Transportation is restricted, hospitality virtually without any guests and many ancillary services whether digital or physical devoid of any business. This is unlike any time we have seen before as even in the great wars, some parts of the world were always open. In the current time, world has decided to go on a strike together. What seemed like a temporary disruption from the life we are used to has far outstretched what we had imagined. Yet whenever we talk of travel, it spurs the kind of reaction which is unprecedented both as a memory and a longing to experience it again, perhaps more than any other material possession. Whether one posts a photograph, writes about a place, remembers friends, travel is a theme hard to miss. Despite the gloom today, there is a silver lining of hope, that despite being battered today, is sustaining and it will spring back to life bigger and better than ever before!
It’s often in desperate times that the biggest improvements are thought of and implemented. Survival is always the first reaction and that is the phase we are in at the moment. We are also aware that this is no ordinary disruption and it will fundamentally change what we thought was the natural course of business or of life for that matter. Therefore as we come out of the survival mode we need to reimagine life of which travel is an integral part as we look at the next century or centuries. Travel has withstood many challenges before but discovering new places whether for adventure, business, leisure or necessity is a foregone constant which will not change. Then what needs to change and how? Should we not spend the time now to imagine the ‘what’ and start planning for the ‘How’ ? Here are some of my thoughts….
1. Need to reassess risk – With new facts on what we can be faced with, there is case of reassessing risk. Risk used to be assessed with respect to safety of travel, fire, theft, political climate, law and order and now one will have to consider the risk of infection from virus’s or other matter and the availability of medical facilities as well as care. Travel business has always had risk but that risk factor now is manifold as it has potential of taking human lives as well as sparking of a pandemic. Therefor whichever part of travel industry one belongs to ie transportation which is travel by train, air or ship, hospitality which is your stay and food or ancillary services which could be your tours, tour guides or ticketing services, the level of risk mitigation measures have to go up manifold. This is not only true for today but for the foreseeable future as the pandemics are going to become a part of life and are not going any where. What it does do is raise the cost of service and that additional costs will need to be passed on as we equip ourselves for the future. What it will also do is to spark innovation in travel related design which becomes imperative.
2. Focus on Environment – Environment and our green spaces are our inheritance and that is what makes this planet livable. In our endeavour for growth and wealth, we have ignored our inheritance using it to enhance our resources but not replenishing it enough to sustain human endeavour over a period of time. Fossil fuels, deforestation, mining while they have increased facilities as well as livelihoods but they have also left us vulnerable to the forces of nature one of which we are facing today with a severe warning that such pandemics will be a fact of life if we do not improve. Therefore whether its transportation, communication, facilities, or services, innovation in environmental management is critical if one hopes that travel should be as pleasurable as always. If one has the eyes to appreciate the wonders across the world then we better have the balls to protect them from decay and disease.
3. Focus on safety and employment – Travel as an industry is one of the largest employment generators both for formal and informal workers besides supporting real estate and the culinary market. Current pandemic has thrown up large scale disruption in these markets with possibly no protection for its participants. This may happen again but every endeavour has to be made that the participants are protected. Now is the time to recognise this industry, formalise its processes and provide a safety net for its participants. Travel industries importance to the employment generation needs to be recognised and not only protected but also supported. Governments and the industry both need to act together and urgently!
Love affair with travel may never get over but we need these actions to continue to savour the moments that we love so much! Time to reflect isn’t it?