At the very final countdown of 2020, all of us in the global travel and tourism industry are looking back at a year with a feeling of incredible shock. We entered 2020 thinking that the new year, the new decade, were going to bring new opportunity, new possibilities, new markets, new travelers, new innovations; and new focus on sustainability for our planet and people.  So much new.

Little did we know that ‘new’ was going to be all of us in the global tourism community uniting, for the first time in our generation, to work towards the survival of a sector that we all know is a vital force for good.  We move quickly and with care, as we do things right.

2020 rapidly became a history-defining year for us all. By Q2, at the height of the pandemic, IATA estimates that over 16,000 commercial aircraft were grounded worldwide as 100% of international borders closed to travel. On a daily basis, 1 million people in our industry were losing their jobs.

Now, days away from the close of 2020, country after country is re-imposing new restrictions of cross-border movement of aircrafts and passengers as, starting with the UK,  new strains of Covid-19 are appearing. For millions it will not be a merry little Christmas.  Tragically, my country, the United States, has recorded its worst annual death toll… in history.  Our hearts weep and grieve for the incredible loss, here and in every country.

Is it possible to even remember our 2020 New Year’s Resolutions? All those plans of weight loss or “health and wellness” focus? For each of us? Maybe some significant time with family?  Or a special travel place?

2020 has inspired a redefinition of health and wellness for ourselves and others. At the heart of this accepting that there is no going back to normal. We must resolve to change; and change for the better.  We need to build forward  better as we enter 2021.

Recovery is coming. Already we have two global vaccines with 90%+ effectiveness. Unprecedented scientific miracles are here, already. Our recovery will be gradual and based on first and foremost, new health care for all and all ages. Patience, protocols and procedures are vital. Working in our favor are safe tiers of mobility, safe border crossings, incredible partnerships, booming technology, source market reactivation, and safe air route reactivation based on the stability of trade and tourism demand.

At this monumental time, as multi-millions of vaccines are being rolled out quickly across the world, we know that quick testing is also strengthening confidence of travelers, and we know that travelers want to travel again. Families to reunite. We know there is massive pent up demand.

Travel and tourism is an essential sector – a powerful part of economic, social, cultural, and environmental recovery of our global community. Leaders across the world, in both business and government, recognize the power of our industry to shape the world in which we are entering.

No sector has the ability to engage, unite and inspire like Travel and Tourism. COVID-19 has made very clear its impact on supply chains – keeping hundreds of millions of small businesses around the world operating, keeping communities together, keeping cultures proud, keeping societies connected and keeping people focused on the future.

This is why our sector is a proven force for good.

What is critical?   Working Together; Coming Together.   And to know that Tourism Cares. But is this enough in a world demanding confident, courageous leadership to recover from what has been a most battering, generation-defining period?  With incredible thanks to all who have given their generous time and lifetimes of experience and information, in a new information age, we salute you.

There are so many trends and so many predictions, emerging from 2020. What is ahead?  What are our best sources of trustworthy insight and intelligence? So much is still unknown.

What we do know, however, is that we will get through this, and do so stronger.

And so, as we turn this page to January 2021, I thought it was important to stop and to simply say ‘Thank You’.

I want to say thank you to you for everything you have done as a leader and participant in our industry to help lead our global industry through to the next normal. Your focus, your tireless commitment, what you have been doing as a government or travel industry leader, manager, employee, service provider,  intern or volunteer will make a world of difference for billions of people around the world.

Here’s to 2021 – may the year ahead be a year of renewed, refreshed, re-inspired confidence in the power of this sector we all love. Travel is, and always will be, a force for good.  We are united in our quest, and we will sustain and build forward  better.


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