We need to bring the many benefits of travel to life for our customers, says Cosmos and Avalon Waterways chief executive Giles Hawke
As I sit and write this column, I am suffering from Covid-19. For so long, I was lucky and avoided catching it, but it has finally caught up with me. That said, at this stage I am four days in and it feels like a heavy cold rather than the awful illness many people have suffered with, so I count myself lucky.
It did mean, however, that I had to miss out on attending the rearranged Travel Weekly Globe Travel Awards, which was a massive disappointment, but I guess this is a feature of our new world that we will all have to get used to.
Over the past month, I have travelled a lot and I have plenty more travelling to come, so the return to normal service certainly seems to be happening very quickly and, more than anything, it is proving to be very good fun!
It’s perhaps easy to forget the benefits that travel brings us and our customers and how important it is that we get people moving again. The risk of Covid is no greater at an airport, on a plane, in a resort or on a ship than anywhere else in the world. We have to help our customers get out of the bubble of fear that has been created over the past two years and to realise that we all benefit by getting out into the world again.
I have been fortunate to go skiing, to spend time on a river cruise ship and to eat and drink in some amazing places outside the UK in recent months – and I have more skiing, more cruising, more meetings and more fun overseas coming up.
Catching Covid somewhere along the way hasn’t deterred me in the slightest. In fact, it has made me more determined to get out there and enjoy what we have all been missing for the past two years.
I’m not for a moment downplaying the health worries that people may have about Covid, nor the potential to get stuck overseas with the illness, the red tape of checking the entry rules of every destination to which your guests are travelling or the ever-changing schedules as airlines consolidate services. Nor am I overlooking the rising cost of travel as the pound falls against the Euro and the dollar or, of course, the horrible events in Ukraine.
What I am saying is that the world needs people to get travelling again. There are economies which rely on tourism spend. There are individuals whose whole livelihood is based on us taking people away. And for travellers, there’s the eye-opening element of seeing and experiencing something new and different and finding out more about our world.
More and more countries are removing or reducing their travel requirements, making it easier now than at any time in the past two years to visit the places we have missed and long to be in. Every day, another country announces an easing of its restrictions, making the world more accessible again.
Alongside this there is the life-affirming aspect of having amazing experiences as we travel around the world. The sheer exhilaration of skiing down a beautifully groomed slope with Mont Blanc as a backdrop; the views as you round a corner on a European river and see a tableau of castles, vineyards and forests laid out before you; the sunset over a pride of lions snoozing alongside a herd of elephants by a watering hole; the roar of surf against a sun-drenched white-sand beach; the sense of wonder when overlooking a beautiful city at night from a rooftop bar with a cocktail and a gentle warm breeze; or the awe of seeing an iconic view such as Sydney Opera House or Niagara Falls for the first time.
All of these amazing sensations are only possible if you travel. There are countless more incredible sights, sounds and smells that we have missed and need to bring to life for our customers.
They are ready to travel again, the world is ready for them and we need to be encouraging them to take the plunge and get out and enjoy the world.
As this happens, the whole world benefits and we all feel better for it.