Marking a grim anniversary and rediscovering the industry of beautiful memories

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Martin Moodie
Martin Moodie is the Founder & Chairman of The Moodie Report.

So hey, dance in the inbetween… the untethered tides of our
shimmering green, swaying
the first fisherman to the metropolis we live in.
Unchanging. She stands under skyscrapers to understand.

– from ‘To Victoria Harbour’ by Jasmine Ho, Faustina Yick, and Shraavasti Bhat, three students from King George V School who initiated ‘Umami’ – a series of poems and illustrations that speak to the hearts of Hong Kong youth today amid a global pandemic.

The concert halls may be closed in Hong Kong due to the pandemic but you can still find music everywhere.  Even, in fact especially, on the streets. Quite likely it will find you. As I walked through Tsim Sha Tsui MTR station a few days back, I heard the unmistakable refrain of one of my all-time favourite songs, The Moon Represents My Heart (月亮代表我的心), a beautiful track virtually syonymous with the late Teresa Teng.

It was being played by a street violinist. He deserved a concert hall setting and he played as if he was in one, not a stark underground stage with hundreds of disinterested people rushing by each minute. The old adage of “Wherever there are Chinese people, there is the music of Teresa Teng” underlined in the most humble of surrounds. Sublime.

With my local gym still closed due to Hong Kong’s fourth COVID-19 wave (a very small wave it must be admitted compared with those elsewhere), I’m sticking to my daily run along Hung Hom promenade, past the ferry pier and into Whampoa to Tai Wan Shan Park, where each day several hardy souls take their morning dip in Victoria Harbour.

I’ve taken to heading off at around 7.30 each morning as that timing allows me to take in another street music performance. This one plays daily and features a group of senior women outside an apartment block by the harbour who perform traditional dance to the accompaniment of Chinese music on an iPad.

One, a lady I suppose of around 60 (second from left in the picture immediately below), is clearly the teacher, the rest her willing students. Her poise and bearing is impeccable, her movements swanlike, the music and movement entrancing. All this for free and a panoramic early morning view of one of the greatest harbours in the world into the bargain.

My desire not to miss a single performance has the added benefit of ensuring I keep very fit. I want to pack in every showing I can before I move into a more distant and less interim bureau in a few days’ time. With our new company, Moodie Davitt Asia Ltd, now set up, I’ll be operating from a full-time Hong Kong bureau in Discovery Bay, a short bus-ride from the airport and a 30-minute ferry journey to Central.

Signed, sealed, delivered: We’re in business

Unlike most of our COVID-grounded readers I do at least get a chance to see our industry in action and in-store. Living in Hung Hom these past few months has meant that I often walk through the DFS T Galleria stores in Canton Road and Mody Road, both in nearby Tsim Sha Tsui.

They’re immaculate as always but pretty quiet places these days due to the lack of mainland visitors. However, a steady stream of daigou shoppers has kept both stores afloat and that’s who you see, all shopping with cellphones in hand, often video streaming – a successful pivot into a whole different business model from the past.

Life has changed so very much for every travel retail company on the planet since precisely one year ago today when the first death from a then-unnamed coronavirus was recorded in Wuhan, China. I’ve still got the South China Morning Post front page story that reported the millionth death. It was published on 29 September last year, just over three months ago. As I write, a further 933,487 lives have been tragically lost since and before you know it, the total will tip 2 million.

September 29, 2020
11 January, 2021 (Source: Johns Hopkins University)

Those are ghastly statistics. More deaths lie ahead as do more woes for the travel retail sector probably well into the second quarter. But as various vaccines are rolled out across the world there is increasing cause for optimism for later in 2021. On that note, I recommend the article pictured below from CNN’s Unlocking the World series, which analyses when international travel is likely to return with any real velocity.

Click on the image to read the full CNN article

Airports Council International (ACI) Director General Luis Felipe de Oliveira suggests that an anticipated northern hemisphere summer rebound in the wake of the vaccines could even see international air traffic reaching 50% to 60% of 2019 levels in most countries. For that to happen, though, the aviation sector will need a harmonised global approach to recognising and accurately and safely sharing vaccination and testing information, he cautions.

The article concludes with a lovely quote from Alessandra Priante, Regional Director for Europe at the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). “We want to get the spirit of tourism back into the heart of people. Because tourism is about building memories… and we want to become again the industry of beautiful memories.”

The industry of beautiful memories. Yes indeed, it’s time to restore that role. And, one year on from that first death, to hope that soon we can begin banishing COVID-19 to the status of bad memory.

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