Collaborative approach more effective than quarantine, says Travel Counsellors chief executive Steve Byrne
As countries start to emerge from lockdown people can begin to engage again, enjoying the things and experiences that matter to them and that add colour to their lives.
For many this includes spending more time with loved ones, and having the opportunity to be at home with family will have been a benefit of the lockdown. Another benefit of the experience is the shift towards a more flexible way of working for many, and no doubt most will be looking forward to continuing this in some capacity going forward. I’m sure we all can only hope that the dreaded peak time commute becomes a thing of the past, as we recognise the advantages of flexible working over sitting in hours of traffic.
Giving people the choice of how and where they work, when it is sensible and practical to do so, acknowledging there will of course be nuances in different sectors and businesses, surely reflects a more mature and trusting way of treating people. And hopefully this will be one of the lasting benefits of the lockdown, as businesses embrace smarter working, encouraging and enabling homeworking for their people. This is a fundamental of the way we run our business and we will also take learnings from this time in the way we work even smarter to support our people too.
This freedom of choice is just as important in how we spend our leisure time, doing the things we enjoy and the things that make life so rewarding and enriching. So, as the lockdown loosens, we will remember and continue to appreciate what it enabled or forced us to do – be that developing hobbies, appreciating the nature many of us have on our doorsteps and never quite realised before, or just simply enjoying peace and quiet that was never quite achieved in the hustle and bustle of previous life. We will also be empowered to enjoy and appreciate those things we have been deprived of. Be that a walk in the park, sitting outside your favourite coffee shop taking in the morning sunshine, being able to meet and see family and friends, and over time being able to go to a restaurant, bar, cinema, theatre and gym – and not forgetting of course, hairdresser.
Going forward, I believe we can be confident of the creative and caring ability of businesses and individuals to find a way of operating in a way that respects the life-protecting need to observe social distancing and safeguard personal hygiene. Across all sectors you can see the huge amount of work, thought, care and effort that people have been putting in over thousands of Zoom calls to lay the plans to change and adapt. So as businesses work hard to reflect and respect their duty of care to customers and employees, the policies imposed on the industries such as travel must be considered and sensible in approach too. Working together to find solutions and agreements between borders that mean people can enjoy travel safely and the tourism industry can survive is surely more effective than any blanket quarantine measures currently being put forward.
We must work together to find a way that puts safety first whilst enabling us all to look forward to enjoying those things that make us happy. Indeed, completing the picture of what makes life enjoyable and enriching will be the freedom and ability to travel – to visit family and friends at home and abroad; to meet important and valued customers face to face; to be able to enjoy and experience all of the colours, sights, sounds, smells and experiences that life within and beyond our shores have to offer, and to have time with loved ones in another environment that offers different experiences to our home. Ultimately the gift that travel gives us in creating memories that will last a lifetime.
And as we know travel is important for not just individuals – it goes beyond attractive destinations, to being an important economic growth contributor. It allows wealth to be injected into local communities in a variety of ways, bringing employment, infrastructure, investment and enabling a plethora of rich cultures and heritage to be shared by communities with others. Furthermore, this experience has also shown us that we must do even more to respect and give back to the communities we travel to, and explore further opportunities around how we can travel the world in a sustainable way.
Ultimately the freedom and desire to travel is fundamental for so many to the colour of life. We should be under no illusions that despite how long it takes, the ability to travel again and see the world may be one of the last things we are liberated to do and is absolutely essential to what makes us human. This is a journey we will take together as an industry, ensuring travel can be done in the most sustainable, safe and sensible way, putting all the appropriate safeguards in place and learning from the extremely challenging experience we have faced. The result will further signify that we have moved beyond lockdown to rebuilding, reconnecting and re-establishing relationships, as our lives are made brighter by the ability to travel and the future memories we have to make.
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