Monday Musings 07 June: A spark of crazy optimism

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It’s hard to believe, but we’re almost halfway through 2021. Winter’s here, the Drakensberg has had its first dusting of snow and we’ve ticked off another month under lockdown level something or other.  

What, if anything, has changed? South Africans are still bracing themselves for the third wave; load shedding is back with a vengeance; the UK’s red list remains as unyielding as Mauritius’s borders; and the biggest Mercury retrograde of the year is underway (heads up, those who believe in these sorts of things reckon it’ll be a corker).    

But maybe, just maybe, things are beginning to shift. I bet there wasn’t a dry eye in the house on Friday evening when United’s first direct flight from Newark touched down at ORT. The flight was near to capacity – and the Boeing Dreamliner was welcomed with a (grey) water salute, marimba band and socially-distanced fanfare! A significant, goosebump moment for everyone in the travel and tourism industry. Here Travelnews says, Hello United!

United, by the way, is planning to go supersonic by 2029, promising a new era of faster, more affordable and environmentally-friendly travel. Exciting times lie ahead.  

Another shift? More and more people are returning to the office. For example, Apple wants staff back in offices by September. But, according to The Wall Street Journal, if you thought adapting to WFH during a pandemic was challenging, the next era of work might be even more messy. And it is a minefield. Not only will managers have to balance the wants and needs of different employees (for example, those with health concerns), but they will need to address a very real perception that people who work from home get fewer raises and promotions.    

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The US is reaping the rewards of a strong vaccination programme, with the CDC confirming that fully-vaccinated people no longer need to wear a face mask. While it’s a massively positive change for Americans, examines why going ‘barefaced’ after so long can feel awkward (if not downright weird) – and it’s a fascinating lesson in pandemic psychology, social norms and normative differentiation.     

Do you know what else feels weird? Any social event or occasion. Our social skills have left the building. If you do have an upcoming work or networking event on the horizon, Author Vanessa Van Edwards has put together 10 anti-boring ways to answer the dreaded question ‘What Do You Do?’. Not only are they brilliant, but coupled with her take on ‘the best types of questions to ask’ and you’ll never have to endure an awkward silence again.  

More changes afoot? The WHO has just renamed COVID-19 variants with Greek letters to avoid stigmatising the countries where coronavirus variants are first detected.  

Here’s how the new names will be applied: 

  • Variant B.1.1.7, which first emerged from the United Kingdom, will be known as Alpha. 
  • Variant B.1.351, which was first detected in South Africa, will be known as Beta. 
  • Gamma will be used to refer to P.1, the variant first detected in Brazil last November. 
  • Delta will be the new name for B.1.617.2, the poorly-nicknamed “double mutant” strain that was first identified in India last October. 

The emergence of B.1.351 in May last year (and the stigma surrounding variants) has had a massive impact on  travel bans. But South Africa is fighting back. South African Tourism and the TBCSA has announced the launch of the Global Tourism Advocacy Programme, which forms part of the Tourism Road to Recovery plan. According to SA Tourism, the programme will focus on the causal issues for adverse travel positioning in each source market ranging from policy, trade, commercial, media, influential voices and social media dynamics. 

Maybe it’s just me, but there’s something in the air.  

Let’s hope, in the words of an industry colleague, amongst the exhaustion, overwhelm and anxiety, it’s a ‘spark of crazy optimism.’ 

Mindful Musings 

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Marketing Musings 

Every year during Pride Month, the LGBTQ+ community cautions brands against ‘rainbow-washing’ – in other words, launching a slew of new rainbow-themed ads or products without doing anything particularly meaningful to bring about change.  

The same is seen on International Women’s Day (8 March) or Women’s Month in South Africa (August), when brands talk the talk with inspiring campaigns celebrating women, with no actual commitment to equal pay, an ‘equal culture’ or a move to address leadership gaps or ownership structures within their own organisations.  

Consumers, however, are quick to call out lip service. They’re looking for a little more than bold, colourful, once-off (or worse, one day) campaigns.  

This week’s lesson in actually putting your money where your mouth is, comes from the mental health-focused app Calm – who has pledged to donate $15,000 USD to Laureus, a French organisation that aims to support the mental health of young people and children through sport, each time a player is fined for opting out of 2021 Grand Slam media appearances for mental health reasons. The announcement follows Naomi Osaka’s very public, very controversial withdrawal from this year’s French Open after she was fined $15,000 USD for missing a press conference. A relatively small gesture, but the perfect example of a brand ‘doing, not just saying’.  

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Adweek, in a little mid-year roundup, has just taken a look at 2021’s top ads and campaigns to date. Leading the popularity stakes is this gem by Extra gum, an utterly ridiculous and joyful 2-minute romp through post-pandemic life.  

When the ad was released at the end of April, the brand summed it up by saying:  

In a not-too-distant future, the world will be coming back. And when the time comes, we won’t just exit our homes quietly, pick up the newspaper and whistle our way back to the office. No, we’re going squeeze into a pair of jeans, grab a pack of Extra gum and take to the streets—awkwardly small talking, hugging and kissing until our collective hearts’ are content. 

Silly? Yes. Worth a watch? Definitely.  

What the world was musing over this past week

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SA one of the most LGBTQ+ friendly destinations in the world

We’re kicking off Pride Month with the news that South Africa is among the best LGBTQ+ travel destinations in world. We rank no. 11 on an impressive list, with Sweden, The Netherlands and Spain claiming the top three spots. 

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London’s new sky pool is making waves

The world’s first transparent pool built between two skyscrapers was unveiled in London this week – and many (not just the acrophobes among us) are not best pleased. In a scathing review by the Financial Times it has been described as ‘a disaster that’s already happened’.

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NYC’s subway performers are back!

After commuters disappeared from New York’s subways, so did most subway buskers and performers, deterred by the danger of catching the virus – and the lack of passengers to play for. Finally on Friday, after more than 14 months of silence, the music was back!

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Calls in the UK to ban out-of-hours emails

While WFH has kept us all safe during the pandemic, it has blurred the lines between work life and home life – and now a UK trade union is calling for the government to give employees a legally binding ‘right to disconnect’ – by banning out-of-hours work email

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Brrrrr Lesotho gets its first snowfall of the year

Semonkong Lodge in Lesotho recently shared a video of the mountain kingdom’s first snowfall of the year, which has turned their entire lodge into a winter wonderland.

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Meet the marine biologist working to save Kenya’s coral reefs

Rosalie Bailie, a Marine Biologist based at Diani Beach in Kenya is on a mission to restore one of Africa’s most beautiful and important coral reefs.

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South Africa’s favourite choir does it again

The Ndlovu Youth Choir has just released their version of ‘Shallow’ and it’s stunning! Added bonus? Cape Town gets to show off a little in the official music video.