeniable: we either all win…or we all lose.

So too the truths of crisis:

  • Crisis will never be linear – we need to live with, push through, survive, and stay connected to work to suppress the layers.
  • Crisis will never leave us – they will always be present, in one form or another, in one layer or another.

and critically:

  • Crisis must never define us. Our definition comes from our layers of faith and fortitude.

And that is the bottom line. x

 

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2020

 

 

 

PERMANENTLY CLOSED. THEY DIDN’T MAKE IT.

As our world works through the Summer of 2020 in the Northern hemisphere and Southern hemisphere winter sets in, we find ourselves locked into a year focused on COVID19. No longer are we looking to making it through in a matter of months. 2020 is a living case study, we all a part of the lessons and learnings of ‘here & now’.

What lies ahead?  ‘2021’ has become a part of our planning – personally, professionally, painfully. Patience is paramount. The longing for long lengths of times with loved ones, without turning away from touch, have many becoming increasingly frustrated. The initial fear of suffering the severe effects of COVID19 has, for many, turned into severe impatience. And this has turned into a false sense of confidence.

See, it hasn’t touched us yet. It can’t be that serious. And if I get it, I can just get over it….and then I can get on with my life.”

For those who have suffered COVID19, the reality of the illness is not limited to the ‘in the moment’. The risks continue, long, long after test results reveal recovery. At the same time that the world is busy managing the curve, trying to find a cure, we are trying to figure out exactly what we are needing to cure. Enduring and/or reoccurring Corona-cough, headaches, mind-haze, whatever it might be, the risks still exist. Even when the light is visible at the end of the tunnel, one can be certain of walking out to the risk of storm clouds still lingering above.

We also know of spikes and surges, early warning signs of the risks of second and third waves. Before we know it new seasons will be upon us.

Still, the world cannot stop. The quest to protect lives alongside livelihoods has become a delicate calculus for countries across the globe.

As a result, countries are opening up. Local businesses are bringing their people back, bringing in protocol-compliant cleaning teams, communicating that ‘it’s time!’. Cautiously, ever so cautiously, countries are unlocking their borders, welcoming back locals and tourists from next door and the country next door, as a means of rebuilding momentum of the heartbeat of their local economy, and society.

Travel & Tourism, a sector vividly exposed as ‘essential’ in our interconnected, interdependent world as a result of the stability, security, and sense of meaningful purpose & productivity it provides to literally billions worldwide, is now being celebrated. And a part of national re-start strategies.

Why? It is not just about the sector’s impact on global financial health – providing an invaluable 1 in 10 jobs worldwide as we entered into 2020, now facing losses of 1 million jobs per day since COVID19 cut off all global mobility of travellers (and trade). It’s about the sector’s vital ecosystem that keeps people connected, physically and emotionally, to the world and their worlds – an essential part of maintaining strength of mental, social, and environmental health and wellbeing, not just financial.

It’s time to step outside. With social distancing and mask wearing protocols being put in place to keep people safe, people are being permitted to get out, unlocking their  minds, hearts and doors after 100+ days. Annnnnndddd breathe…….

As we walk past restaurants, cafes, and shops, seeing and feeling even the slightest buzz of activity is incredibly heart lifting. It’s so good to see that people are getting out again, socialising in a way that allows us to feel that our world can and will indeed come back to life in a next normal way, able to touch one another’s lives again, even if unhuggably.

But something’s not right – some places are visibly dark. It is impossible to not notice. For all of the relief there is the reality. There are those that remain shut. The lights are off. The CLOSED sign remains firmly in place. unless the door opens to allow movers to remove furniture. There is no heartbeat coming from within, Only heartache.

Suddenly one realises the sadness of the scene: whoever the owners / operators / staff, whoever’s livelihoods were dependent on that establishment for income, for investment, for a sense of purpose, productivity and peace, there are some, many, questioning “why us?” –  their businesses didn’t make it.

These people, these livelihoods, didn’t make it through. These are casualties of COVID19 that must be recognised alongside the lives suffering from the health trauma of COVID19.

As much as we are confident, feeling more comfortable in this surreal discomfort zone of global COVID19 as a part of our daily lives, we must never stop praying for the lives, and livelihoods, of others. There are people right around the corner, right around the neighbourhood, right next door, who are still struggling and will continue to struggle. The health pandemic is merging rapidly and mercilessly with a financial pandemic. There is no vaccine, medically or financially.

Now is the time for continued prayer, patience, and hope – for ourselves, and for others. Especially those for whom the lights remain off.

We have a long journey to walk – we need to walk it together, keeping our safe distance, but still taking each step together. With each step, we need to look and see if those around us need our help, carrying them forward in thought, in prayer, in action.

Because ultimately one of the longest lasting after-effects of COVID19 will be how we re-think, re-define and re-shape, and re-commit to the world into which we will all re-enter. May it be a world of greater connection, greater compassion, and greater appreciation of being able to reach out and touch the lives, and livelihoods, of others.

In these immediate times of smile-covering masks, social distance markings, e-meetings and limited lifestyle re-makings, may we wave more, dine more, tip more, blessing-count more, believe we can create more.

Our world can be so much more. x

 

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2020

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

19 CANDLES. BIRTHDAYS IN THE TIMES OF COVID19

35,000 feet.

That is where today – 17.06 – is always wished to be spent each year if not able to be with loved ones. Neither are an option this year.

COVID19 has turned the days of 2020 into a long blur – days turning into weeks turning into months turning into a year beyond fiction, beyond explanation, beyond imagination. Through it all, punctuation marks have appeared: question marks, exclamation marks, characters covering up letters for words growled but not to appear in print. And then there are dates in bold text: birthdays.

And so, as this date neared – my birthday – reflection began. Heading to LHR to board a long-haul flight to call in the first moments of the day up at 35k was clearly not going to happen. 17 06 2020 was to be spent in the same place as the past 100+ days of 2020 lockdown. The usual, loved pause of reflection up in the air – anonymous, uncontactable, surrounded by silence, in a bubble of time and space (with bubbles in hand) – was to be a tradition skipped in 2020.

But that did not mean that the pause was to be passed by.

Quite the contrary.

If lockdown of COVID19 has shown us anything it is that time, this time, is vital to making sure that we do not waste the opportunity to stop, centre, see all we have around us, and whisper a word of thanks. Never again (probably, hopefully) will we be asked, demanded, to suspend our daily existence, staying apart, even if it means our livelihoods, economies, communities and future certainties falling apart. Something bigger mattered. COVID19, with its invisibility, and its terrifying ability to take life with evert droplet, mattered more than anything before.

As the world entered lockdown, geography after geography, month after month, together or apart, ready or not, the world stopped. Suddenly coping mechanisms took over – one’s wiring working to make sense of days without routine, without regular access, without a real sense of timing of ‘for how long?’. The ‘new normal’ was in fact a ‘now normal’ until the ‘next normal’ came along. Facts vs fears. Connection vs isolation. COVID19 vs the world.

100+ days on, slooooowwwwly the world is starting to open up, restrictions easing, living the ‘next normal’ getting easier as rules, regulations and routines are more familiar. Comfort in the discomfort zone.

But wait. Not so fast.

As much as we are focusing our fearful yet hopeful hearts and minds on leaving these times behind us, let’s not rush out just yet. Why? Because there will be moments in these times that, unquestionably, we will miss. Moments of stillness, of newness, of awareness, we will miss. And critically, moments for which we must always remain grateful.

For this reason, not wanting to let this birthday pass in a blur, a pause took place to think: from these 100+ COVID19 days, what are my 19 moments/memories/milestones of pure, unedited, undeniable appreciation.

What will I forever remember this time by?

These, without hesitation and filter, are my 19 COVID19 birthday candles:

  1. Heroes, first and foremost, standing on the front line taking care of what is most important: our health, our safety, our stability
  2. Health….mine still strong, still safe…and that of family, both family by blood and family by choice
  3. Satellites, keeping us connected, every second, every day, every conversation, every virtual hug
  4. AM2AM, every a.m. to p.m.
  5. My gorgeous AM&A Girls – Jessica & Grace
  6. My Clients, acronyms so adored across the world, across the alphabet, across an array of challenges and emotions we never thought we would share
  7. Springtime – its rhythm, its hope, its softness & freshness
  8. Foxes spotted running through central London, because they can
  9. Swans, squirrels and other feathery and fluffy sweeties
  10. Fresh milk and fresh flowers, throughout
  11. Ideation inspired through crisis, now absolute labours of love: RISE – http://www.rise-weekly.com / & HospitalityTomorrow – https://www.hospitalitytomorrow.com
  12. Hearing a new calling, working non-stop with no desire to stop
  13. Her Majesty
  14. Bubbles! Groups, girlfriends, shared clinks, quiet solo toasts
  15. Alice in Wonderland
  16. Amazon / Nike / M&S / F&M – lockdown essentials just one click away
  17. In-home studio lights / mics / virtual magic!
  18. SW1W 0AJ
  19. These 100 days

And a bonus #20: British VOGUE, no question about it. https://www.vogue.co.uk/

For these 19 (+1) am I thankful, deeply, deeply thankful.

Before any more time passes, please take the time to pause. Capture the 19 signatures of this time that a year, 5 years, 10 years from now, you will look back on with a quiet smile.

Do it now, while memories are fresh, hearts are open, before the world reopens….

Good will come from this time. It must.

May we never feel 2020’s purpose was wasted. x

 

 

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2020

 

 

 

“CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?” – COVID19’S CRITICAL QUESTION

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shhhhhh. Listen.

What do you hear? Anything? Anything at all?

That is the sound of COVID19. Breezes. Birds, Distant hum of cars,

Occasionally voices. Occasionally sirens.

Rarely horns.

Sounds of COVID19 are defined more by absence than by presence.

Can you hear me now?” These five words have become the start to our now daily routine of virtual meetings, virtual summits, virtual sundowners. An acceptable tech-check to ensure that the speaker, visible, is also audible. Prelude to something important about to be said.

Yet remarkably, as our world now passes the 150 day mark of COVID19 shutdown of 2020 with global case count crossing 6 million and lives taken 365,000, there is one voice that has not asked ‘Can you hear me now?’ It is the voice of someone known worldwide, recognised worldwide, respected worldwide….yet not heard worldwide when he had something important to say – 5 yrs ago in a TED Talk – https://www.ted.com/talks/bill_gates_the_next_outbreak_we_re_not_ready . It took 5 years for the world to stop the daily noise of life and listen, really listen, to the message he had to share – the next, greatest threat to our shared world is a pandemic.

Who is he? Bill Gates.

But we didn’t listen….until 5 yrs later.

His global warning became a link shared wildly in early 2020 as our shared world saw this new, wild virus travel, terrifyingly because of its invisibility and merciless nature. COVID19 is known yet not fully understood, it is everywhere yet unable to be seen, it is directly challenging systems and priorities of government, it is redefining words such as essential, leadership, community and responsibility

Speaking recently to CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, exploring what exactly is happening in terms of vaccine development, how many avenues are being explored, how many may deem to be successful, and how quickly and thoroughly can this be rolled out, worldwide conversation naturally leads to what did we know? What could we have done? What could the analysis have been in terms of how could we have been better prepared?

It’s an easy conversation to have, understandably because we’re at a much more comfortable place in terms of our own sense of self and sense of security, as surreal as these social distancing and WFH days may be. Now we can look at the world around us and, in our bubbles, form a point of view, to create an opinion and often to judge.

Who is to blame? Who will find a cure? Who has demonstrated leadership? Who has failed? Who is the ‘who’? And what is the responsibility of the WHO?

All of these questions, all of these debates, are examples of what is interesting about Bill Gates. He desires to share, to support, to separate news from noise. He does not demand to be heard.

Not once, not once since the 2015 pandemic TED Talk, not once since China first sounded the alarm around a dangerous wave of illness, not once since a pandemic was declared by the WHO, not once since the map was covered from East to West with confirmations of cases, not once since there has been questions around funding of global support to address this as a global issue, not once has Bill Gates stopped to say: “I told you so“.

Not once has he questioned: “Can you hear me now?”

There is something heroic about this truism, something incredibly classy about his silence when so many would seek recognition for having called it first.

This is especially true as we are seeing people becoming more comfortable in the discomfort zones of COVID19 – being stuck at home, gaining access to internet intelligence, forming opinions, finding platforms for personal positioning, voicing judgment.

These opinions can become incredibly hurtful. And hasty. We may be 150 days into 2020, but we still have many days / weeks / months to go. There may be stirs of activity visible around us new sounds starting to full our streets, there may be hope of when homes can reconnect, hugs hopefully not too far off. But we are not there yet – we are nowhere near the finish line. We still have many frontliners to support. We still have much to learn as we face risks of further spikes as restrictions ease, second waves as social exposure restarts, impact of curves, inroads of vaccine quests. We are a case study being examined in real-time.

The 20-20 hindsight assessments, assumptions and analysis can wait.

This is the greatest opportunity for us as a global community to act as a community, focusing on the solution, not fighting over the problem. This is the call to action for our generation. Why? Because unless we all win, we all lose.

Shhhhh. Keep listening. x

 

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2020

 

COVID19: 2020’S SPARK FOR STEP-CHANGE

 

 

 

 

The warnings were there about the platform possibly not holding.

The warnings were there about the 5000+ registered participants possibly not joining.

The warnings were there about the content not holding interest for 6+hrs.

The warnings were there about the audio dropping.

The warnings were all there. We were ready.

But no one, absolutely no one, warned us about how terrifying the excitement of going ‘live’ would be!!

Since the start of the 21st Century our shared world has been busy turning the noun ‘innovation’ into a verb, into an adjective, into a sign of success, into a badge of honour, into a form of status. However we express it – disruption, ideation, new world creation – all of the terms talk calmly about what it takes to be innovative, to create something that step-changes how we think, how we act, how we live, how we conduct business, how we connect to one another. The possibility of a dramatic shift from the now to the new has been a force of growth for industry, for humanity.

We talk about it calmly. We talk about it in classrooms. We talk about it in textbooks. We debate it. We debate it. We debate it. And then we debate some more. The analysis around innovation life cycles, investment models and human dynamics is plenty – the subject of innovation is not embedded in many an institution.

Yet interestingly, it’s only when one actually dives into it – when an idea emerges that just feels so right, and so right for right now, that the alchemy of innovation takes hold.

It is exactly as French playwrite Victor Hugo once said: “Nothing else in the world…not all the armies…is so powerful as an idea whose time has come.”

Such was the case just a handful of days ago in March 2020, as the world was settling into lock-down country by country, that an idea’s time came.

The working world was grounded. Suddenly no one is going anywhere, and yet we started to find ways to be everywhere. Meetings were zoomed and skyped and logged into. For millions worldwide, working from home became a whole new way of not just working but living. It erased boundaries – geographic, professional, social and emotional. Suddenly we were all sharing each other’s lives. There has been no way to escape what our homes look like, what our lives look like, what our personal styles look like. We are who we are, from wherever in the world we may be connecting.

But all has not been without its ache. Millions sharing this new way of life have also been bonding over shared loss – loss of momentum, loss of motivation, loss of plans to meet somewhere else, sometime soon. Somehow, in the blink of an eye and with the closure of borders, business and meeting stopped, and with that, the advancement of professional bonds, the building of future plans and setting of priorities, and the business of yesterday, today and tomorrow.

But why must it stop, especially when now more than ever people need to come together to find the collective strength to face one of the greatest professional and personal challenges of our lives? To not feel alone?

Why not create a way of staying connected, continuing to learn, continuing to build, continuing to hope? Build the future of our industry? No – it is not credible to begin that process, the spread and impact of COVID19 as a global human crisis, forget industry, is still being understood. We cannot credibly start looking at the solution. We can, however, come together as a community of leaders ready to interrogate the problem, from different geographic, technical, economic, political and personal perspectives.

And so was born less that 4wks ago (at time of writing this piece) through a conversation with Jonathan Worsley (a long-time trusted and respected colleague with whom I have been blessed to work for several years, he giving me the honours on-stage across his global portfolio of events), the idea for the world’s largest ever (over 6hrs), over 6600 participant strong (far beyond estimation), Travel, Tourism and Hospitality virtual conference: https://www.hospitalitytomorrow.com/

As soon as ‘why not?’ was accepted in mind and heart, with trust in partnership implicit, principles of conference design and debate were agreed, platforms were explored, plans were made, PR began, personal networks were contacted, programme slots were filled, and preparation briefings were conducted.

Fast forward three weeks, and the morning finally came when it was time to go ‘live’!

Suddenly one’s lounge becomes a studio,

One’s bathroom a dressing room,

One’s conference link a back-stage pass to a global stage,

One’s heartbeat is a pounding drum!

Prayers to the Tech Gods eclipsed all thoughts as the number of participants online grew wildly, 100, 300, 800, 1200, 1500, 1700, 2000, 2300…on and on the numbers climbed. “please let the platform hold, please let the platform hold…!!

We could hold no longer – it was time!! April 07th, 2020, 10:00am BST. Jonathan was ‘on’, the backstage team watching each and every second pass by with concrete weight. It was a cocktail of thrill and terror, making us all feel like giddy children trying to contain our nervous screams of excitement!!

And so the day began.

Over the course of the following 6 hours were there technology challenges? Of course there were. Were there continued intense prayers that things going wrong would go right? Absolutely. But everyone, every one of the 6000+ people participating backstage, onstage and online across the globe was with us.

We were all in this together.

What was happening was not just a moment of innovation of our global meetings and conference industry, it was a defining moment of our lives. Together.

This was the dimension of innovation, the art of the possible, that, reflecting on the experience now, seems missing from articles, books and analysis on innovation. Why? Maybe because it is just too difficult to put into words. It is an experience that leaves one speechless (and nerve-knotted!)….with only a quiet smile to reveal what had occurred.

What turns an inspired idea into an inspiring innovation? It’s not just about the idea. It‘s about the people who show up because they believe in it, however the ‘it’ is defines, and they don’t want you to be alone in the quest to create what could be a defining moment of awe.

In the case of HospitalityTomorrow, as the conference was rapidly engineered, carefully selected international leaders were called on to join us on the virtual stage not just because of their expertise and the logos on their business cards, but because they were also loved colleagues that we knew we could trust and count on to take this leap of faith with us. Together we would throw ourselves into an ocean of possibility, we would swim together.

And we did! We swam hard, we swam strong, we swam fast, we swam towards a vision that we shared (even if we didn’t know exactly the conditions of the water), somehow confident we would somehow get there together.

That is a critical, unquantifiable, unmeasurable, yet essential part of innovation. That is the of bringing people together who are not just creative intellectually, but are incredibly creative in their power of belief. They show up, they feed confidence, they fuel conviction, and they’re there just in case support is needed should we feel we are drowning in overwhelm.

That is the magic of innovation.

And that, through this COVID19 chapter of our lives, will forever be a critical reminder of the power of crisis.

Scary innovation, innovation that grabs us by the collar and shifts us forward, can, like now, require scary circumstances that push us into the ocean. COVID19 has taken so much from our shared world. Lives, livelihoods, hopes, homes and hugs – nothing is taken for granted.

At the same time COVID19 is giving us the chance, and time, to rethink a new world – one we never would have naturally co-created given the unnatural way we were ‘progressing’. Mother Nature knew our focus was faulty.

Through these defining COVID19 moments in which we will create new ideas, new innovations, new possibilities, as precious are the new bonds of trust and deep appreciation formed by now knowing with whom one can jump into the ocean, confident they will help us find the starfish!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With special appreciation and love to:

  • Jonathan Worsley, Chairman & CEO of Bench Events
  • Sally Marwaha. Event Director of Bench Events (and our technology Wizard of Oz!)
  • Hon. Minister Najib Balala, Minister of Tourism and Wildlife, Govt. of Kenya
  • Amr Al Madani, CEO of Royal Commission for AlUla
  • Puneet Chhatwal, Managing Director and  CEO of Indian Hotels Company Limited (IHCL)
  • Roger Dow, President & CEO, US Travel Association

Ever-grateful, ever-awed. x

 

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2020