We should all be leading from the front – by going on holiday, says Cosmos chief executive Giles Hawke.
As you read this, I will be ramping up my final preparations for my summer holiday. After several months of ‘can we/can’t we?’, I am soon to be heading to France to spend seven days completing the Tour du Mont Blanc, a 170km walk and 10km ascent around the Mont Blanc range.
We will be staying in mountain refuges each night and pushing ourselves physically each day to get there in time for dinner (if you’re too late, you miss out). My wife and I have thought and discussed long and hard about whether we go ahead with this holiday since the lockdown started in March. We have concluded that Europe is open for business; that being outside and in the mountains is relatively low-risk from a Covid perspective (as much as anything is, aside from locking yourself in your house); and that life has to go on.
I have another very strong reason for going ahead with this holiday, which is related to my job. I run a travel business and I know the importance of tourism – not only from an economic perspective, for all those in the holiday chain, but also from a mental wellbeing perspective, as a holiday provides a chance to recharge and appreciate what’s important in life.
I feel a sense of responsibility to lead from the front. How can I encourage people to book holidays with my business if I’m not prepared to go out and travel myself?
Those of us in the travel industry should be taking the lead from this perspective. We should be travelling and talking about our travels so people can see we aren’t advocating doing something we wouldn’t do ourselves, that we are comfortable with the protocols being put in place, and that we are managing risk carefully by making informed decisions in a non-hysterical manner.
As a business, we have cancelled our Cosmos and Avalon holidays until at least the end of September to ensure our customers are happy to travel, otherwise I would be about to head off for a week on a river cruise or a tour. Nevertheless, I will be able to see first-hand what is happening at airports, on Eurotunnel, in hotels and mountain refuges, and to share with others the fact that people are travelling and that safety measures are in place because I will have experienced it myself.
This is a powerful form of endorsement. Anyone old enough to remember the Remington TV adverts of the 80s will recall the power of Victor Kiam’s tagline: “I liked it so much, I bought the company.” Similarly, I feel strongly that there can be no better example of trust and belief in our industry than for those of us in it to travel and share our experiences, to show that we are doing the right things across the range of holiday types we sell.
Think back too to 2010. Remember the airline executives going up in the air during the Icelandic ash cloud crisis to show regulators and consumers that it was safe to fly? That was another great example of demonstrating your confidence and belief in your product and industry.
Force for good
So despite the doom and gloom that surrounds us all in terms of job uncertainty, incompetent government, financial pressures, looming economic uncertainty and general unease around what may happen in the future, we should be out there taking holidays and shouting about them.
We should be encouraging others to book a break away, both for 2020 and, even more so, for 2021, as some stability will return. There will be a new normal and people will want to travel and experience new cultures and new adventures.
I can’t claim my trip at the end of this month is solely to demonstrate that travelling is a good thing to do. But I can honestly say that one of the deciding factors in continuing with my travel plans is to demonstrate my trust and belief that travel is a force for good and to applaud the strength and resilience of our great industry.
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