I’ve heard people joke that future history lessons will skip teaching about 2020 – “The year we all want to forget.”
I’ve even seen a meme of Back To The Future’s Marty McFly being warned by Doc Brown: “Whatever happens, do not go back to the future to 2020!” But I pray that actually 2020 it’s celebrated as the year we learnt to #BuildBackBetter.
It’s hard to believe we’re in June; so much has happened – and not happened – in just six months. The soul-searching, self-examination and reverberations of change during lockdown are palpable. Action, though, has to continue to be taken.
Embracing the #BeKind message and understanding that mental health matters; watching out for one another; volunteering; showing outrage, supporting and really committing to change for the #BlackLivesMatter movement; and recognising the environmental opportunity afforded to the planet and people by global lockdowns. These are all actions that should be carried forward.
Can six months change a community psyche and how we relate to each other?
We should not forget 2020 and everything we have learnt. We cannot simply pick up where we left off because through adversity we have been shown a way to evolve and create something tremendously positive from the awful price of peoples’ lives and other innumerable challenges Covid-19 has created globally.
The environment: how do we capitalise on the positive effects on the environment that came from reduction in human impact? People have been saying they can see the stars, they can see the sea is cleaner and the air is not smoggy.
We must highlight brighter product, places, methods and communication to ensure this period of environmental improvement is not short- lived. Our customers will increasingly not accept the moral incompatibility of leisure time at the expense of the people and places where they holiday. Profit will be lost if we don’t change.
There are so many resources out there to make sure we learn – we just have to try.
Financial protection: how do we tighten our supply chain and customer relationships? We need to develop a new framework, with government if we cannot do it ourselves. Financially, did we treat each other with respect for the other’s needs during this crisis? To me, an extension of the trust account model that operates frequently in retail but infrequently in tour operating and with their suppliers is the way forward.
Charitable Travel doesn’t get access to margin until every supplier has been paid. Why should others be allowed to trade using customer money, meaning they don’t give it back when it is legally due? Already we’re hearing of blacklists. Wouldn’t it better to tighten the control?
Diversity: how do we examine our business methods and messaging to ensure we truly embrace our society’s diversity? I made a new heartfelt TTG pledge recently, in Pride Month, as chief executive of a travel social enterprise and as a transgender woman, against any form of discrimination.
But pledges are not enough. Recruitment, onboarding and promotion cannot only be proportionate, it must be representative of our diverse society. There must be enshrined business practices and processes that go beyond what is legally prescribed to ensure this.
The legacy of Covid-19 cannot just be death and despair. We are duty-bound to learn from this experience, take the good, evolve and #BuildBackBetter.
Melissa Tilling is chief executive of Charitable Travel.