It was a helluva year, 2016, wasn’t it? Speaking for many I’m sure, I’m thrilled to see the back of it. Economic uncertainty, a rise in protectionism and isolationism, civil wars and a set of surprisingly divisive elections have left many with a sense of doom and gloom.
But anyone who says the world is a worse place than it was 50 years ago is just wrong. I was reminded of this recently on a visit to Bali.
Here is a beautiful island with a complex past that had scarcely a tourist trickle just 30 years ago. It is now a beacon of progress: a smart, confident, buzzing, scintillating hotspot. More importantly, Bali is also a shining example of the power of travel. Wherever I looked I saw visitors of all sorts of cultures, hues, professions, sexual orientations and economic statuses interacting and having fun together. The Bali of 2016 presents a multicultural vision, one mirrored in many other places in Asia, like Hong Kong, Da Nang, Boracay and Singapore. This reality is the perfect antidote to the isolationism and fear of foreignness that have risen in intensity over recent years.
In 2017, I would love to see governments, businesses and individuals promote travel even more and, with it, greater understanding between people of different cultures. Here are a few suggestions, large and small, for the year ahead:
1. Abolish restrictive visa practices
Why on earth do we need tourist visas? Why is that a thing? Can’t we simply let people visit countries for a short period without a four-week approval process and a shed load of money?
2. Man up, media
Why are our television screens and publications full of inane celebrity nonsense, reality rubbish and bad-news stories? Can’t we have deep travel programmes again? Can’t we have some good news emanating from far-flung places?
3. Up the creativity at tourist attractions
More multimedia investment is required and some gimmicks could be helpful, too. The first time I went to the Beijing’s Forbidden City, Roger Moore did the English audio. Silly? Yes. But I sure did listen.
4. Get people together at hotels
Those hotels that put on free drinks events are doing it right, getting guests to socialise with generally wonderful people and making money along the way when attendees continue to eat and drink after the free stuff is over.
5. Let’s all do just a little bit
It’s very easy, and I know it, to do nothing on a beach. But we owe it to ourselves to go on (slightly) more challenging holidays – cycling through Belgium, walking for a week in Rome or backpacking through Sri Lanka.
Perhaps it’s a touch soppy but I’m hoping that the travel industry can, as it always has, make the world feel a little smaller and be a little more tolerant. A happy 2017 to you all.
How do you hope to see travel improve? Let us know at [email protected]