I saw a Facebook post doing the rounds yesterday (January 7), stating: “I have had the seven-day trial and I want to cancel my subscription to 2021.”
This is something I think we can all relate to as a second wave of COVID-19 has impacted the tourism industry globally and, instead of the small shoots of recovery we hoped to see, the industry is seeing more lockdowns, more flights being grounded, more booking cancellations.
And the subsequent spectre of more lives and jobs being lost and more tourism businesses closing.
I spoke to a lady on Wednesday, who, pre-COVID-19, was a successful business owner. She ran out of airtime during our call, and told me, confidentially, that she may lose her car by the end of the month, that her mom was paying her rent and that while she was working 12- to 16-hour days to help other tourism businesses survive as she survives (she serves on several industry associations) she didn’t think her company would be open by February.
This is but one of several hundred personal stories I have heard over the past year and cried over so many evenings after I had done my job, filed the stories and had the time to stop being busy and just “feel”. I said once that I felt like a war correspondent as I wrote (and heard) daily stories of people losing their jobs, closing their businesses or committing suicide because they couldn’t face starvation.
Relief for the tourism industry is sparse and cannot plug the many, many gaps. Tourism Update journalist Erin and I sat in on webinars where industry leaders (lodge owners, hoteliers, tour operators, DMCs and more) – grown men and strong women – cried because they were tapping into their own savings to pay salaries, despite earning no revenue.
Now, many of those same people who were ‘holding on’ until the borders reopened, until December when international and domestic tourists would come in their droves, have lost their homes and other assets and even if they could restart and reset may not get the financing needed for this as they are now seen as credit risks.
And although as ‘impartial media’ we do our jobs as unemotionally and professionally as possible, we do see you. We see a beloved industry’s despair and frustration and fear. And we feel it.
But what we mainly see is an industry that, though broken and bloodied and scarred, simply refuses to give up. That is passionate and vocal, collaborative and resilient and hard-working and innovative. One industry member (a DMC) told me last year: “We have no tourists coming in but I have never worked so hard in my life.”
We have so many heroes and heroines in this industry. And more rise every day. And that’s how we know this industry will survive. The tourism industry may have been on the beach the day the COVID-19 tsunami hit but, collectively, we never once stopped swimming furiously and losing focus.
It has been a privilege for the Tourism Update team to swim with you. And we look forward to doing so this year.
Stay strong and safe, keep highlighting those issues and keep up the engagement we so love. And keep fighting. Collectively, the industry is stronger than anything the external world can throw at us.