The following is the first of a series in letters from Will Jones to Journeys by Design friends, clients and colleagues following lockdown. This one went out towards the end of March, when many in the industry were scrambling to mitigate the impact of lockdown on safari destinations.
I hope you’re keeping as well as can be reasonably expected in this truly testing time.
While I’ve spent the last few weeks working closely to inform, support, and allay the concerns of those of you travelling with us, I haven’t had the chance to draw breath, look up, and communicate with friends, colleagues, and clients old and new. This is that chance. Apologies in advance to those of you who have read my most recent blog. I am repeating myself.
Personally, there is nothing in my life experience that could have prepared me for the impact the Coronavirus (COVID-19) has had on my world. I’m sure the same is true of all of you. Professionally, it’s no secret that travel has been hit especially hard. An across-the-board quiet January has proved the warning flag that all was not well, and what has followed has been little short of catastrophic, the long term impact on lives, communities, and businesses unknown.
For every cloud, however dark, a silver lining. As the evidence has it, while very contagious, COVID-19 is by no means as dangerous as the likes of MERS or Ebola – or even SARS. It is a pandemic, but it’s not here forever. It will pass. News of tests in America underline the pace with which we are working to develop a vaccine. The pause in the world’s inexorable pattern of growth has seen a radical reduction in CO2 emissions. We are already planning for a post-coronavirus world.
In all this, the kind of low volume high impact travel Journeys by Design and many of our colleagues advocate has an important role to play. In Africa, in areas where it is the single most important economic driver, the long-term impact of the collapse in tourism on its people, wildlife and wildernesses is extremely grave. Despite our own predicaments, we are still in the position to help – and now. At the simplest of levels, this means rather than cancel with their tour operators, I urge travellers to postpone trips. And rather than not think about travelling, I urge you to place faith in the fact that the pandemic will pass, to keep planning ahead, and to book for a free-to-travel 2021. In doing so, we keep the wheels in motion, provide the industry with the vital working capital it needs, and ensure that once travel restrictions lift, we are in the position to act.
For our part, the safety and well-being of our clients is our first priority. As well as sharing Foreign Commonwealth Office advice, we are in touch with partners on the ground daily, and are tracking changes in relation to every single juncture of each one of our clients’ itineraries. In light of the uncertainty, we have adjusted our terms for new and confirmed bookings, allowing for increased flexibility. While the next few months are going to be extraordinarily challenging, we are preparing for the future.
As Robert Kennedy once famously said, like it or not, we live in interesting times – times, he added, of danger and uncertainty, but which would prove ‘the most creative of any time in the history of mankind.’ My feeling is that this is truer for today and tomorrow than it was for even his time. I wish you and your families the very best, and look forward to hearing from you – to help, certainly, with future travel plans, but most of all, to know that all is well in this most extraordinary of times.