COVID-19: A message by our Founder to conscious travellers globally
Hello, it’s Alex, Founder of Fair Voyage.
In light of our challenging global situation, I would like to share a few words with you today, with you our dear friends and conscious travellers globally.
First of all, I would like to express my deepest gratitude to all our fans of Fair Voyage who have been supporting us over the past months, and to all those of you who’ve reached out to us and to me personally these past days to check in and to see how we’re doing as a young travel startup.
At Fair Voyage, we are feeling tremendously blessed right now that we are sufficiently small and nimble, and we’re having the financial and operational flexibility to navigate this situation and convert a tremendous crisis into a tremendous opportunity.
No everyone is that lucky. In fact, the global tourism industry is in an unprecedented crisis right now. And it’s not only the tourism industry, it’s our global economy. There is no doubt that people will lose a lot of money, many people will lose their jobs, and our healthcare systems are being tested like never before.
However, this is also the time to be grateful for what we’re having, to be living in countries that have the power to issue billion dollar rescue packages to the economy, to be living in countries where – when we’re losing our jobs – there is a social security system that can catch us, and to be enjoying some of the best healthcare systems globally.
If you’re watching this right now, chances are high that you, just like me and our team at Fair Voyage, you and we are amongst the lucky ones. We are enjoying high speed internet access, ordering essential supplies online, and maybe you’re even enjoying some spare free time now that you’re working from home.
You, like me, we’re not amongst the doctors and nurses, the bus drivers, the grocery store employees, logistics workers and all the people who are working tirelessly right now to keep us safe, protected and to ensure that we have all the supplies we need.
Nor are we the politicians or economic leaders who are working tirelessly right now to steer us through this most challenging time. I’m sure you’re having all of them in mind too.
But all too often, when problems become really really hard back home, especially then, we tend to forget the people elsewhere in this world, the people who produce our food, who produce our clothes, our gadgets, and the people who’re working so hard to ensure that when we go on vacation we can enjoy truly memorable travel experiences.
Recently, we started doing some research at Fair Voyage about the dependency of mid and lower income countries on tourism as a source for revenues, for their economy and for employment.
And just to give you a few examples: In Tanzania, the country where we started, more than 25% of exports come from tourism; in Nepal, it’s close to 30%; and in smaller island states such as the Caribbean, it’s 60 or 70 or 80%.
Not long ago, I spoke to Tom Baum, who is Professor of Tourism Employment at the University of Strathclyde and a one of the leading researchers of tourism employment, especially for the global south. And I remember asking Tom, because of the whole flight shaming debate, “Tom, what would happen if travellers because of our global trends suddenly stop coming to these countries?” And he said, “it would be absolutely catastrophic”.
And now I’m very concerned what may be happening over the coming weeks and months in these countries because tourism is dropping and is stopping.
Right now, people in the tourism industry all around the world are working tirelessly to ensure the safety of travellers who are in their countries right now, to manage cancellations and re-bookings of future travellers, and at the same time they also need to ensure safety for themselves – their families, their team members and their local communities.
How are they supposed to do that when they’re currently running out of liquidity, if they need to refund payments to us travellers for costs they had incurred locally to make our travel arrangements.
Their governments often don’t have the financial strength to come up with billion dollar rescue packages. When employees in the tourism industry in many of the mid and lower income countries, they don’t have a security system, a social security system, that catches them. And we can only pray that the virus can be contained before it starts going viral in countries that don’t benefit from world class healthcare systems and infrastructure.
But my intention is not to depress you. It is to inspire you that you can make a difference. I would like to offer you:
3 suggestions how you can make a difference right now:
First, as a conscious traveller, it is very likely that you’ve booked a trip somewhere sometime in future. Please, by all means, protect your travel service provider and their employees and their families and their communities by not cancelling but postponing your trip. This decision alone can really save lives.
Second, start planning your next trip early. It is to be expected that as soon as the global travel restrictions are being lifted and we’re having the virus under control, there will be a huge spike in travel. Travel companies are extremely busy right now to manage cancellations and rebookings, and they will be extremely busy as soon as the restrictions are being lifted. But there will be a temporary period where companies have a low time, when they are not very busy. They can use this time to help you start preparing your next trip. Reach out to them, start thinking about preparing your vacation, give them some good news that you want to travel with them.
And third, as a conscious traveller and a conscious citizen, I trust you’re already staying at home right now to help limit the further spread of the virus in your community. You might have been asked by your employer to work from home, or you might even have been asked by your employer to temporarily pause your employment. So chances are that you will be having some spare free time right now. And it is a tremendous opportunity for you to use this time in a meaningful way. Take it to reflect, to meditate, to re-centre, to focus on the important things in life. But very soon, you’ll start feeling itchy and you want to do things again and not just meditate and reflect. So here’s your opportunity to do something truly meaningful and volunteer your time.
Just to give you an example. We at Fair Voyage are using this quiet time right now to build out our global sustainable travel offering together with our partners, so that once travel returns you can truly make your travel matter. To accelerate our impact, we and especially our local partners could really be doing with some help right now to get all these sustainable travel offers that our partners are creating up on our website and to create transparency for future travellers. And, in this particular case, for example, any English speaker with Internet access could help us right now, right from your living room sofa.
And like us, I believe there are many many startups, impact startups, non-profit organizations that are working for a good cause that could use your skills and your time right now. So how about offering your help, your support as a volunteer to these organizations? You could do a post on social media to offer your services or just reach out to organizations that inspire you.
So to summarize, here are three things you can do right now to make a difference:
- First, as a traveller, if you have booked a trip, do not cancel it, postpone it!
- Second, start planning your next trip before the travel restrictions have been lifted.
- And third, if you have some spare time right now, volunteer your time and your skills for a good cause,
because let us remember all the things we can be grateful for in our lives, and that there are millions and billions of people globally who are a lot more vulnerable than we are and who need our help.
So while we are all staying at home to be safe, let us be strong, be kind and make a difference.