Travel will not only bounce back, it will surge. The trade and suppliers will be scrambling for availability for travellers whose lust for travel had to be put on hold.
That is our view at Travel News. Post-COVID, travel will again be important for people with discretionary income and that number will continue to grow as the global economy picks up and continues its relentless progress in eliminating poverty worldwide.
Travel News as an online daily has its roots in our first publication published 66 years ago in June 1954. Called the Holiday & Travel Guide to SA and the World, it was the first travel publication in the country and was founded with this mission: “It is concerned with giving people an urge to travel” was the belief of the founders, John and Leona Marsh, that the mixing of people through travel gives them a better understanding of each other, and makes them more tolerant. That was an important mission then, as the world was recovering from a devastating world war.
That inspirational message about the necessity of travel has been very eloquently expressed in a recent speech by the travel innovator, Stephan Ekbergh of Cape Town-based Travelstart at the WiT (WebinTravel) Virtual Summit, held on June 24. Watch his speech here.
You’re in Sweden, pregnant and happy. A country that chooses its own way of dealing with COVID. Open, free, trusting its citizens. I’m in Cape Town here stuck with your sisters and your mum. A country so different, with draconian lockdown rules. A quarter of a million people arrested for not adhering to lockdown rules. I wish I was there with you right now. During your maternity leave, I would like for you to reconsider my offer for you to join the firm, so I wanted to share some thoughts with you.
Two-thirds of the global population are coming out of lockdown. It’s been the worst of times and best of times as Charles Dickens once wrote.
I used to wake up, heart pounding, dripping with sweat, only wishing I could go back to my nightmares because they were more pleasant than the reality I had to face.
Our business completely bombed out. 21 years of work disappeared in one go. We have zero revenues and a big team wanting leadership, expecting enthusiasm, waiting for direction. I have been grasping at every straw I could find and told my team to do the same. And my heart hurts thinking about how they have toiled. No end in sight when this will reopen.
Okay, I want to be honest. Before all this happened we probably overplayed our hand. We did. Everyone did. People’s cravings became more flamboyant and with too many choices we became grumpier. I have probably been the worst.
Like a spoilt child, I would complain about long check-in lines. Why didn’t we have a way to a biometric system to determine if I’m a terrorist or not? I whined about whether the food was better in Emirates business class or if indeed it was better on Qatar. If hotels didn’t respond to my need of a perfect Caesar salad after 11pm within 20 minutes, it was my consitutional right to take it out on social media – #shitservice. If the hotel was overbooked because of a full conference and my late arrival caused the hotel to release my reservation, it was my responsibility to take it out in rage. My opinion is everyone’s interest, even though no one cares. You warned me about being hot tempered on social media. So I did what you did, I deleted all my accounts before I became an embarrassment.
We tried to satisfy every desire for more, new, different, unique. We got high on our own lust for growth and we were intoxicated about all talks of disruption, disintermediation, big data, machine learning, personalisation.
Then, we got an unwanted meeting with the future. It started as a subtle wind, when we were in Japan, remember? Yet another virus outbreak in China, what’s new? And then so-called experts added their models. Bill Gates’ old Ted talk started resurfacing. And what Bill says, we must listen to, because he is very rich. Spineless politicians and media followed, and by the time it hits social media, it’s a full-on global tsunami.
Everyone I knew became a virology expert and knew everything about super spreaders and comorbidity.
We started to use words like ‘amid’, ‘unprecedented’, ‘social distancing’, ‘hot zones’, ‘pandemic’, ‘flatten the curve’, ‘herd immunity’, ‘lockdown’, ‘contact tracing’ and ‘furlough’.
And then there was this thing about ‘epistemic trespassing’ – when some idiot second guesses the experts. I guess that’s me. Stay safe.
Half-baked truth flogged by data wankers predicted the ultimate end of humanity. I know you don’t like when I talk like this.
But the future everyone talked about sounded much like 1984. Control and surveillance. Grey, dark. Big governments. Eyes everywhere to protect whatever was left of humanity. You have no idea what all this means. But I was born 15 years after World War II ended and for the first 19 years of my life, the Soviets and their brainwashing was very real.
Over the course of a few weeks now, humanity has suffered a personality crisis. People revise their values, relationships, priorities, choices. Conclusion – all is NOT well. Give me the simple life. I would give up anything to have a green tea at Mount Nelson with anyone. A plate of spaghetti at Massimo’s in Hout Bay would be a feast. Hearing the jet engines on Emirates roar before take-off would bring tears to my eyes. I’m even hallucinating about going to Mario’s to fix my hair. Actually, I would even consider going to Waterfront, without a face mask – a treat.
But it hit me, and this is my point. I’m standing on the shoulders of my parents and grandparents. Some died on the frontlines in Russia. My grandpa on mum’s side worked himself to death for a tiny pay. I owe everything to them. It was because of them I could enjoy my freedom and travel anywhere I wanted.
I grew most during my travels and so did everyone else I know. You, your sisters and brother and the little one in your tummy must be allowed the same.
I remember being exposed to poverty in the favelas of Rio, it broke my heart. I experienced poaching in Africa, it filled me with rage. I watched the Northern Lights and it filled me with awe of God’s wonder. Studying the mosaic details at the Taj Mahal blew me away. When I sent your sister to school in Hawaii, she and the world changed. When people immigrate and build homes in new countries, social chains are broken and a new life is born. A handshake between two business partners from halfway around the world is a building block for a better tomorrow.
The freedom we had didn’t come lightly and our job was never to serve the ogre of unsatisfiable tastes. 60-year-old wannabe millennials’ thirst for yet another experience to brag about on Facebook or another meaningless picture to post on Instagram.
My job, our job as an industry, is SO much more important. We’re defenders of our freedom – freedom to move, to meet, to love, to make the world more diversified, to make it more beautiful and to keep it OPEN. And should you one day choose this industry, I want you to take this very seriously and remember my words.
Travel is the start engine of the global economy and a silent peacekeeper. It brings increased understanding between peoples and cultures. Travel advances society because we learn to appreciate diversity and we understand our desperate need for each other and unity. In a digital world, physical meetings are more important than ever. I think that travel is the ultimate killer app and it makes this planet a better place.
You must remember that the travel industry is the most important industry in the world and it’s the lubricant of our way of lives. Now more than ever. If we do what we do with a considerate heart, we contribute to a better tomorrow for humankind.
And a last word since you know I always want the last word – remember to be kind to the check-in attendants, because kindness is a shortcut to an upgrade.