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Comment: Let’s ensure compassion shown in crisis continues

Kindness and humanity is still needed and would be great as we edge back to normality, says Cosmos and Avalon chief executive Giles Hawke

The past 18 months have been horrendous for the travel industry, on any measure you might care to come up with.

Thousands of people have lost their livelihoods, companies have lost millions of pounds, business models have been turned upside down, the life work of many entrepreneurs has been destroyed and our mental health has suffered greatly with the constant ‘crisis mode’ under which we are all operating. Coupled with this, we haven’t been able to freely see friends and family or live the lives we would normally enjoy.

Against this backdrop, you could be forgiven for feeling a little bit down about things.

But throughout the pandemic there have been amazing stories of hope, persistence, perseverance and basic human kindness.

Sometimes, when all you read about is doom and gloom, it can be easy to become convinced that the world out there is bad, when the reality is that people are essentially good and kind and caring.

Agents working for nothing to look after their customers and help them; tour operators losing money to support agents and customers; individuals helping others out who are falling on hard times or finding it hard to cope; and anyone even just sending a kind word or friendly WhatsApp message of support.

I’ve found some of the Zoom and Teams calls I’ve had with colleagues, both within my business and more widely across the travel industry, have made a significant difference to keeping me positive, upbeat and forward-looking.

We have a long way to go until the travel industry is out of the woods from this crisis, but it does feel like the end of that tunnel is getting closer.

However, the kindness, compassion and humanity that has been shown by many is still needed and would be great to see continued as we move closer to a ‘business as normal’ environment.

Pedal power

I am one of a large group of people taking to our bikes in the New Forest on September 19 to raise money for the Family Holiday Association.

In previous years, we have done this fundraising event as a much smaller group, but this year there are more than 20 people from the travel industry riding between 50 and 100 miles and aiming to raise £10,000 for the charity.

We are still a way off our fundraising target and recognise this is a difficult time for many people financially, but anything you can do to support would be gratefully received. The money raised will enable families facing particular hardships to get a short break to a UK seaside resort. The hashtag is #TeamCliaCycle21.

Two weeks later, I will be running the Virtual London Marathon for Abta LifeLine, a charity that supports members of the travel industry who have fallen on hard times – and this applies to many over the past 18 months. In every case the help is vital and can mean keeping food on the table or a roof over the heads of people who may be struggling through no fault of their own.

I’m aiming to raise a modest £1,000 to help those in need from within our industry and will be running a hilly, off-road marathon to make it more challenging than it needs to be for my first-ever 26.2 miles of running!

Proactive help

Training and planning for these two events has helped me focus on something positive and proactive during difficult times. On top of that, to know we are doing something to help others, while challenging ourselves physically and mentally, gives a sense of satisfaction even greater than giving a gift or a compliment. It is tangible, practical and valuable, and maybe shows that deeds are important ways of backing up the words.

Travel will open up again, new jobs and businesses will be created, and most will bounce back from this difficult time. But I hope that we all remember our basic decent human values when this happens and we continue to do what we can to support others who may be going through tough times and go out of our way to do the right thing.

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