By Buddy Recio
Ninety days into one of the longest lockdowns in the world brought by the Covid 19 pandemic, I look back to what the travel and tourism industry once was and realize this pandemic has opened our eyes to a realization of what we (turned a blind eye on) in the midst of our success, fame, and riches.
The hedonic flow of continuous activities, riding on first class or business class, traveling to exotic places, eating extraordinary food, sleeping in comfort at luxury hotels, 14- day cruises, owning the latest fashion, signature bags and jewelry, hobnobbing with VIPs while making money in the process; and, yes, we have posted on social media photos of friends and places, the luxury that the industry has afforded us,
But there was no awareness to the plight of the lower economic sector – the drivers, messengers, clerks, tour guides, sales persons, porters, gasoline attendants, the daily wage earners, and especially the ones on the streets who eke out a decent living relying on consumers, and they are legion.
We do not see them as the target market, and so they remained hidden in our folly. We did not see their needs amidst the time we allot only to ourselves, friends, family, savoring every minute of it.
We now share the same predicament, the same fears. Our businesses and our work are now held together by tape, and we are trying desperately to keep itself in one piece. As this is nothing new to the daily wage earner because they face it everyday, we failed to notice it, lost in the air of self-confidence that nothing short of a global war can stop people from traveling. Airline companies have placed orders for hundreds of bigger airplanes for their fleet, cruise lines are launching bigger ships, and hotels are building dozens of their brands every year. All of them has promoted luxury and leisure; but, as the old saying goes “ the higher you fly, the harder you fall”.
Whatever profits we made, whatever disposable income down to the savings that we accumulated, is gone. Only keepsakes , the social media posts, and luxury accessories remain. Some still ache to show off; but, there is no opportunity that exists, and may not come again in the long term, and the folly of “collections” is magnified. The pedestals have disappeared and many now stand on the same platform of their employees, or worse.
So, we bleed from the lockdown. We do not complain, we follow protocols, we make do with what we have but that does not mean our needs are being met. In fact, we have received nothing in the form of assistance from tourism and from the looks of it, there is no light at the end of the tunnel for the industry in the months to come. Government has given out financial assistance to the low-earning classes faced with unemployment, but many in the industry face the same outcome, and so in desperation, many have called for equal favor.
What does the future hold?
Travel and tourism should not be for business and bragging rights alone. It should now have moral goals. It should be a tool to improve the lives of all, not just a select few. We need nothing more but a recognition that it can work for the common good.
A change of mindset that tourism should now be for all classes of society – from the stakeholders to the investors, down to the players and frontliners, up to the service and labor force.
When you eat and drink, think more of the hardships that go into the waiter who served your drink, the busboy, the farmer tasked with back-breaking chores, the driver of the delivery van, and this goes for all the tourism that you will experience.
The virus has redefined the concept of travel as a luxury and as a means to state your place in society. We should all make the right choices for tourism to be regarded as a means to foster kindness and goodwill.