There is a sense of optimism and hope in the air. The season is changing. Spring has arrived in the northern hemisphere as we edge out of winter, the hope and aspiration of lockdown easing is within sight. It’s been reported that travel businesses have been experiencing an uptake in sales following the announcement that travel could restart properly in the UK from May 17.
As a UK travel business owner, I eagerly await the review from the Department for Transport into how we will be allowed to restart travel. The report is due on April 12, assuming we don’t get wind of leaks before then. Thankfully our Prime minister Boris Johnson has said that it is “vital for many businesses which have been hardest hit including retail, hospitality, tourism and aviation”. We are all eagerly waiting and will listen attentively.
I have an image in my mind of the start of a horse race or steeple chase, as jockeys flex their leg muscles spurring their horses into the starting blocks as they tussle to get out of the starting gates. Who will be the fastest on the starter’s orders? We have all had plenty of time to plan for the restart of travel. We all know too well how this pandemic has been a bit of a leveller for travel businesses, used to enabling travellers to move around the globe, see new horizons and meet people or visit families and friends.
But are we ready? Will it be back to business as we knew before? Covid has clearly given us a foresight and laid bare that our normal behaviour as humans is no longer sustainable. Has the rhetoric of “build back better” that is batted around the travel industry become a resounding noise?
Are we truly going to take a new path which looks at the balance in our environment and the communities? Covid has been the centric C word of our global communications the last 12 months but I want to remind you there are words also beginning with the letter C, which will have a greater impact, more devastating than Covid, and that’s Climate Change.
David Attenborough’s Witness Statement and Vision for our planet refers to the Dasgupta review that has estimated that almost 50 % of humanity’s impact on the planet is attributable to the richest 16% of the human population. The Dasgupta Review which was written in 2020, highlights this staggering percentage. We are going to have to learn, and learn fast, that we cannot keep the same trajectory as before – we have to seek ways to share resources far more evenly than ever.
When we travel, or sell travel, we recognise that we are guests in other countries. The local communities receive us as guests and the wealth generated from our visit supports that particular destination. I have been struck by the idea Kate Raworth, a University of Oxford economist has, who teaches us a new model called The Doughnut Economy.
It’s a reinterpretation of the planetary boundaries model. If you imagine a doughnut shape, the outer ring being the ecological ceiling which our behaviour should never go beyond, ensuring we remain safe and well on the planet. The inner ring is like the foundation, ensuring everyone can exist but not at the expense of the wellbeing of another. It’s genius and yet so simple – a model that can be replicated in everything we do.
David Attenborough writes “Sustainability in all things should be our species philosophy, the Doughnut Model, our compass for the journey”. I love that!
So as we emerge in this new season, let’s not go back to business as before, let’s ensure our actions are set to improve the lives of people everywhere as well as reducing our impact on the planet. I am excited for the UK government to take a lead, like they have with the successful rollout of our Covid vaccine programme, to show leadership, on a global level at COP26 in November. It is the perfect time, and we have no time to lose, to ensure that measures and a new way of thinking can be replicated around the globe. I sense it is already happening as new players and innovators join the sustainable revolution – the urgency is here and now. The rhetoric of “Building Back Better” needs to ensure we all flourish, which I have no doubt will lead to wider debate about how we measure GDP in the long run.