(*) Simon Mayle
I was reflecting the other day and thinking about how many times since 2020 I’ve found myself saying or hearing the expression ‘not long to go’.
It’s been countless times since March of that year. Starting with ‘there’s not long to go until the end of the first phase of the quarantine’, to ‘there’s not long to go until the vaccine arrives’, ‘there’s not long to go until I get my second dose’, ‘there’s not long to go until I complete the vaccine cycle’, ‘there’s not long to go until we get back to our old routine’, and going as far as ‘there’s not long to go before we can take off our masks’. In this latter case, a decision has been taken by various Brazilian capitals, including São Paulo, to withdraw the mandatory use of masks outdoors, even though it’s still a requirement in enclosed places, such as schools, theatres, cinemas and event venues, in addition, of course, to other precautionary measures.
The fact is that today, 11 March 2022, it has been two years since the COVID-19 pandemic was decreed by the World Health Organization.
In spite of the countless challenges that have been faced around the world in the social, political, humanitarian and economic sense, this time, I feel that ‘not long to go’ is filled with more hope: it brings us a message of optimism for the new.
We’ve learned new ways of working, of relating personally and professionally, of managing our time, of finding solutions to old and new challenges, of taking care of our physical, emotional and mental health, and of defining our priorities.
It was when I was thinking about all of this that I realized that it’s ‘not long to go’ before we meet again in a face-to-face edition of WTM Latin America: just over 20 days, or just under 480 hours to be exact.
Yes, we’re all working with great dedication to deliver an edition that has already been called ‘the pavilion of resumption’.
It’s a great responsibility for us to assume this title, because it’s not only about resuming face-to-face. It’s also about holding large-scale events in Latin America once again, events that connect our region to the world and the world to our region.
But over and above resuming face-to-face events, this can be understood as our industry resuming. This is because, in addition to our hope, the numbers are optimistic: according to a survey by the WTTC (World Travel and Tourism Council), our activity is responsible for US$ 233 billion in Latin America, an increase of more than 48% in wealth generation in the region when compared to 2020.
When I was thinking about this information I realized how right we were to choose an edition with the inspirational motto “The magic is back”.
Regardless of the numbers, which are so necessary for the economic and social sustainability of our sector, tourism is about relationship, a human connection.
We need to be alert to this prospect. Only in this way can we guarantee that travellers – whether for business or pleasure – have the best possible experience at the destination and the certainty of a safe trip, something that has become even more relevant because we know that the pandemic is not over yet and that we shall need to live with its protocols for a long time. So, it’s our obligation to make tourists feel confident, which deals with one of the things they feel most anxious about.
Still talking about relevance and anxiety and the lessons learned, for a long time we’ve been addressing topics that are on the travellers’ agenda in our pavilion and for which the market has been preparing over the last few years.
In terms of priorities, we’ve talked a lot about technology, not about equipment and the availability of wi-fi, but about technology and its use in improving the experience and guaranteeing safety.
We’ve also talked about Responsible Tourism, and we even created an award that assesses the best practices already implemented in the region and that will be delivered in its second edition.
But it’s today, the 11th, that we celebrate another big step in our WTM Latin America content curation: today, our Diversity Committee is putting together its first collective and collaborative agenda.
Initially, we’re a team of nearly 10 people who are dedicated to thinking about diversity and inclusion beyond the good practice guides that many companies already adopt. We want to find ways and solutions that can make diversity tangible and a reality, with initiatives that get off the ground and gain practical actions that are capable of transforming society beyond our industry.
This will make us better people, and create a virtuous circle that will go beyond the boundaries of our economic industry. At the end of the day, it will confirm that we’ve actually been learning.
Today, we can say that there’s not long to go and that there’s no doubt that we’re the pavilion of resumption.
(*) Simon Mayle is the director of WTM Latin America, which will be held between 5 and 7 April in the blue and white pavilions of Expo Center Norte, in São Paulo