We have an opportunity to create a better way of doing business as we emerge from the pandemic, argues Fiona Jeffery, senior partner for Global Responsible Tourism as Finn Partners

I woke up this morning thinking about how our industry is also slowly re-awakening from this hermit-like existence as it plans for, and at last embarks on, a road to recovery. But amid the excitement, pent-up demand and enthusiasm for a hopeful new dawn, I also had cause to reflect on this unfolding phase.

To protect society, we’ve largely been closed down. But as we re-awaken, that need to protect society hasn’t changed, so what does this mean for our wider environment and the world of travel, beyond the now well-established and accepted safety protocols?

It means we need to think much more carefully about “how we do travel” and its real impact – both positive and negative.

We can no longer justify what we do and how we do it because “we’re fulfilling dreams”, “creating jobs”, “enhancing wellbeing” or “building bridges”, all of which are undoubtedly true. What the pandemic has taught us and demonstrated loud and clear is that all of this can stop in an instant and therefore our self-justification cannot come at any price, because that price is much too high and painful to bear.

Instead, travel and tourism businesses need to re-emerge into a new age of responsibility and this has to be built into their recovery plans from the outset.

To be on the right side of the debate, we need to embrace the government’s commitment and the recommendations of the climate-change committee to develop a carbon zero economy by 2050. To achieve this, the work undertaken across the next 10 to 15 years is mission-critical.

We also need to make industry-wide, business-level and individual moral commitments to leave destinations better than when we arrived by enhancing local community livelihoods, habitats, wildlife and ecosystems. The power of this industry is huge, I’ve always said that, but if travel and tourism is in the job of fulfilling dreams then it has to ask – whose dreams? It has to be everyone’s dreams if the industry is to be sustainable in the long term.

We’re not alone in having to take on this responsibility and accountability – the agriculture, aviation, construction and energy industries are all major contributors on this critical path. A lot of re-engineering has to happen across government, business and society.

But the opportunity to do it together is empowering and motivating. We are about creating better long-term futures for a global community that’s been locked down for 422 days (not that I’m counting).

As we each plan to reawaken our industry and businesses and harness our teams, use this serious pause for reflection and put into place new strategies to take constructive action and re-emerge better.

Think about the small things you can do differently that start the journey towards a healthier and friendlier ecosystem around your business. Centralised printing facilities, water-saving devices and, with fewer people in offices, reduced energy demands. And harness the enthusiastic teams ready to embrace and deliver people’s holiday dreams to think about what they can do to contribute to positive change and “be the change they want to see”.

Let us all aim to do things more responsibly than before. Just a 1% saving across every business makes a collective difference and if you scale up that commitment over 10 years it can become much more transformational.

One thing is certain, please don’t do what you’ve always done, because we won’t get a different outcome and none of us wants us to be back here again.

Think and act responsibly now, and don’t look back.