Unified leadership key to restarting travel
Unified leadership key to restarting travel
18 MAY 2020 7:25 AM

Travel for the foreseeable future might be limited to within your country or even province until a vaccine is found, as leaders, governments and media obsess only about what is happening in their own backyards.

Last Tuesday was the second Hospitality Tomorrow virtual conference to be held in these strange times, and it benefited from structuring its agenda after its motto, “Follow the sun.” (And it was sunny in London where I sat listening.)

It started in East Asia and traveled across the day to Western Europe, starting in Singapore and finishing in London.

If there was one major topic, it was that recovery would come from domestic demand.

That is not some Eureka moment, but it does divide some markets from those which do undoubtedly require international guests, and to help those markets it seems to me we need more trust.

That is an epic challenge, as politicians are involved.

Country A must trust Country B before it allows Country B’s travelers to enter.

With there being little of this trust, as individual governments strive to protect their own citizens, we’re seeing the borderless European Union putting up borders and the borderless United States of America unable to do the same thing but apparently wanting to.

The United Kingdom is toying with the idea of imposing 14-day quarantine periods for anyone entering the country, and that most likely will require travelers having to do the same on the other leg.

That idea pretty much will kill travel—at least the two-week vacation beloved by Europeans—but then again, maybe we have lost the hope such trips will happen soon.

The U.K. had said any legislation will not affect travelers coming from Ireland or France, and those two countries seemingly had pledged the same to travelers coming from the U.K., but on 15 May it suddenly was announced that travelers coming back from France would not be accepted.

So much for l’entente cordiale.

The U.K. and Ireland have had freedom of movement for a century or more, while France and the U.K. are connected by the Channel Tunnel rail system, although that system can connect with other countries.

Germany and Austria formalized a similar agreement, but the noise from the online conference was that more of these agreements can only occur if there is an EU-wide or Europe-wide agreement on correct health measures and procedures.

If individual governments move only to their own demands and opinions, agreement will never happen, and in the case of the EU, it raises questions as to the point of the whole exercise. Are you united, or are you not? The same question is one the U.S. could answer.

More noise from the conference was that the G7, the G20, the International Monetary Forum and the United Nations have not been vocal enough.

On 13 May, the EU released some guidance on possibly opening up the continent to travel.

The World Health Organization is part of the United Nations, and more leadership would be well received. Instead, all we get is its governments obsessing about their individual disasters, responses and successes and a series of mixed messages.

After all, when the media speaks to anyone, the major demand is for more clarity. The media is at fault, too, as it obsesses about its own country of coverage, and when it does analyze other countries quite often it just asks the question of whether Country C is doing better or worse than Country D.

Hoteliers looking to reopen or to better revenue-manage want clarity, too, as a lack of clarity seeps down quickly to a freefall in consumer spend. They want clarity regardless of how well-organized and efficient their own management teams are.

When all is done, what we will have left is a litany of indecision, and, without a vaccine, a no-win situation.

Good news this week
In the U.K., we are now able to exercise as many times per day as we wish, social distancing still being the main factor. People not from the same household can now meet one friend at a time. Golf courses and tennis courts can now open, but again not with more than two people on a hole or court.

Email Terence Baker or find him on Twitter.

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