Our industry has an obligation to help people see the world differently, says Giles Hawke, executive director of MSC Cruises
English writer and philosopher Aldous Huxley knew a thing or two about taking a trip – LSD and mescaline both helped him cross new boundaries.
Seeing the world and what it offered in a different way was a central theme throughout his life, and Huxley [no relation to Lucy, of the Travel Weekly crew], squeezed every ounce of experience into his writing.
After one adventure, he famously remarked that “to travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries”. It’s a sentiment that those of us who work in this business probably appreciate more than most.
Broaden the mind
Wherever you go, and whatever mode of transport you use, the idea holds true: travelling allows us to learn about new cultures and engage with people different from ourselves. It is this thirst for new experiences that motivates so many to jet off.
I always find it strange that so many Brits want to go where other Brits go, just to spend time surrounded by their own countrymen and women. The horizon and weather change – but often even the food stays the same.
What does it say about us as an industry and as a nation? The travel sector has an opportunity and, some might suggest, an obligation to help people to see the world differently. Without trying to sound too grand, we can help to promote understanding and harmony by ensuring our guests do interact with unfamiliar cultures. Relaxing and topping up the tan can be done at the same time as broadening the mind.
Mix with other nationalities
The rise of sites such as Airbnb proves there is a desire among travellers for something authentic – a wish to feel “part” of the country they are visiting – rather than being stuffed in a homogenised hotel complex where they are surrounded by Brits.
There must be opportunities for mainstream operators to increase the “real” experiences they offer, giving holidaymakers the chance to mix with other nationalities.
In cruising, some lines are proud of catering to one nationality and making people feel as if they haven’t left home. Others, such as MSC Cruises, break free from this introversion and boast up to 100 nationalities on board at any one time.
Customers have a choice. Mix with Brits who just want to moan about the weather and house prices? Or hear other languages, find out more about people’s lives and listen to views from those who don’t have the same background? I know which I’d choose.
I’m not saying that the travel industry can deliver world peace, but can’t we be more pioneering?
Delivering greater understanding and knowledge can only help us all fly higher – just not in the way that Aldous did.
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