Welcome to the brave new world?
By early April of this year, the realities of lock-down and the implications for the future were already occupying our minds, and some of us were casting our thoughts ahead and speculating on the direction things would take once the unlocking began.
Now the process has indeed begun, and however you feel about the timing, communication, science or politics of the ‘re-opening’, I think we are already seeing evidence of the strong pull towards a return to old behaviours. People around the world are understandably desperate to get their lives back, whether it’s to work to live, or just to live life to the max.
Political rallies, street parties, beach invasions, raves, mass barbecues (etc), and an increasing aggression towards the police are some overt demonstrations of a reaction to authority, after months of new rules. In the economic realm, we are seeing other pent-up frustrations manifesting themselves, exemplified by the rush to consume disposable fashion as soon as this section of retail re-opened.
And we are just in the early stages of the alcohol-fuelled bun-fight that will accompany the re-opening of pubs.
Without being judgemental in any way, I am highly sceptical of the notion that we will all behave responsibly and follow some innate rule of common sense. After all, the time-honoured British Libertarian tradition cuts both ways when it comes to responding to rules set by the authorities. And the government has undoubtedly lost authority through its people, policies and proclivities. The Chancellor is (currently) the only one keeping his personal and professional stock riding high.
Aside from entertainment and hospitality, which have suffered terribly as sectors, and will sadly continue to do so for some time to come, even with the support now forthcoming, the other industry that occupies our thoughts daily at Designate is that of travel and tourism. Partly due to the timing of the pandemic’s arrival, and partly due to the size of the economic footprint of travel here in the UK as well as globally ($1.7 trillion, according to the UN World Tourism Organisation), the travel restrictions have also constantly been in the news. When will Brits be able to travel again? How long will quarantine rules be in place? Will anyone get a summer holiday this year?
Well, it seems there is indeed foreign summer sun & fun to be salvaged, as the airlines are starting to fly again and the (pointlessly late) quarantine scheme is being scrapped for a whole gamut of destinations. Once these arrangements are fully reciprocal (Greece, is one obvious exception at the time of writing, which is of particular personal interest to me!), it will be a case of good news all round.
Hopefully, the industry can also start to ramp up its bookings for 2021, and take advantage of that pent-up demand that we keep hearing about, whilst overcoming the nervousness of up to a third of potential air travellers (https://bit.ly/3eiql6H)
Domestically, the regions and nations of the UK are also planning to welcome back tourists, with strong indications that the staycation may rescue many hospitality, accommodation and attractions businesses from disaster.
And from our agency’s and industry’s perspective, it is very encouraging to see holiday companies and destinations alike already active with advertising in the marketplace. Our very own home city of Brighton has in fact just engaged Designate to launch a visitor campaign: watch this space!
But what about the question of returning to bad old habits versus thinking about a better new way?
I will refrain from joining the moral debate that has now arisen about the relative responsibility of even going on holiday while the pandemic is still raging across the world, and the associated tough choices facing (desperate) host countries in welcoming visitors from the UK, with its Premier League infectiousness…
The bigger question remains.
We have seen the positive impact on the planet that the lockdown has had, for all the negative economic implications. (https://bit.ly/2O9CekN).
The reduced traffic meant we could even hear birdsong again, if that’s not too fluffy an observation. (https://bit.ly/2W5nUhs) In fact, us dogwalkers have observed a lot more wildlife in general.
Even the oceans are quieter and cleaner, and marine creatures such as whales can migrate more easily.
Those of us who live near an airport have appreciated the absence of contrails in the clear blue skies (back in April and May), and the global effect of reduced air traffic has been dramatic. (https://bit.ly/2ZhIdu5)
Commuting has fallen off a cliff, and in all likelihood we will all do so much less of it in the future, with tangible positive outcomes for the environment, productivity and mental wellbeing. (https://bbc.in/3eeVsjp)
So, when all is said and done, should we not resume travelling, for all these reasons, and more besides?
Or should we rejoice at our increasing freedoms, splash the cash with abandon and head for the hottest beach without a second thought?
It’s not as binary as that – most serious issue in life are not. The answer surely has to be more nuanced.
What is indisputable is that we could all be more considered in our choices. And socially conscious and environmentally responsible brands can help us do so.
We can all think about the impact we are having, both negative and positive, when we plan a break or holiday.
Let’s perhaps treat travel less like a disposable commodity along the lines of cheap fashion or mass-produced fast food, and more like a special purchase that comes with invisible costs, but where you can do good too.
We can fly a bit less, but when we do, think about where our money is going, particularly in the destination. Who is benefiting? Some low-tax-paying tech company, a multinational corporate based in a tax haven…or local businesses and people?
Let’s support local economies and communities where possible, whether here at home or in far flung destinations where they may be even more reliant on tourism pounds, and there can be a positive and lasting effect, perhaps even a contribution to preserving the environment.
Surely the one positive symptom of the pandemic has been the need for all of us to think consciously about all our actions, even if just for personal self-preservation, or to look after loved ones or the vulnerable.
I say let’s hang on to that habit, and try and apply it everywhere in our lives, including those areas of leisure, where we spend discretionary money. And let’s encourage – and in our case help – brands to take up the habit.
And when it comes to travel, apply a bigger value equation.
Make your travel meaningful.
Make it really count.