Latest posts by Martin Moodie (see all)
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And so May passes into June. Almost half the year gone, much of it for me and so many readers spent in the confines of our homes.
The Year of the Rat. A year that had promised so much but has so far only brought something, alas, traditionally associated with rats, a form of plague. Life here in the Moodie Davitt London Lockdown Bureau goes on as it has now for many weeks, the pre-dawn starts, the fixed routine of updating COVID-19 statistics and assessing their impact on travel and tourism, the Sherlock Holmes-like search for clues to market recovery.
Like some kind of journalistic forensic scientist, I scour my burgeoning inbox; and business, mainstream and social media for that most elusive flora, green shoots. The term flora is derived from the Latin worlds flor or flos, meaning flower. Flōra was the Roman goddess of flowers and of spring, the joyous season of rebirth after the closed austerity of winter.
Flōra may have played her hand to beautiful effect in my garden but she needs to do a bit more work on fertilising those green shoots. Perhaps she was just leaving it late, waiting for June, into the home straight of spring and onwards into summer. For now the green shoots are starting to appear. You have to look hard for them but they’re there all right. Not in the daily statistics from Johns Hopkins University, which simply remind you of the spread, ferocity and tragedy of this pandemic but in the pages of LinkedIn, the press releases from more airports and airlines, the multiple government announcements of lockdown easings.
Today the admirable World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) began a press release with the words, “The world is slowly opening up again”. The agency went on to note that 3% of all global destinations have now taken steps to ease travel restrictions, while several more destinations are engaged in “significant” discussions about the re-opening of borders.
Now, before we get too excited, 3% is a very small shoot indeed, and probably more pallid white than green. But it’s a shoot nonetheless, especially considering that 100% of all destinations worldwide continue to have some form of COVID-19-related travel restrictions in place. And that, as of 18 May, 75% had their borders completely closed for international tourism.
The now much talked-about travel ‘bubbles’, ‘fast lanes’ or ‘green lane’s – i.e. allowing travel between two destinations that consider each other safe – will swell in number and size. Watch Australia and New Zealand; China and its offshore island of Hainan; the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania; and an increasing number of others; watch Singapore and near (and not so near in the case of New Zealand) neighbours.
Watch island destinations such as Sri Lanka (just 1,633 cases and 98th on the Worldometer league), Mauritius (335, 147th) and tourist beacons such as Vietnam (a remarkable 328 and 148th) and Bali (just 465 cases). And, of course, watch for the bubble that so many in the travel retail community hope will soon take shape between China and South Korea (currently battling a worrying new cluster but like China an impressive role model in terms of government and civic responsibility).
There is always North Korea, I suppose, where not a single case has been reported, but I am just a little worried about the reliability of that number and also Pyongyang’s appeal as a holiday destination.
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So as June begins it’s more of the now familiar daily routine, studded with numerous Zoom or Microsoft Teams calls, but now laced with just a little more optimism. My front garden is a riot of blazing red since my giant poppies sprung into full glorious life on Saturday.
As I stood transfixed by their splendour, I noticed a sound overhead, one I would normally not even notice. It was an aircraft, flying across the West London skies. I couldn’t make out the airline’s identity but its sight was every bit as thrilling to me as those red poppies.
There is much human, economic and sector pain ahead but the world is slowly, slowly, starting to move. Green shoots, white shoots, small shoots, big shoots; heck, any shoots will do.