Gavin Tollman: Is this the best we can do?

Gavin Tollman is the CEO of Trafalgar.

It is the tail end of summer 2020. In some places we have seen travel reopen, but as the season begins to draw to a close, so too are places being shut down once more, driven by an avoidable second wave of Covid-19. With these whiplash changes and ever-shifting and convoluted restrictions, the opportunity for even a limited 2020 summer and early autumn travel season is rapidly fading.

Despite this uncertainty, it has been clear that the virus can be controlled. However, individual irresponsibility combined with the continued lack of cohesive government strategies and poor cross-nation coordination has resulted in this outcome. Unless we do better, this virus -- or Covid-20, Covid-21 or whatever the year and case might be -- is going to be with us for some time.

The impact of people not traveling is now ricocheting through not just the travel industry but across nearly every industry and business. The economic ecosystem that the travel industry supports runs far and wide, from supply chains to value chains, shopkeepers, attractions, taxis, drivers. Travel is responsible for 10% of GDP worldwide. Globally this ecosystem has offered, as recently as 2019, one in 10 jobs worldwide. That's one in 10 families able to enjoy stability, security and hope as a result of travel and tourism. No other economic sector offers such opportunity and promise. The World Travel and Tourism Council now predicts that the global travel and tourism market will lose over 100 million jobs worldwide and significantly impact GDP.

The path to avoiding these outcomes is as clear as the failures of the past several months. Those in a position to do so did not respect the challenge of managing the first wave of our generation-defining pandemic, and careless individual actions are causing a second wave (and in some places even third). This, combined with unclear and/or inconsistent government protocols, has resulted in the world again delaying the ability to heal and get back on its feet, economically, physically and emotionally.

This both infuriates and concerns me. At a time when many parts of the world were ready to begin dreaming and exploring, starting to reconnect with the rest of the world, we could see firsthand that simple actions that could change the trajectory were present but would require discipline to maintain. Yet as restrictions subsided, so did vigilance, and for some reason people began to think that Covid-19 was just not a problem anymore. Possibly, the likelihood that we are not so much stopping the virus as we are merely slowing down its spread is acting as a disincentive. The outcomes are already right here in front of us. And I mean this literally.

Globally, we're at another tipping point. Everything we read about the necessary steps to control this and other viruses remains unchanged. It is remarkably simple: The adherence to health measures is the only way to manage it. Keep your distance from others, wash your hands, avoid heavily crowded and enclosed areas and wear a mask where recommended. Implement a system for track and trace and, if needed, self-quarantine. When these measures are followed, cases go down. Where they're not, cases go up.

Selfishness is defined as "lacks consideration for others; concerned chiefly with one's own personal profit or pleasure." Covid-19 is bringing to the forefront a social sickness that extends beyond a pandemic that, globally, has claimed the lives of nearly 800,000 souls. That disease's name is selfishness.

We are an impatient, I-centric society in which too many are primarily focused on "what's in it for me?" Something as simple as a request for people to wear a mask in public has become distracted by politics. I simply don't understand how the wearing of a mask infringes on any individuals' liberties. We abide by speed restrictions around schools and prohibitions on drunk driving. In the I-centric society, each of these equally impinges on "civil liberties." But we abide by them in the name of public health -- for our safety and that of others. With regards to this virus, do I enjoy wearing a mask? No. Do I understand why they are deemed critical to facing this pandemic? Yes. Do I therefore wear it out of respect for others in our collective quest to keep others safe, not just myself? Absolutely. It's not right that someone who is vulnerable has to risk their life to go shopping because someone else wants to be defiant. It is our individual actions that impact our lives and the livelihoods of others.

Covid-19 has taught us all the importance of thinking about what we cannot see. We are in fact already united by an invisible bond. The pandemic is something that we cannot see, but it's out there impacting us all. It's something we cannot touch yet is directly transferable, causing us to avoid touching at all. And it's something that has made it very clear that if we do not respect it, we will again be grounded. It is time to think wider, think bigger and to think more caringly. We need to take active, personal responsibility for our impact on our shared world. Is it difficult when facing an invisible crisis? No question about it, but there's no question individually we have a role to play.

Additionally, as second waves grow and borders begin to shut again, around the world we continue to see a lack of coordination among governments and institutions, resulting in fragmented responses at a time when synergy needs to be a vital part of dealing with the crisis. To make matters worse, the situation is aggravated by the absence of ongoing communication about the critical value of reducing the virus. Rather than guide us, it is incredibly perplexing to see something that is manageable and achievable become politicized, disregarded or mismanaged.

We have seen time and again that when you blend science and politics, all you get is politics. The continued result: an unnecessary disaster being perpetuated and too many sufferings both epidemiologically and economically.

If a government can't address something as important as this, then we don't have the government we need. We should not raise our hands as victims; we again have a role to play. Where there has been a complete absence of leadership and a focus on snake oil cures without foundation, we need to ensure that come elections, we vote and we change our leaders.

And to the governments of the world, I simply ask this: If the sacrifices we have to make are to wear a mask, wash our hands and stand apart, and if we then don't abide by these rules, fines should be issued. Just as they are if we're caught speeding in a school zone or driving over the alcohol limit. With international tourist arrivals projected to plunge by up to 80% in 2020, we need to work hand in hand to rebuild confidence that travel is both safe and inspiring as well as economically viable.

There is a central lesson of Covid-19: we are all in this together. We know where we are, we know where we need to go. This, therefore, is a moment of truth. A time for us to do better as a generation. The opportunity for us individually to take greater responsibility. We as a global community are bonded now more than ever because of a shared crisis, one that will define our generation. At this time, we are simply being asked to stand together by standing apart. It's time to shift from an I-centric to a we-centric society. In doing so, we can act as a global community, coming together to enable us to move forward.


From Our Partners

2020 Enterprise Webinar
React. Reset. Reshape. | Enterprise and National Define the Path Forward
Watch Now
The Right Rental for All Occasions
Read More
2020 Lifestyle Holidays Webinar
The Lifestyle You Deserve
Register Now

JDS Travel News JDS Viewpoints JDS Africa/MI