Travel Industry – CoroNavigating an Arduous Journey

‘We’re the middle children of history; no purpose or place. We have no Great War, no Great Depression.’

A line from the epic monologue by Brad Pitt’s character in the movie ‘Fight Club’. I sincerely ate it up when I first saw the movie because let’s be honest, our generation has had the best life has to offer. The stories of struggle or the lack of opportunities told by parents or grandparents seemed unrelatable. Yet, here we are experiencing what the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has coined as ‘The Great Lockdown’. No longer the middle children of history, are we?

We are in the middle of Lockdown 3.0. What started out as a Sunday in the house has definitely stretched like a soap opera. From clapping to pay homage for our frontline warriors, to lighting of diyas to show our solidarity, our Prime Minister has made every effort to make this limbo tolerable for the middle class. Woefully, in the travel space layoffs, pay-cuts, leave without pay and credit shells instead of refunds to customers have been the highlights of the lockdown so far. From pursers in the air to porters at airports and stations, everyone is grounded. The worst affected would be guides, drivers, bellboys, waiters etc. for whom a sizable chunk of earnings are through tips and commissions. Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) estimates 4-5 crore job losses directly or indirectly related to tourism with a loss of 1.58 lakh crore in the organized sector alone (source). World Economic Forum (WEF) has pegged 50 million jobs at risk in the global travel & tourism sector with a majority chunk of the number being in Asia alone (source).

So where is the silver lining in all of this which would compel my peers in the industry to be patient, persevere and take up the current crisis as a challenge? What would make the common man trust the airline / taxi driver/ hotel / agent in order to compel him to venture out again? I was personally grappling with such questions for the past month, only to find the answer in the most unlikely place. It was the perplexing sight on the news channels of people bursting crackers and queuing up not for a miracle vaccine but for alcohol. It reminded me that mankind has the ability to learn and move on. We Indians are amply blessed with both qualities, a realization I had when I walked to the hotel I worked at a day after the 26/11 attacks. In 2014 to fly Malaysian Airlines was considered a taboo by many corporates (source). A year later all was forgotten. Taj Mahal Palace hotel has not only withstood the 26/11 terrorist attack but also wars, recessions, the partition and national emergencies. Regardless of the ups and downs of the past three decades, Kashmir remains one of the top tourist destination for a leisure traveler.

The present situation may feel unreal, the future murky but remember this too shall pass and when it does we can proudly tell the future generations: ‘We had the Great Lockdown in our life time. We are not the middle children of history, you are’.

The above article was originally posted on Linkenin Pulse

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