Responsibility Creates Opportunities
Tourism is going through a tough new reality that needs a new response
For those of us in the sector, we do not need short-term fixes, we don’t need open borders yet, and we cannot promote international travel at this time, but we may be able to concentrate on regional or domestic travel opportunities. Politically and also economically this is a hard pill to swallow.
100 years ago, the Spanish Flu was defeated. Today, the World Tourism Network’s (WTN’s) virtual New Year’s Party featured tour guides from 8 countries sharing their hopes, dreams, and miracles by saying hello to rebuilding the travel and tourism industry in 2021.
Juergen Steinmetz has lived in Hawaii for the last 32 years. He is the founder of World Tourism Network and said: “It’s important for all of us in this travel and tourism industry to work together. It means we need to include all sectors and accept new voices to be heard, so we can be ready for the day tourism can be reopened.”
In Hawaii, there is the word “kuleana.” Loosely translated, it means “responsibility.” Quite often in today’s times, it is heard as a response to someone pointing out that, “Hey, isn’t that your responsibility?” to which the one being pointed at would say, “It’s not my kuleana!” It’s a lot like the old joke about patrons and servers in a restaurant. When a customer asks a server for something, the retort will often be, “Sorry, this isn’t my station.”
But kuleana was never meant to be a defensive response. Kuleana is a uniquely Hawaiian value and practice that refers to the reciprocal relationship between the person who is responsible and the thing that they are responsible for.
For example, Hawaiians have a kuleana to their land. They are responsible for caring for it and respecting it. In return, the land has the kuleana to feed, shelter, and clothe the people who take care of it. It is this reciprocal relationship – this respectful responsibility – that maintains balance within society and within the natural environment.
So, as we say goodbye to a year that was fraught with challenges beyond our wildest 2019 imaginations, we all look forward to 2021 with renewed hope and await our leaders to guide us into a more positive world. But is this the right approach? Should we just be idly waiting for something to happen, for someone to lead us? Isn’t this all our responsibility?
Haven’t we learned that the significance of “one” – one voice, one vote, one tree planted, one park opened, one trip taken on an airplane – can be the impetus and momentum the “universe” is waiting for in order to begin to change the negative energy to positive? If it is true that everything in the world we live in is simply energy in different forms – from our bodies and souls, to the air we breathe, to the laptop we are working from – and like energy attracts like energy, as in positive attracts positive, then isn’t up to each of us alone to do something, some one thing, every day to put positive energy into the world we live in to change the tide of past crises?
We shouldn’t be waiting on leaders to throw out the first ball of the game. We should already be working on our own to make the world healthier – wear your mask, keep your distance, safer – be the eyes of your community and help when needed, and happier – pay it forward by buying a meal for the person behind you at the drive through.
It isn’t hard to do, and really should be what guides us every day whether there is a crisis or disaster or not. The scale of contribution and responsibility does not have to be global to have an impact. It can start with each of us and be like the ripples of a pebble dropped into a pond. Be the change you want to see. Make it your kuleana.
Steinmetz continued by saying: “Today, the African Tourism Board President Alain St. Ange, who is also a board member of WTN, writes in his New Year’s Message that tourism needs experienced tourism leaders to lead this vital industry now more than ever before.
Unfortunately, even some of the experienced leaders are clueless and are not prepared for what the travel and tourism industry is currently facing.
Tourism needs new thinking, and this new thinking must be heard and implemented not only within the sector but into the overall economic structure.
We no longer have the luxury to tolerate those leaders that are more concerned about how they personally appear to the public. We don’t need leaders that strive to win awards, deliver talks, and praise their own fraternity of leaders but don’t really know what they are saying or how they could deliver on talks they simply read.
We need leadership free from political pressure and ready to implement policies to counter what this virus is trying to do, namely destroying humanity. This is simply a priority over a short-term gain for tourism. It will create a better chance of allowing us to rebuild this industry in a way that is sustainable.
This is why we started the rebuilding.travel discussion in March of this year in Berlin, Germany, the day ITB Berlin was canceled and tourism collapsed.
This is why we celebrated the launch of the World Tourism Network this month. WTN is trying to give a voice to those that need to be heard. One destination at a time, one business at a time, and every member of this industry at a time.
WTTC says: “While protecting public health is paramount, blanket travel bans cannot be the answer. They have not worked in the past and they will not work now.”
Steinmetz says: “We agree with WTTC that blanket travel bans cannot be the answer. However, the time to look at what travel bans should be eliminated or changed has not yet come.”
Kuleana brings opportunites
“It’s why we at WTN put our Safer Tourism Seal program on hold until the virus can be brought under control.
“It’s why WTN is recognizing the known and sometimes unknown heroes in our industry in the WTN heroes.travel program.
“It’s important that all of us in this travel and tourism industry are working together. It means we need to accept new voices to be heard.”
Globally, travel and tourism’s direct contribution to GDP was approximately 2.9 trillion U.S. dollars in 2019. When looking at countries that directly contributed the most to global GDP, the United States’ travel and tourism industry contributed the largest sum at 580.7 billion U.S. dollars. Meanwhile, in a ranking of the countries with the highest share of GDP from travel and tourism, the city and special administrative region of Macau generated the highest share of GDP through direct travel and tourism of any economy worldwide.
Besides Macau, tourism-dependent countries and territories include Maldives (32.5%), Aruba (32%), Seychelles (26.4%), British Virgin Islands (25.8%), US Virgin Islands (23.3%), Netherlands Antilles (23.1%), Bahamas (19.5%), St. Kitts and Nevis (19.1%), Grenada (19%), Cape Verde (18.6%), Vanuatu (18.3%), Anguilla and St. Lucia (16%), and Belize (15.5%).
In the U.S., 21% of the economy in the State of Hawaii is dependent on its 10 million plus visitors every year.
All of us want to leave 2020 behind us, but let’s learn from the mistakes we made this year in our response to the virus.
Let us understand why we now experience a second and third wave, and why traveling is a risk not only for the visitor. Let’s understand why this has nothing to do with how safe an airline or a hotel is at this time. Picking the correct moment to reopen tourism will assure a lasting and positive effect in rebuilding our economies. We can only do this effectively in a coordinated fashion.
Let 2021 be so much more surprising than 2020 was. Let’s remain creative, positive, and respect our large global family of travel professionals. Let’s make 2021 the year travel and tourism will be reborn.
Happy New Year from the World Tourism Network!
Our New Years wish is for you to become part of our global movement. Join WTN at www.wtn.travel/register