One year ago, on what was a milestone day, I received the most incredible gift from someone who is a central part of my heart and who understands my heart – Al Merschen. The shock was immense. I understood what it was, but I couldn’t quite absorb its enormity: its immense purpose, its huge potential impact. I needed to get my head around it. I needed to get my heart around it – I needed to fully honour it.
Over the past year I, we, have been figuring out where in the world to bring this gift to life, and where in the world it can start to touch lives. The process of defining the WHAT, WHY and WHEN has been a long, important one. But now we know!
And so here, now, I am delighted to share that Al’s gift – creation of THE ANITA MENDIRATTA FOUNDATION, is being officially registered as a globally-focused Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO) with the UK Charity Commission. For this, I thank Al with all of my heart, and with this, I hope to be able to make all the difference. x
Not one to feel comfortable using the word “I” in writing, on this occasion I will absorb the discomfort and make an exception. Reason being, in this sharing the ‘I’ extends far beyond me.
In brief, on May 16th, 2019. the United Nations’ International Day of Living Together in Peace which is defined and designed to be one for “mobilising those in the international community to promote peace, tolerance, inclusion, understanding and solidarity”, the title of Ambassador For Peace At Large For Global Relations was bestowed upon me by the IIPT, the International Institute For Peace Through Tourism. https://peacetourism.org/anita-mendiratta-iipt/
I was deeply touched by the honour, and the reaction of colleagues, clients, friends and family, near and far. And I was quite silenced thinking ‘what does it actually mean? What does it mean to get this title at this time in my career? What does this mean for my future focus in working to develop peace through tourism.
The IIPT as an organisation has been around for decades. Its mission is to promote peace through tourism’s ability to connect people, places, and possibilities. It hasn’t changed since 1986, even as the world around it, and peace itself, has taken on new challenges and meaning. Its reason for being has endured, actually strengthened.
Suddenly it was clear: the appointment was not a recognition of my work in the past. It was, in fact, a clear statement of expectation of my work in the future.
And here is why: because now more than ever our world needs travel and tourism, to not only promote all that our shared world has to offer – socially, culturally, economically and environmentally – but to protect it.
Today we are blessed to live in a world without borders. Nowhere is out of bounds either in our imagination or infrastructure. We have the ability to get from A to B, right through to the end of the alphabet, as often, as frequently, and quite honestly, as indulgently as we wish. If we have the means – the time, the funds, the motivation, the inspiration, the facilitation, we have the ability to move anywhere.
As I say repeatedly from whichever stage I am blessed to speak, there is no industry in the world that demonstrates the desire of the people of the world to come together to understand and appreciate one another like travel and tourism. It is travel and tourism that inspires people to invest their time, money and energy to cross the street or cross the world to discover the other – exploring differences in people and places to understand, appreciate, and respect.
That is how tourism has become a vehicle for peace. And right now we need this proactive, empowering, and uniting vehicle for bridge-building, a force for good that works every day to unlock people’s ability to venture out into the world to feed their curiosity, find their compassion, to give, not just take.
For years, the linear premise of tourism being a vehicle for peace would yield questioning, often incredulous looks. The leap was too far. And then the early two thousands happened. Where tourism was one seen as peripheral, as recreational, a non-essential, in the last 15 years it has become an essential part of life for both travellers and locals alike. Business Development requires tourism. Understanding of the global community around us requires tourism. Economic opportunity requires tourism. Social stability and unity requires tourism. Local identity required tourism. The potential of the world to really see the value in which it holds together as well as independently requires tourism.
Importantly, without travel and tourism, we lose the opportunity for economic expansion that raises the baseline for billions, the opportunity for social understanding and inclusivity, the opportunity for environmental protection and preservation, the vital ways in which we can ensure that, for generations to come, proudly and purposefully protecting and preserving what Mother Nature gave us, and ultimately allowing us to see, feel, that it is our differences that unite us.
It is through our differences that we learn compassion, we learn understanding, we learn respect. This applies to not only how we see and accept responsibility for our engagement with other people. It is also about how we engage with the environment around us, living harmoniously with Mother Nature.
Powerfully, to travel is to also learn about oneself.
It is through tourism that all of these prisms of life are brought to life, creating connection. That connection creates harmony, which in turn, at scale, creates peace.
This truism has always been central to the IIPT, champions of the message that we as travellers around the world have a responsibility to vocalise the invaluable impact of tourism beyond the tourists. It is our responsibility to vocalise just how blessed we are to be able to reach out into the world, and in doing so, to actively work to knock down walls where differences are being used as a way of separating people, politics, policies, philosophies, and ultimately hearts.
The need for all of us to stand up and work for peace has become ever more personal. Now, right here and right now, travellers of the world need to embrace it is not someone else’s responsibility, it is all of ours. It is mine.
As we look at the UN SDGs and the 17 ways in which the goals develop a framework not just at government and corporate level, but at a citizen level, to examine how we can play our part to shape a truly sustainable world, there is an overt need to, through tourism, directly strengthen the fabric of our shared global community and home, for all people and places, all creatures great and small, all of Mother Nature’s creation. http://tourism4sdgs.org/
I will forever be grateful to the IIPT for this moment, this mandate. I am committed to serving the sector, now in a way that brings greater credibility, exposure, and inclusiveness of the IIPT into the global community as a part of the DNA of our sector truly being a force for good.
Now is the time, the perfect time, to get to work. x
And so arrived the moment so many had been waiting for, betting on, planning towards, wondering when……and at the same time, worrying about. The day when British Prime Minister the Right Honourable Theresa May, stepped out of one of the most recognised and iconic doors in the world – 10 Downing Street – to make it real:
24.05.2019, 10:00am London time, her words were spoken…
“it is now clear to me that it is in the best interests of the country for a new prime minister to lead that (Brexit deal approval) effort. So I am today announcing that I will resign as the leader of the Conservative and Unionist Party on Friday 7 June so that a successor can be chosen.”
In the days leading up to the moment all knew were coming, local media put forward their most desperate images and clever headlines in an effort to capture the essence of the angst of the moment. Focus was on failure: what had Her Excellency Prime Minister May NOT achieved? Where had she proven unable to lead? Why is this now the moment to admit defeat?
Sadly, and so reflective of the times in which we live, the macro is eclipsed by the micro. Those who should be celebrated for stepping forward and trying, with all of their faith, might, acumen, credibility and prayer, are faced with a chorus of watchers-on waiting for them to step out, demanding that they step out.
How does this happen?
How do people who enter an intensely competitive, challenging, aggressive, often damning space for the good of the people go, so rapidly, from being trusted and respected political sources and certainties representing the will of the people to someone the people will willingly celebrate seeing their demise? How has civilisation become so painfully uncivilised?
And how is this take-down acceptable?
24 hours on since resignation, an endless flow of endless commentary is flooding in. Analysis continues,….accusations endure. For all of her words reflecting on tenure, the defining moment of Prime Minister May’s time in office will be her announcement of resignation – especially her tears – the last 10 seconds of her entire address in which she choked up in unedited expression of her enduring love for, and commitment to, the country she loves.
As the UK now enters into ‘who next?’ territory, much will be made of Prime Minister May’s term in office, and how, sadly, it close with her conceding:
“I have done everything I can to convince MPs to back that deal. Sadly, I have not been able to do so.”
Not now, but one day, one day, history will judge, and honour, the fact that entering into the role of the Right Honourable Prime Minister on the back of a ‘leave‘ EU referendum, Prime Minister May did the best she could for the people of the UK, her people of the UK. Did her leadership yield the desired result? Clearly not. And so she now hands over the challenge of securing consensus to her successor.
And yet as she exits the stage, is it important to recognise and salute that, without question, she did her best, put it all out on the field?
No question about it.
Respect and decency where due. Thank you, Right Honourable Prime Minister May. Thank you, Ma’am. x
Paris. 15 04 2019. 18:50 local time. Flames. And suddenly the world shifted its gaze. Hearts and minds moved, swiftly, from local headlines to the lines of firefighters forming at the doors of Notre Dame to extinguish flames which evacuating priceless pieces of history.
Days on, as holy week unfolds and embers still exude small puffs of smoke and steam, crowds continue to gather in prayer outside the aching both of the grande dame. Shock and horror has evolved to relief and gratitude. From around Paris and around the world, expressions of strength in the rebuilding of the grande dame rose above the ashes. Immediately donations, huge donations, began. Leading French families stood forward, quickly, pledging amounts which, when combined with others received over the past 5 days, are now nearing USD$1 Billion.
The response to the sight of Notre Dame on fire, and the remains that now still stand, have revealed that something bigger, stronger, more penetrating and purposeful can and does connect people across the global community, pulling people together more powerfully than the local, often biting issues that are defining the political and social headlines of our times.
Donald Tusk, President of the European Council of the EU, said it perfectly the day after flames lit up Paris night skies, he opened his report to the European Parliament on April 10th’s Special European Council (Art. 50) meeting by stating:
“From this place I would like to say words of comfort and solidarity with the whole French nation in the face of the Paris tragedy. I say these words not only as the president of the European Council, but also as a citizen of Gdańsk, 90 percent destroyed and burnt, and later rebuilt. You will also rebuild your cathedral. From Strasbourg, the French capital of the European Union, I call on all the 28 Member States to take part in this task. I know that France could do it alone, but at stake here is something more than just material help. The burning of the Notre Dame cathedral has again made us aware that we are bound by something more important and more profound than Treaties. Today we understand better the essence of that, which is common, we know how much we can lose. And that we want to defend it – together.“
The great efforts and good intentions of givers has made clear that across cultures, communities, societies and boundaries, connecting us is a desire to protect and preserve the signatures of generations past for the sake of generations to come. Within us, as much as there are so many small things that divide us, the desire to be part of something bigger, something better, unites us. No man, no nation, is an island.
And yet, at the same time, criticism has become audible. The voice of France’s Gilets Jaunes (Yellow Vest movement) returning to their protests across Paris, is joined by many across the globe questioning both the direction and motivation of these massive donations.
And but what about _____?
And what about _____?”
Judgement is being applied to people just wanting to do the right thing, right now. The questions are valid. The reasons to act to do something, somewhere, for someone, are vast.
However, to simply stand back and judge the givers is to jeopardise the receivers.
It should never be an either-or. Whatever the cause, whatever the crisis, wherever tragedy may occur, whatever one can do to help, one must. Now, and again and again and again, whenever moved to act.
Which is why, if the open wounds of Notre Dame have resulted in the opening of hearts and wallets of people across Paris and other parts of the world, than God’s hand is wisely at work. The outpouring of affection and funds for Notre Dame cannot not also be unlocking recognition of the power of one, by the millions, to make a difference for billions.
One can only hope and pray that the rising once more of Notre Dame has sparked a wider spirit and system for giving – however, wherever, whenever and to whomever – that spreads across the global community and calendar, the spirit of holy week rising once more.
And that keeps our hearts ever-aware of our ability to turn prayers into action. x
It is said that one’s true colours are most vividly exposed when faced by challenge – colours reflecting:
Darkness vs. light.
Cowardice vs. courage.
Hopelessness vs. hope.
Separation vs. unity.
Them vs. us.
In the midday hours of March 15th, a time when many of New Zealand’s Muslim community paused for prayer at their local mosques, time seemed to stand still as all of the day’s colours turned to black, and then red. The details are now well known. By the end of it all, 50 lives of local Christchurch residents had ended, each and every one of them far, far too soon.
Looking terror directly in the eye as soon as first hearing word of the people of her nation hearing shots, and while still processing what the madness meant, somehow, somehow, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was able to find words to light a small candle in the terrifying, eclipsing darkness:
“They are us.“
While many across NZ, and the world, felt a sickening feeling in their spirits that seemed to release a whisper of ‘not again!’ in their minds, it was the lone voice, the white, pure light, of Prime Minister Ardern’s words that broke through with a strong, clear, determined message to the people of New Zealand – especially the Muslim community – and the people of the world: ‘‘never again!’
As each hour and day passed, her example was inspiring. Inspiring much, sadly, because it was so unique in its unscripted, unfiltered, unwavering compassion, conviction, and action. Her inner compass seemed to pierce through all of the underlying noise, all of the tragic headlines, all of the bubbling plot lines. In so doing it guided her, without hesitation, without delay, without need for permission, in the absolutely right direction: towards her people, all people, with the Muslim community first. Where she went, what she wore, with whom she spoke, how she helped heal, day after day she made headlines. By standing with, she was standing out.
Her strength was undeniable. Her example unquestionable. But what was it that, days after, continues to have has unique, style of leadership spotlighted, celebrated and desperately sought after.
Her position was clear, her prayers clearly directed. Dressed in black headscarf the Prime Minister stood with mourners at Friday prayers just one week later, national television and radio stations carrying the deep, soothing, unifying sound of the azaan carrying across the nation.
Her words that day did, and will always, reflect a level of unity increasingly unheard in these days of people, communities and nations pushing apart. “According to the Prophet Muhammad … the believers in their mutual kindness, compassion, and sympathy are just like one body. When any part of the body suffers, the whole body feels pain. New Zealand mourns with you; we are one.”
And the coverage changed. Her genuine words, actions, spirit of unity and image dominated international media platforms and city icons. National symbols from the silver fern to the haka were reworked to honour the victims and show support of the wider Muslim community. Never, never before, has the western world seen such a standing up for the Muslim community.
Insha’Allah, it is not the first and last.
What is it about the power of what happened in Christchurch? How did the Muslim community, through it’s unbearable loss, find itself in a position of unbelievable unification of the global community?
How could it be that one single act has caused such magnification of a willingness to understand, a desire to help heal, across one global community?
It all comes down to three little words – NZ’s translation of “I love you’: “They are us'”
Three little words suddenly set in motion, a spirit of change that has gone across New Zealand, and has rippled across the world. Three little words and it could have stopped there. In today’s day of soundbites, quick hashtag activism, it could have stopped there. But it didn’t.
Seeing the Prime Minister Ardern immediately expressing her condolences was expected. What was unexpected was the way in which she bowed down to lay flowers – she did it with her head covered, her leadership taking on the colours and textures of tradition headscarves worn in times of mourning. And in covering her head, she showed an honouring and the respect of the people who were suffering – what they stood for, what they believed in, what held them together, their faith that ultimately came under attack.
Those actions have rippled across the world in a most profound echo.
The question is, for how long will the echo be heard?
Almost two weeks on since that horrific day, as daily reports from NZ are replaced by dramatic daily event unfolding in ie. the UK as the Brexit clock ticks louder and louder, and other new global challenges emerge, how will this time, this turn of sentiment, be embedded?
How will this new way of society looking at itself, looking out for its collective, no longer accepting the divides, endure?
How, when the azaan – the Muslim call to prayer – is heard on the streets of Christchurch, of Auckland, of Sydney, of so many places across the world , will people respond. Will they pause and look up….or will they look away?
Much has been written about Prime Minister Ardern – ‘Jacindamania’ as many now call it. And hopefully, much more will. Why hopefully? Not because it is about her. Nor because it is about her tiny country that is a mere fraction of the size of many global nations shaping the globe in the future.
It is because her tiny nation is showing how one small moment, one small place, three little words, can shift, in a more compassionate and connecting direction, the minds and hearts of the world.
He could have been ungrateful, especially to is early critics, but he chose to be refrained.
He could have been reserved, closed, inaccessible, but instead he was open, personal, unrestrained.
He could have been soundbyte-ready as he responded to reaching the climax of celebration of the greatest performance of his life, but he chose to go unscripted, unedited, unmatched.
An artist who has brought back to life the larger-than-life greatness of another, Rami Malek is, unquestionably and unmatched, a class act. Even his Oscar statuette seems to be bowing in praise.
Just hours ago, 2019’s Best Actor took to the stage of the 91st Academy Awards in front of the industry’s finest and elite, and almost 30 million viewers outside of Hollywood’s iconic Dolby Theatre. It was not his first time receiving the industry’s highest honours – ‘Best Actor’. Awards season had been Rami’s Spring. Across the world, stage lights were shone upon him, calling him to receive yet another trophy for his remarkable portrayal of the legendary, gone-too-soon Freddie Mercury, lead singer of Queen, the edgy songbird’s original band members watching on in the audience with quiet, tearful pride.
Which is why at the Oscars, the finale of the industry’s schedule of the awarding of statues. he could have been jaded, just a bit unphased, another award not unexpected.
Instead, the only repeat performance he gave was one of pure, genuine, purposeful gratitude: gratitude for the trust, courage, vision, patience and faith of others.
Gratitude for his feeling of difference creating a sense of sameness with the character, the hero, he was to portray. Grateful for simply having a job.
To watch Rami Malek as Rami Malek, to listen to his inner thoughts become his quotable voice, is a re-positioning of a compass. In a world where the person and the personality can become two profoundly different things, where people are forgiven for their becoming distracted by external pressures to ‘keep it real’ by keeping themselves really interesting, to stop, be still, and listen to Rami Malek feels as beautifully, sweetly simple as watching a child approach an it’s all for you candy store with wide eyes, awed by the limitless amounts of goodies in front of him, and then slowly, tentatively, shyly choosing just one, checking again if it is ok to take.
To hear his words feels as if it is to listen to the whisper of his core. It is to hear a clean, warm, peacefully moving breeze. And to give thanks for the reminder of which direction the compass points.
Life imitating art? Or art liberating life?
Having left the stage following yet another magnificent acceptance speech, somehow, beautifully, his last words to the press seem to be those that will be the most lasting. Especially when giving credit to one who gave him strength beyond measure, and to whom he will forever give thanks.:
“I never thought I could possibly play Freddie Mercury until I realised his name was Farrokh Bulsara. And that is the most powerful message that was sent to me from the beginning. That was the motivation that allowed me to say ‘Oh I can do this’. And that man steps on stage and he moves people in a way that no one else does. – All of that passion and virtue and everything burning inside him allowed him to look at everyone else and say “Hey, I see you.”
We all have someone to whom we owe our deepest, truest whispers of thanks. to whom our lives will forever be grateful – someone, somewhere, who, somehow, saw us. How beautifully he has captured this spirit, this praise, this thankful prayer.
Words, wisdom, so deserving of an encore. And a deep bow. x
It was just a matter of days ago. A single moment now etched, actually deeply engraved, in time. A moment that for many lives has changed life forever.
And it was spotted so randomly, half way across the world, half way through a long-haul journey. Half-focused, half awake. Nairobi was under attack. Again.
Immediately eyes filled, heart dropped, blood heated and the voice in the back of my head rose: “Again!”
Once again a nation that has experienced far too many attacks on its people, its security, its stability and therefore its image in its history, is hit. Again.
15.01 2019 – an attack at a well-known hotel in Westlands, a popular, modern suburb in the nation’s capital, by the Islamist militant group Al-Shabaab, sees the news cameras and social media of the world turn to the scenes unfolding outside the DusitD2 hotel. Scenes feared by cities across the globe, yet seen to often in today’s times of global conflict, eclipse what should be the images that represent the vibrant, confident, characterful and proud DNA of the city of Nairobi, and people of Kenya per se. By the time the dust at the DusitD2 had settled on 16.01.2019, over 20 souls were lost, over 700 evacuees were trying to banish the horror of the experience from their minds and hearts while their bodies healed. Officials, able to contain the situation swiftly (just 20 hrs), were trying to manage the damage to the country beyond the immediate and the obvious. The lingering threat to the magic of Magical Kenya, and magical Kenyans: their image, and their spirit.
When moments of crisis occur, whether acts of God, acts of Mother Nature, or acts of angry men and women, in today’s world of global media, traditional and new media, it is so easy for people thankfully uninvolved, near and far, to simply sit back and watch, safely and comfortably, through screens large and small. Sadly, many quickly feel the desire to also start commenting, whether accurately informed or not, more often hurtful than not. Silence is broken only through social media comments.
These are times, however, when touch is more important than technology. Immediate response should be prayers and support, not opinions and speculation. Such was the instinctive response that day, in those initial moments of the Nairobi attacks. With eyes filling with tears, call were made, reaching out to Kenyans loved as colleagues, friends, citizens, to let them know they were not alone.
Why? because this horror was happening to Kenyans – this is NOT who they are. These are people, not profiles. This was real, this was raw, it is terrifying. Adrenaline was flowing. Fear was mounting, uncertainty was spreading. Prayers were needed. Now.
For one increasingly involved in professional and personal media messaging, it was an interesting moment of truth. True nature rapidly rose to the top: touch, quickly, directly, compassionately. The tech is for transmitting prayers only.
As the days post-attack unfolded, the remarkable strength of spirit of the people of Kenya shone through, again, through their presence both live and online. Because of this the global community rallied around the nation, holding back on judgment and resulting punishment through such blocks to economy, society and identity such as travel advisories and investment alerts.
Magical Kenya’s magic is because of its people, and their ability to stand together, #KenyaStrong.
The spirit of Kenya, Kenyans, burns bright.
Courage takes strength of character – a strength that is able to stand up to attacks of people, place, principle and promise. So too does support, wherever in the world it may be needed, wherever next the world’s eyes are suddenly turned.
Just a few hours to go before the sun has set, the bubbles have chilled, the candles have been lit, the finest is neatly fitted on, the friends and family gather, and the clock’s countdown begins. 2019 is so very close.
For all the excitement, freshness, energy and inspiration the thought of a new year unlocks in mind and heart, in moments such as these there is a hushed voice one is able to hear within one’s head – “slow down, not so fast.” These precious, last few hours of the year about to close are to be savoured by quietly, thoughtfully looking back, not wasted by rushing forward.
What a waste it would be to not pause and reflect back on all that has taken place, all that has played a part in shaping not just the year, but oneself. As has become the norm, the past year has been one with moments beyond expectation, beyond comprehension, and even beyond fiction. Moments of both triumph and tragedy, for the world, and for one’s own world, created distinct bookmarks that will shape the chapter soon to be simply titled ‘2018’. Add in intense personal milestones – births, birthdays, greetings of welcome, and goodbyes – and the combination becomes a heady cocktail. Bitter, sweet, sour, savoury, smooth, sharp, undetectable, ever-lingering….the ingredients all came together, not always tastefully and digestibly, but somehow digestibly. There was no choice but to drink it in.
Why? Because through the year, through all of the moments, memories, milestones, and madness, this is now a signature cocktail – created by, and for, you. Never before blended, never again to be created. A, your, original.
What a waste it would be to quickly throw aside this unique creation, this time, these last hours, without raising a glass to the year present that will soon, so soon, be a year ‘past’.
And so, as 2018 counts down to a close, may your heart feel gentle wave of silence wash over it – a silence that instinctively causes you to close your eyes, allow those signature moments to surface with the help of your mind’s eye, feel the invaluable part that each and every one has played – good and bad, high and low, perceived blessing and curse – and release a quiet whisper of ‘Thank You’ as you blow a kiss goodbye.
May the final sunset of this year reflect back onto you a warmth, and wink, for all that 2018 has been. And may tomorrow’s first sunrise greet you with an exciting, inviting, embracing smile of “Now let’s begin!!”
As predictable and understandable as it may be, its invisibility means we get caught off guard.
Year after year, it sneaks in. Slowly, unsuspectingly, the symptoms start to reveal themselves:
days feel longer,
and tolerance levels even shorter still.
As darkness eclipses sunshine earlier and earlier, sense of humour fades.
Inner voices of cross, irritated, impatience commentary become louder and louder. The fatigue feels endless. The ability to rise above increasingly challenging.
And then they start….those all too familiar sounds of the season: Christmas carols.
Suddenly it all makes sense. It’s that time of year again, that time when, after months and months of tireless positivity and productivity, your inner voices starts to whisper, louder and louder, “I’m tired!”
We all know the feeling – when a new year begins, 365 (sometimes 366) days of ‘doing’ are ahead of us. Turning the page into a new calendar year is nothing but wonderful, powerful, joyful. The risks and challenges that lay ahead? Those are the sources of growth, of getting outside one’s comfort zone to discover what more one can become, can achieve, can celebrate.
Today’s day and age of 24/7/365 connectivity has turned millions upon millions across the world into steadfast soldiers of the working world, be it profession or vocation or both, entering January each year with excitement, optimism and extra battery refills to keep energy and delivery strong. Into the year one marches, twelve months of possibility stretched out in front of us. The blessing of all that can be becomes the fuel for the year’s momentum of motion, of meaning, of moments of magic.
Why? Because with each new year comes new hopes, new prayers, new resolutions, new emotions. No matter how hectic the list may be, there is a bounce in step at the newness, freshness, possibility of the months head. Milestones pass as the months move on. The thought of counting down to the end of the year is a futile one. There is so much time ahead, and we all to busy getting on the the busyness of daily business, be it personal or professional, that pausing to count is academic. For what purpose?
Then suddenly, somehow, suddenly, the direction of the year changes. We’re in November, which means there are only a matter of days to go before December begins the countdown to the end of the year. It is no longer about looking forward from the start line to all that can be done. It becomes about looking backwards from the finish at all that must be done to ensure commitments made are fulfilled, promises are kept.
Needless to say, it creates a deep change in body, mind and spirit. A heaviness sets in. So much to do, so little time.
But what is about reaching around Day 330?? What is it that makes each new day feel heavy? How can this be? And in a quiet whisper to ourselves, we ask,: ‘how can that growly person looking back in the mirror be me?’
Realising this, the reality of timing, of it being ‘that time of year again’, seems too simple an explanation. And yet it is the only rationale needed. It is the simple truth.
All it takes is the sound of a little drummer boy playing his pa-rum-pum-pum-pum, or the sight of an angel’s wing twinkling in the night’s dark sky, to make one’s heart pause, breathe in, find a place of calm, know that the finish line is near, and know it’s okay to feel the fatigue of the many months that have passed.
For those in the global travel industry, this is when the heart of why we do what we do goes to the fore: creating opportunities for people to pause, whether with those loved or even alone, and allow the time to be used for self-care. As proud practitioners of a sector that has become one of the most critical worldwide for not just in growth of economies, societies, cultures and communities, but for global unity, safety, security and opportunity, so easily we get caught up in the ‘where’, ‘how’, ‘what’ and ‘when’ of travel. It is at this time of year when we the travel community, as travellers ourselves, start to focus on the ‘why’ – because we too are so in need of a holiday. No further analysis required.
Whatever one’s faith, whatever awaits at the finish line, those sweet moments are the end of the year are near.
Close your eyes, open your heart, hear that soft, soothing sound: pa-rum-pum-pum-pum, pa-rum-pum-pum-pum, pa-rum-pum-pum-pum. And….breathe.
Onward, stepping forward in to the rhythm of the little drummer boy’s beat: pa-rum-pum-pum-pum.
French playwright Victor Hugo one said, beautifully and poignantly,: “Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come.”
This statement, reflecting the moment when a small ember breaks free into a flame, perfectly captures these times for global tourism.
Never before has the value of the sector been so clearly exposed, so concretely measured, so collectively appreciated, inside and outside the sector. Never before has the global industry been so aligned in working together to maximise the enrichment of travel for travellers, and the benefit of travel for destinations. Never before has the role and responsibility of stakeholders across the tourism delivery chain been taken so seriously.
Because, never before has the role of global tourism as a ‘force for good‘ been so desperately needed.
The times in which we live can, so easily, feel so selfishly separating. Lines of division are being tested, not in their opportunity for removal, but in their threat of re-drawing. Walls vs bridges. Fear vs hope. Today vs tomorrow. As much as technology and travel have increased out ‘connectivity‘, sadly the stirring sentiments of division are bubbling aggressively, and audibly, to the surface. Social media is becoming increasingly anti-social. The global community is becoming increasingly local.
But then there is tourism – the only sector in the world that proactively, purposefully and proudly unites people of different places, different cultures, different faiths and different ways of living because of a desire, a genuine desire, to learn about, understand, and appreciate these differences, and in so doing, finding a common bond through shared time, shared values, shared appreciation. The only industry into which people invest their precious time, energy, money and dreams into this discovery of not just the world around them, but themselves.
For leaders in the tourism industry, the business case of the sector is a solid one. With global demand growing at a consistent 4%-5%+ since 2010, and future growth showing signs of sustained performance to 2030 and beyond, how does one prioritise? The number of moving parts is ever-increasing: increased momentum of travel excitement from existing source markets, along with new destinations, niches and travellers, reinforcing both the strength and that resilience of the sector, making for intense demands on the time and attention of leaders.
What new industry opportunities need to be understood and leveraged? What competitor activity must be carefully monitored? What geo-political and/or climatic challenges are critical to watch out for, and protect one’s businesses from? How does one power and protect performance?
For most leaders, the bottom line is top of mind.
But then there are the exceptions – leaders who have a different way of measuring performance – prioritising investments of time, energy and budget, and of measuring ROI. ROI is not simply ‘return on investment‘: default metrics: visitor numbers, revenue generation, margin. The measures of success are deeper, farther reaching, and more fundamentally enduring.
It is about ‘return on impact‘ – the difference travellers can make in the places to which they travel.
One such leader is one preferring to lead by example rather than by exhibitionism. Brett Tollman, Chief Executive of The Travel Corporation (TTC), the world’s largest, family owned and lead travel company serving, through its portfolio of almost 30 award winning travel brands, touching 70 countries across the globe with its over 1.9 million guests.
Knowing this officer and gentleman of the global travel community both professionally and personally, I am confident that he will be instinctively shying as the spotlight shifts in his direction. For this, I apologise. Sometimes, however, the brightness of the light must be endured, as what it reveals is vital to sharing lessons in leadership, full-circle leadership.
Why Brett? Because he knows that travel matters. He quietly, yet deeply and passionately, recognises the ability that travel has to uplift the lives of individuals, communities, societies and environments of the places that TTC takes its almost two million travellers per annum. And importantly, he knows that for all of the blessing, learning and enriching travel brings those who travel, a direct responsibility exists for his business, and his millions of travellers, to play a direct part in protecting the people and places kind and caring enough to welcome them into their home.
Why now? Because unbeknownst to so many, millions, this marks the 10th Anniversary of TTC’s not-for-profit foundation, Treadright, that was created by Brett and his family – as the ‘giving back’ half of the circle, which it now does through its 50+ sustainable tourism projects worldwide.
With Brett as the Foundation’s tireless champion, TreadRight grows in strength and impact each and every day, sensitive to the challenges faced by communities and ecosystems across the globe, finding ways to make a difference through TTC’s brands and guests turning their love of travel into appreciation-in-action.
An astute businessman whose life’s work and love is travel, for Brett the creation and enduring commitment to TreadRight as a force for protection, preservation and promotion of people, wildlife and planet is not about strategy. It’s about responsibility and gratitude. It’s as simple as that. Because travel matters.
Why this blog piece dedicated to TreadRight’s 10th Anniversary? To Brett?
Because example matters.
The below video is all one needs to see, hear, feel to understand. And to ‘get’ the need to step up, honouring the blessing at the heart of our travels across the world.
In today’s interconnected world, magnifying the messages and voices of leaders quietly leading by example, is simply the right thing to do. And it is an honour to do so.
Happy 10th Anniversary, TreadRight Foundation. And thank you, millions of times over. x