This was rather a cheering sight during my first (and probably last for some time) river walk since lockdown. Because upon seeing this very dead scooter on the river bank I realised that I hadn’t actually seen any of these annoying things these past couple of months, not from my balcony nor during quick trips to the supermarket. Obviously most were being (mis)used by tourists, riding them on pavements and leaving them just anywhere all over the city, so this has been one of the other positive aspects to getting our city back.
Then I read this morning that the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) has named Sevilla (where they held their annual global summit last year) as one of the five travel destinations IN THE WORLD to receive their new Safe Travel Stamp, to “reassure and restore the confidence of travellers and make travel safe again”.
We are excited that Saudi Arabia, which is Chair of the G20 tourism group, as well as popular destinations such as Cancun, one of the biggest destinations in the world, Portugal, one of the fastest growing countries in Europe and the holiday cities of Barcelona and Seville, amongst others, are among the first destinations to back the stamp and implement global standard protocols to recover faster.
Being one of the very few destinations with this Safe Travel Stamp could mean we will suddenly be flooded with tourists once the borders are opened again in July, because this will give travellers a false sense of security. Sure there are now these new Global Protocols in place for the “new normal” (getting to hate that term) but after you have met the criteria in order to receive your Stamp, there is no mention of how this will be controlled. Perhaps large hotel and restaurant chains will have to send in regular reports, but so far there is nothing to say that you even have to have this Stamp, just that tourists may feel safer when they see it displayed somewhere. But frankly, I don’t think many tourists will give a shit. They are so eager to get back to the way things were, and somehow think they are immune, that they don’t care who they may infect in their own countries, so why would they care about ours.
Seriously, what about the people who live here? Where is our “guarantee of safety” from possibly infected travellers? Aside from them having to fill out a form – AFTER they’re already on the plane – stating whether they’ve been in contact with anyone showing COVID symptoms over the previous 14 days, or if they are feeling unwell themselves (duh). Oh, and they get their temperature taken. All of which means dick all as a large percentage of COVID positive people are asymptomatic, but they are still infectious. In Sevilla alone a recent study estimated that more than 49,000 Sevillianos have been infected without presenting symptoms.
Look, I would also love to go back to how things used to be but that is just never going to happen. I would also love to get back to work, but with so many bars and restaurants either closed for good or not reopening until September, well, I may have to reinvent myself yet again (though honestly? I’m getting too old for this shit). Because even if I could arrange a new type of food tour that would probably get a Safe Travel Stamp (I have actually considered it) there’s just no fucking way I want to go anywhere near any tourists coming from the US and UK for at least another year or until a vaccine is found. Because that second more deadly wave is just around the corner.
Have we learned nothing? Why the rush? Yes, I know we need to rebuild our economy, but simply going right back to quick-fix high-risk “solutions” is not the answer. We need to look for new solutions that will fit with our New Now (I like that term better), but as usual, money talks. I have to say I’m feeling very low about all this, some days are better than others. Surely we could have gone slower, by starting to heal our economy from within, rather than just opening the tourist floodgates again.
This is one of the most thoughtful pieces I’ve read on the subject of “reopening” (this focuses on the hospitality industry but I think it applies to all sectors that deal with the public). Written by my friend Jorge Guitian @jorgeguitian, who has truly been a voice of reason throughout this whole mess. If you don’t speak Spanish you can pop it into google translate and it comes out (mostly) okay. It’s really worth a read…