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The Invisible 300 Million – An ode to travel

And why is it that we do it?
For what purpose or need or desire
What was once a privilege
We quickly made our right.
Curiosity went out of the window, mass tourism seemed best.
Drunken brawls, topless beaches and random sex
We paid no heed whatsoever to culture, history, people

We certainly had no respect.
By the plane load and cruise boats and coaches, we marauded through en mass.
Paying no heed to the destruction that was clearly left in our wake.
It became that the only clear purpose was selfish, to escape our mundane lives.
Mass travel had become our right.

Embarrassed by a career in travel, we were hardly saving lives.
And how had we become so complacent? Worse, entitled and crass.
Or had I just become disparaging? ‘Mass tourism, no thanks, I want class.’

Like so many others needing more, we sought out the places and people less known.

A side to travel that had more meaning, escapism, wellness, nature, wildlife, supporting local communities rather than barging through.

Offbeat, and rural became by-lines, to destinations whose secrets we thought were our own.

Travellers and explorers not adventurers, seeking meaning, superior? Were we really any better?

Increased infrastructure, aeroplanes crossing the skies like flies enabled a shrinking globe.

The advent of social media – nowhere was sacred or spared.

If it was instagrammable we all flocked there, like sheep blindly following on.
The purpose was for the ultimate image, to gain more likes on a phone.
We stopped paying heed to the culture of the people whose lives we sought

yet chose to ignore.

Selfies replaced meaning, gathering likes more important than appreciating the moment,

we were not only the new cyclone we helped create them too.

I’m painting a bleak picture, yet much good was done too, horizons expanded, the mental as well as the physical, relaxation became mindful, positive impacts on communities,  friendships forged, communities and cultures in many instances saved and so many livlihoods made.

But who was then slammed when it happened? When all travel came to a halt. The answer’s quite simple, we all were.

Because like it or not, both mass tourism and the sustainable traveller had created jobs, opportunities, livelihoods, careers, local and global businesses. Travel, this never formally acknowledged industry, had become worth something – the intangible had become tangible, the travel industry in 2019 was worth US$8.9 trillion globally, generating 10.3% of global GDP and employing 1/10 of the working population – that’s 300 million people all told.

And yet we’ve been abandoned by governments globally, an industry still not recognized or acknowledged. Green, Amber, RED RED RED and 300 million people scrambling to survive shattered lives.

STOP to consider; pilots, barista’s, chamber maids, chefs, tour guides, destination experts, travel consultants, tour operators, check in staff, taxi drivers, cabin crew, drivers, hotel managers, waiters, cleaners, mixologists, travel writers, gardeners, food suppliers, masseurs, souvenir makers, photographers at monuments, hotel concierge, local artisans, auto drivers, grooms, laundromats, tourism graduates, beach shack owners, croupiers, naturalists, jeep drivers as a list it goes on and on.

An obituary of careers.

The irony. Travel, an industry not recognised or supported is the one that is missed the most of all.
And yet to governments globally we are nothing, no one, ignored. Careers, lives, communities all devastated.

We are the invisible 300 million.

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