Comment: Real face time is what’s needed

Bring on the return of in-person business, says Cosmos UK chief executive Giles Hawke

I write this column while travelling back from central London by train, having just had a long lunch meeting with my director colleagues.

This was the first time we got together in person since March last year, and it felt great!

Real human interaction, the opportunity to have rambling conversations on a range of topics without the constraints of the next video meeting, and a proper dialogue around strategy and plans.

We have all missed this way of working and are all regaining some of the benefits as we edge ever closer to our ‘new normal’.

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We won’t be moving back into our offices, but we are going to ensure regular face time (not FaceTime) for all of the team as a part of our ways of working.

That said, working from home with video calls and flexibility will also remain one of the core elements for the Cosmos and Avalon Waterways team.

Good news

Our first tours for over a year are also about to operate, which is really exciting.

We have a range of domestic tours operating in the US, Australia and the UK during May and June, and hope to be able to operate some international ones too as soon as possible.

We are, of course, reliant on borders being open and the testing regimes not being too expensive or too onerous so that people feel inclined to make the effort to get away on that postponed trip.

Every day seems to bring a bit more good news about the price of Covid PCR tests – the ‘gold standard’ tests required by the government’s Global Travel Taskforce – coming down.

There are also positive updates on the reliability of lateral flow tests, which the transport secretary has said he is still ‘looking at’ as an option to reduce the cost of testing for travel.

And there is yet more upbeat news regarding the efficacy of the vaccine, more countries planning to open their borders, the imminent arrival of some form of health certification, and the very tangible desire of people to get away on holiday.

So overall a sense of cautious optimism is very much alive and kicking, and it does feel as though we may have turned a corner.

There is, however, a note of caution and a niggling worry in the back of the mind about the potential of new variants emerging and impacting the number of countries we might be able to send our guests to.

There also remains an uncertainty about how easy travel will actually be once it does get started, the potential volatility of the traffic light system, despite its watchlists, and the fact that there isn’t yet any real clarity over where and when people will be able to travel, all lead to a slight brake on unbridled positivity!

Short notice

You may have an indication of which countries are on the green, amber and red lists by the time this column goes out, but whatever they are, we will be short of time to plan. I don’t see why we can’t have known them, or at least the criteria for them, earlier than ‘early May’.

We are planning for a new and better future in our business and looking forward to working with all of our travel agent partners to get the show back on the road – and I sincerely hope that our optimism is borne out in reality and our caution is simply an exaggerated level of pessimism and not in any way made real.

So bring on more meetings and planning sessions, more opportunities to meet with agents and partners and a new normal that enables us to do what we love and send customers on the holidays that they have been dreaming of for over a year.

Hopefully we’ll be having rambling conversations, in person, about how great our latest holidays have been soon enough.

More: Trade bosses ‘positive but frustrated’ by lack of detail for travel this summer

Foreign Office advice and traffic light lists tipped to align

Globus launches Lighthouse Project on Earth Day


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