The Author Charles Wheelan said, “Change is inevitable, but progress depends on what we do with that change.” Even if you’re a glass-half-full kind of person, it’s difficult to constantly remind yourself that even the change brought on by the scourge of COVID-19 will initiate progress in the travel industry – despite how badly it’s been beaten down.
Systems are constantly being upgraded to deal with the kind of rapid change that we are experiencing and travel professionals are learning new ways, every day, to deal with an unprecedented travel scenario.
My firm belief is that, regardless of what type of travellers we may be, if we are to continue to travel freely whether, for business or pleasure, there are 2 essentials of which we need to be cognisant – the importance of being vaccinated and the great need for assistance from travel professionals.
Why the vaccine?
Even as I write this, Gauteng is at the epicentre of a third wave that is proving to be something of a tsunami. What I think we do need to do is, proceed with much caution and all work hard to get our population vaccinated as soon as possible.
Despite many objectors who are saying that the vaccine is a bad idea, the reality is that the vaccine is our only defence against this virus and it’s proving to be highly effective wherever it has been efficiently rolled out. We all understand that the vaccine will not prevent future infections and that the virus will continue to evolve, but we have seen graphs from countries, like the UK, where their vaccination programme has largely been rolled out to the majority of their adult populations, reflecting that whilst infections have risen when new variants are introduced, the number of hospitalisations and the number of deaths have not risen at the same rate. Further to this, these objectors need to realise that vaccination will not only give us a chance to rebuild our economy but will probably be a requirement for almost all who wish to travel for years to come.
Already, cruise liners are functioning again and proving to be highly popular. The reason being is that they are highly controlled environments that offer some respite against the stifling world that we experience on land. It is a requirement, however, that passengers be vaccinated. That’s how cruises are able to continue and it’s just one example of how being vaccinated or not, will affect our lives as travellers. Legally speaking, nobody is obliged to have the vaccine but there is such a thing as “right of admittance’’ and those who don’t, will at some point, be denied access to travel platforms and holiday destinations.
Why the Travel Professionals?
Regardless of the rate at which we all get vaccinated, this restrictive and tenuous travel environment is probably going to continue for some time to come. More than ever, travel advisors are a vital resource for those who wish to travel safely. Why? Because they are well informed and fully supported throughout their travel industry suppliers. Changes and restrictions in travel are made every day. They vary from destination to destination at such a rapid rate that only trained professionals, with their highly complex and integrated systems, can be aware of what is happening, everywhere, all the time.
It’s not enough to trust what you find on the internet. The internet doesn’t keep up at the same rate as the informed travel professional and you are likely to find yourself at an airport without the right documentation or in some location – suddenly unable to return home because you have been ill-informed. The way that you need to think about it is that your travel professional is monitoring what’s happening at every moment and is there to keep you updated – not only before, but during your travels.
Remember that Travel Management Companies (TMCs) can, thanks to advances in technology, have existing corporate travel apps. The apps already contain the corporate travel policy, the individual traveller would have all their profile set up, typically their itineraries are available on the app and these are now being enhanced to include access to products that give you up-to-date information on changes in regulations, or alerts where there are changes that impact your trip – which is the same alert received by your travel professional – so that we can proactively manage such changes.
We see these products evolving to link into digital health passports, that will have your vaccination records. It is just one example of the progress that change has spurred the travel industry on to introduce. TMCs and travel advisors have always been there to assist, but now more than ever, they have come into their own despite the hardships that they and their industry have had to face.
We have to keep seeking ways in which to cope with and rise above, this particular wave of change. It’s only through our continued commitment to progress, that no matter how much change tries to drain us, our glasses will always remain half full!LIDIA FOLLI
CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER