Travel's needless pause

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 Gavin Tollman is the CEO of Trafalgar.

Travel has always been a remarkable gift: the opportunity to venture out and explore the world. Learn about other cultures and customs. Celebrate the freedom of movement.

After almost 18 months of restrictions to our mobility, people are starting to venture out once more. The desire to travel has never been stronger.

But: Once again, we're experiencing approximately 25% of guests canceling their travel dream at the last minute. Their heartache is palpable. Their frustration understandable, as is that of those who are now also delaying their 2022 dreams.

Which is why we are encouraging other travel brands to join Trafalgar in requiring vaccinations.

The reason is clear. Months and months after we were first gripped by the global pandemic, with millions of lives and livelihoods lost, hospitals are once again reaching breaking points. Curves are spiking, virus strains are strengthening, cases are spreading. And among those at great risk of spreading and suffering are the under-50s.

With every passing day, we appear to be heading toward a fourth wave. But this time, it was avoidable. Not enough people have been vaccinated, and not enough people are wearing masks.

I fundamentally struggle to comprehend how we have reached this point as a global community. We literally have had a choice between safety and spread. Between freedom and fear. Between responsibility and selfishness. And sadly, millions continue to choose spread, fear and selfishness.

There will be no Covid-free world. Like the common flu, we will live with Covid as part of our lives. It need not, however, take the form of the deadly pandemic we have experienced so far.

We can move forward safely if we act responsively and collectively. It's possible. Across numerous Travel Corporation brands, we have successfully operated trips, domestically and internationally, for much of the summer. Safe travel, with vaccinated guests and tour and wellbeing directors, not only brings fulfillment to our guests, but it restores the livelihoods for our industry colleagues and communities we visit.

We know a post-pandemic world is still far off. We must not, however, stop living until then. Safe travel is possible now.

This completely unnecessary latest wave of Covid has me angry and frustrated. It could have been avoided. The dangerous minority voice of anti-vaxxers and actions of anti-maskers are putting others at serious risk and crippling the recovery of businesses and communities.

I have seen first-hand that Covid kills and can kill young. Yet a minority, some emboldened by a false sense of security in being young and strong, think they can get through it if they get it. I am astonished that the estimate of 4.5 million souls lost isn't enough of a red flag.

And at the same time, government's inconsistent leadership, characterized by inaction, arbitrary rules and regulations and constantly changing policies are creating confusion, choking tourism and leaving businesses struggling to work out who can do what and go where. This untrustworthy leadership is severely restricting the economic, social and mental health of nations.

The crisis of the past two years brought to an abrupt halt the remarkable momentum of our industry. We at the Travel Corporation were looking forward to celebrating our centenary. Instead, at the peak of the global pandemic we saw the closure of 100% of international borders and the loss of over 100 million travel and tourism jobs.

When anyone rejects their vaccine or refuses to wear a mask, they're increasing the risk of others catching a potentially deadly or disabling disease as well as prolonging the social and economic costs of the pandemic. If they have cultural or ideological (as opposed to medical) reasons, they should simply be excluded from participating in the greater society. The irresponsible minority who choose to selfishly reject vaccines and protocols are depriving the rest of us of living life fully.

Only when the world is adequately vaccinated will we find our new normal. Vaccines have the proven ability to save lives, restart economies and meaningfully rebuild the travel industry. I am currently in France, and I have seen how electronic vaccine passports, and masks where necessary, can work. I can see how with those steps, we will be able to ease travel restrictions. Living in a sustained state of a pandemic is nonsensical. Right here, right now, we have a choice. Let's do the right thing for ourselves and each other.

Previous Forums from Gavin Tollman:

A new year's message of gratitude and caution

Is this the best we can do?

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