This memo was written during the greatest time of panic and despair in modern travel history— early May 2020.
‘The Future of Travel’ encompasses two terms. One that is currently subject to global uncertainty: travel– and one that will always be uncertain per se: the future.
Our losses have received more media coverage than any other contemporary disaster. However, only a few enlighted bookkeepers will know for sure if we lost more than to, say, climate change or globalization or any other natural disaster.
At this point in time, some travel-related companies (airlines, hotels, etc) might never recover, some have gone bankrupt, their stock has plummeted.
One major travel company executive told recently: “of course failures are upsetting. But there have always been failures. What’s got us so immobilized now is that whatever it is that we’re making, we’re stopping the making whatsoever. We don’t know until when. All we know is that the remedy might be worse than the disease itself.”
By the end of April, almost all countries in the world were in ‘lockdown’ mode. At the same time a year ago, if you weren’t already ‘somewhere’, you had a day in your calendar when you would. That day, Today is gone, or uncertain. And thousands of companies and employees and self-employed people are paying for it, reducing their capital power on the way, the commonly agreed main driving force of our era.
What follows, is a short essay about ‘The Future of Travel’. It may not come as a total shock to you if I say that this is not the first attempt in way or another to treat the subject.
All I can provide that is different is my point of attack, or experience, or whatever it is I am, or know, which is different from everything and everyone else. Like most of you, I have been, for close to 20 years now, a traveller. We have lived first hand all the advances in the not-so-called ‘Travel Revolution’, I have also written travel books and worked in the travel industry for companies that have changed our perception of what is possible regarding travel. Let’s say I learned more than a little— most of it, alas, too late (maybe).
It may well be pointless to try and isolate the great powers of the travel industry. Airlines, hotels, travel agencies, governments and economies all circle in the same orbit, subject to the same gravitational laws.
I have divided these powers nonetheless, in the hope that it may simplify matters and shed additional light on the travel process as a whole. Just remember that they are all joined at the hip, locked in an uneasy alliance towards the same goal: moving and hosting people from one place to another.
With one major exception, which will be dealt with in due course, as far as the travel concept is concerned, planes are essentially worthless— and absolutely essential.
You don’t travel to be in a plane. But you need a plane to travel.
Wanting to see the world came first, and in the beginning, there was no way from getting from Bali to Burning Man in less than one day. Last year it was easy, and hundreds probably did it. All thanks to the meaningless, yet essential power of air travel.
However, planes do more than taking us to the places we want to go to. Leading us to:
The major exception. Which is…, it’s, well…
Without planes, the world crumbles as we know it. You don’t need to travel to use airline services or to know that your recently purchased Amazon book published in India by a South African author came to the US by plane. So things, not people, also travel.
This ‘exception’ shakes the landscape, which is no other than ‘The Future of Travel’. Because ‘The Future of Travel’, needs not only you, travelling, but your things, your tools, your boards, your skis and your tennis racquets, to travel too.
When talking about hotels, we are not only assuming a place to stay. A bed is just a bed, but a hotel, a ‘superhost’ Airbnb or a good luxury hotel offer on Booking.com is something else.
The particulars of living in a new home (even if just for a couple of days) grab you and then hold you. The sweep of new scents, fresh sheets, new views.
Hotels help you realize that the world is incomprehensibly large and there is still so much to see.
Yes, you get sick sometimes of being abroad, but, we were born in the midst of the ‘Travel Revolution’. We are not really suited for domestic life, for seeing the same people, the same places, thinking more or less the same thoughts each day.
We will always love surrendering to the rush, the uncertainty, the serendipity of the road.
A hotel room is exclusively made to accommodate you in the best possible way, to offer everything you need and to spare you from anything that could bother you. Their motto: ‘relax, enjoy yourself and leave the rest to us’ resonates in our busy minds like a celestial massage.
Hotels are cool.
They have always been.
Hotels are the best.
And the hardest choices in life aren’t between what’s good and what’s right but between what’s right and what’s best.
That’s why hotels will stay.
My hope is with them, to stay alive. And to host the best and worst of us, even if just for a day, while our mind gets lost and our soul reborn in that little nook, with just you, the sea and a good book.
I understand (and have always done), ‘the future’ as something to hope for. Why on Earth would we live for, if it wasn’t to arrive at a place we hope to go to? And throughout this memos, you will find hope, and hopefully, a new way to travel too.
In the meantime, read a good book, it is by far the cheapest, fastest and most rewarding way to go to places you had never gone before, or will go, or both.