Monday Musings 01 June: When Life is a Marathon

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If, as the saying goes, life is a marathon not a sprint, then we can all agree that 2020 has, on its own, been an ultra-marathon of Comrades proportions. With a moving finish line.
The last week has been particularly tough (Polly Shortts, if you will), as we saw out the last few days of Stage 4 lockdown regulations.
But time is funny. In lockdown it seems to drag, while simultaneously disappearing in a flash.
This is similar to travel in a way. As author of Time Warped, Claudia Hammond explains, when you travel to a new place for a week, the time goes so fast while you’re away because everything is new and different, but when you get home, back on familiar ground, and look back on so many new experiences and memories, it often feels as though you’ve been away forever.
Interestingly, researchers have discovered that there is a striking way in which individuals vary in their perception of time. And it can be determined by answering one simple question:
“Next Wednesday’s meeting has been moved forward two days. What day is Wednesday’s meeting now?”
Next Monday
Next Friday
Both answers can be correct, as some people see themselves as ‘static’, with the future moving towards them (the Mondays) while those who see themselves as moving into the future tend to answer Friday. No wrong or right, just different – with results divided down the middle.
Regardless of whether you wait for the future to greet you, or you step forward to meet it, you have to be prepared.

Arrow and finger point back

But is it getting harder?

Last week the Harvard Business Review took a closer look at what happens when the initial adrenaline-fueled pace of crisis response begins sputtering. When leaders (and teams) run out of steam – and problems become more complex and exhausting.

If you feel like you’re regressing, you’re not alone. Psychologist and executive advisor, Merete Wedell-Wedellsborg has identified that crises tend to follow a rough pattern:

  • Emergency
  • Regression
  • Recovery

In probably the best read of the week, Wedell-Wedellsborg explains that the regression phase can’t be skipped, and while uncomfortable (and inevitable and unavoidable), it is an important step to the recovery stage. But you have to make it through the ‘treacle’ and pull your team to the other side. Here’s how.

Sign talking about the future

Stage 3 and beyond

Despite war room fatigue, Stage 3 feels significant, especially with business travel on the horizon, and we are definitely moving from ‘managing the now’ into ‘planning for recovery’.

Pinterest has put together a great resource on the four phases of marketing in this moment, namely:

Phase 1 – Triage + Information

Phase 2 – Empathy + Relevance

Phase 3 – Escapism + Optimism

Phase 4 – Recovery + Rebound

The trick is to remember that your consumers are ahead of where you might think they are, so while it still seems like we are in limbo, you need to be ready to move. Ryanair, for example, is already reporting a surge in holiday bookings as UK eases their quarantine.

Last week we hosted part 2 of our #INTHEKNOW series with Africa Travel Week and it was inspiring to see members of our industry coming together to crowdsource strategies and solutions as we emerge into a post COVID world.

Another silver lining? Michael Johnson, Executive Vice President of Travel Edge Leisure, has said, if anything, this pandemic has demonstrated the value of travel advisors: “From finding solutions to impossible problems to being there to help clients begin dreaming again, advisors provide unparallel peace of mind for these uncertain times. The time has come to recognize and celebrate this incredible profession.”

And although our partners, agents and friends in the industry have often talked about a dip in confidence over the last few weeks, they are still working together, sharing information, strategising – and remaining, resolutely, the experts in their field.

Forbes agrees, leading with the headline: This is why you need a travel advisor for your post-pandemic vacation.

It’s hard to fault their reasoning. A travel advisor can:

  • Prepare you for the travel experience
  • Understand where you’re going
  • Screen every travel company
  • Hold your hand
  • Help you navigate the rules of travel
  • Be available to you 24/7
  • Leverage insider contacts to help you have a smoother trip
  • Go the extra mile to get you home
  • Solve your problems
  • Help you secure a no-hassle refund if necessary
Business woman walking with a suitecase

Business travel gets ready for take off

Domestic air travel will reopen in South Africa today, with strict regulations and restrictions in place. You can access the published regulations here, but in a nutshell:

  • You’ll only be able to fly for specific purposes (excluding leisure, recreation & tourism), and you’ll need the paperwork to prove it
  • Only four airports will be open: ORT, Lanseria, Cape Town International and King Shaka
  • Only those travelling will be permitted in the airport buildings – you’ll have to drop off or collect someone outside the building

Business Insider lays it all out here. But if BizCommunity are right, and plane cabins are havens for germs, then there is still a lot of work to be done in terms of health and safety.

Qantas, for example, are talking about contactless check-in, hand sanitiser at departure gates, optional masks and more, while apparently cabin crew aboard Qatar Airways will don head-to-toe Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) suits, complete with safety goggles! Kigali Airport have been doing extensive work to increase space from an average of 0.7m2 per passenger to a more socially-distanced 1.2 m2 per passenger.

In some good news to kick off the week, FlySafair has announced they’ll start operating again from mid-June, offering between 20 to 26 flights per day.

Here, Oz Desai, General Manager Corporate Traveller, walks us through what SA business travellers can expect in the coming weeks.

Woman holding her hat in place viewing scenary

The global ‘marathon’

Countries across the pond are a little further down the track, which brings much-needed good news and a dose of optimism.

This week, the Colosseum and other sites begin to open in Italy, tourism on Greek islands begins again, Spain has produced guidelines for the ‘safe reopening’ of tourism and there is every indication that an Australia-New Zealand travel bubble could be in place by September.

Of course, things are likely to look a little different – with theme parks a striking example. We’ll be saying goodbye to breakfast buffets, queues and beverage stations!

Lest we forget …

With our skies slowly opening up, South Africans retuning to work and some grades returning to school (maybe), it’s easy to forget that South Africa is still facing a huge challenge ahead. A stark reminder of this, especially for Capetonians, was our first look inside the CTICC as it gets converted into an 850-bed field hospital.

Yep, it was a hard, long slog of a week. After plenty of bad news out of the UK and US (including ongoing protests after the murder of George Floyd), we were all in need of some distraction. And what better than the successful, edge-of-your-seat launch of Dragon. The NASA live stream continues to provide riveting content for those stuck in lockdown.

And some exciting space-related news? Reports indicate that NASA and the South African National Space Agency (SANSA) have partnered to create a deep space ground station right here in the Western Cape, at Matjiesfontein. The new project, as close as 2024, will support near-Earth and deep space exploration, including NASA’s planned Artemis mission to send the first woman to the surface of the Moon.

Exploration continues, people continue to triumph and there is good news to be found.

And keeping with our sport analogy, this week Nike reminded us all that no matter what we’re up against, we are never too far down to come back:

Stay safe and strong!
The Big Ambitions team