“When will people travel again?” It’s the golden question.
We can only hope infection rates continue downwards, quarantine here lifts and a change in FCO advice waves the starting flag on our economic recovery soon, or at the very least we get news of some air bridges being in place soon.
Of course it’s not that simple globally. There have now been nine million confirmed cases of coronavirus since the outbreak began, and it’s going to be a long time before we see anything like the 2019 levels of travel. People could be nervous – either about their health or their finances – for a while.
But getting our industry back to business is significant: travel funds the world. It makes the world go round. What other industry is there that literally reaches out and gives another country money, cold hard cash, and says “I give you this gladly in exchange for the smiles of your people, the feel of the sun in your skies, to walk on your streets, beaches and mountains and to see your beautiful wildlife”.
Getting back on track will not just mean the travel industry’s economic recovery; it will bring a wider human recovery. Just as this maleficent virus was spread by humans, so are many other, much better things: compassion, cultural understanding, fun, curiosity. We need to get humans on the move again; people’s stories need to be heard and shared, in person, not just through a computer screen.
We’ve shared our own set of ideas in the Summer issue of TTG Luxury to inspire; lots of places and notions that you might then share with your clients, ideas that might get them off their sofa and actually planning a holiday.
Some people question whether travellers will want to holiday in these kinds of environments, where everyone is wearing masks and (obvious) measures have to now be in place.
But the stunning location of these places won’t have changed; if anything they will be looking even more beautiful than before, having had a chance to breathe.
You may not be able to see it behind a (probably stylish) mask, but hotel and resort staff will still be smiling, as they always have done; handshakes may have gone, but heartfelt welcomes won’t. And they will be doing every single thing they can to make the stay as easy and comfortable as possible.
Perhaps also, we need to urge clients to ask not “where can we go”, but “where should we go”? Many projects with CSR at their heart may have suffered in recent months, with safari camps, conservancies and national parks closed with no revenue, and projects, communities and wildlife under threat.
Many countries in Africa may well be favoured by luxury travellers due to the lure of vast open spaces and few people, so it’s our responsibility to try and convince clients they should give these places a go – they’ll probably need little persuasion, considering some of the most important projects are often in the most beautiful places.
Everything is contingent on a new list of circumstances now; a travel consultant’s job is harder than ever before – you must protect your own business, your staff, your clients and this vast and brilliant industry in the midst of a maelstrom. It’s no mean feat, but I’m sure you are up to the challenge.
April Hutchinson is the editor of TTG Luxury