Airline Agent (AA): “Passport?”

Hopeful Passenger (HP): “Passport.”

AA: “Visa?”

HP: “Visa on arrival.”

AA: “COVID Test?

HP: “COVID Test – right test?

AA: “Right Test. Vaccination certification?

HP: “Vaccination certificate

AA: “Passenger Locator for X?”

HP: “Not needed – in transit to Y.”

AA: “You still need for X. Please scan here and make sure you fill it out before you board. Travel Insurance?

HP: “What travel insurance? Not needed – in transit to Y.

AA: “Still needed for X, even if in transit. Look – it says it here.

(AA shows HP her screen)

AA: “No travel insurance?

HP: “No, no travel insurance.

AA: “Able to buy now?”

HP: “How??!”

AA: “So no travel insurance. I’m very sorry. Boarding denied.

HP: (Heartbroken silence)

This conversation line is not fiction. It happened. Personally. Horribly. And no doubt it will happen somewhere, to someone, again.

The countdown to travel. Pre-2020 it was a heart-lifting sleep count, a time of joyful readiness to venture out, people and places loved just a short/medium/long-haul journey away. And then came COVID – our shared world’s immense, intense challenge to travel ecosystems. And travellers.

Long gone seem the days of arriving at an airport for international travel, stepping up to the check-in desk, having passport checks rapidly completed, being handed a boarding pass, and then wished a good trip. Today the process is one where anxiety can so rapidly eclipse sweet anticipation.

An unfortunate expectation of travel in 2022? Disappointment – being prevented from travel due to:

  • changes in regulations,
  • changes in airline schedules,
  • changes in return protocols,

and understandably

  • changes in heart.

Two years into the global pandemic, the travel world we once knew as a wide-reaching collection of exciting connections sadly remains a complex, ever-changing matrix of carefully and cautiously reopening of borders, reconnecting of routes, and reuniting people. While parts of the world are enjoying the restoring of domestic and international travel momentum, confidently feeling a sense of “we’ve made it”, in other parts of the world continued restrictions and tight travel regulations are faced, along with the enduring angst of “we’re not there yet…”

The required travel ‘extras’ continue to grow:

  • Extra time for protocols and paperwork, at every stop,
  • Extra costs for COVID tests, pre- and /or post,
  • Extra patience.

Which is why continuing to be highly sensitive to the raw, rapidly changing realities of travel in 2022 is critical. Navigating through ever-changing travel headlines, stats and mobility systems is one thing – undertaking the experience of global travel is quite another. Right now, wherever a traveller’s ‘right here’ may be, it is hard, because of the innate uncertainties – uncertainties around macro, widescale travel systems:

  • Borders unblocking,
  • Flights flying,
  • Hotels re-opening,
  • Attractions re-attracting,

and micro, individual travel capability:

  • Paperwork in place,
  • Barriers unblocked,
  • Hopes fulfilled.

At times it can so easily feel that travel confidence can only be felt when physically sitting on the plane. Until then, nothing is for certain.

Travel, international travel, is not easy. Not now.

But these travel pains are not forever.

Travel joy will be with us once again, once our travelling world has mastered living with COVID, living through the now inescapable realities of moving around the world.

In 2022, as new year optimism provides the global community with greater buoyancy, each and every one of us need to rebuild our travel muscles. Being grounded for two years has left us weak – weak in walking lengths through the airports, carrying luggage, navigating our way through small spaces, stretching our way through those that are large. This restrengthening is critical.

So too is re-strengthening of our travel hearts – finding and showing compassion that has never been seen before when see people struggling in airports with paperwork that has not been fully completed, struggling to find someone to help them make sense of the fine print that was invisible until check-in, struggling to accept their plans have been dramatically altered, struggling to keep their travel dreams alive.

We as a global industry need to dedicate 2022 to re-strengthening the mind, the body, and the heart of global Travel & Tourism as country by country, region by region, journey by journey, the world reopens to travel once more.

Never before have the words of one of our world’s most missed travellers been more true:

Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.” – Anthony Bourdain

Onward. Our world awaits. x


Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2022