Jeremy Sampson, the Travel Foundation
Jeremy Sampson is CEO of the Travel Foundation, a leading sustainable tourism charity. He heads the organization’s global work to improve the impacts of tourism on people and the environment in destinations.
In a series of interviews with executives participating in the online event in September, PhocusWire finds out what they have learned from the COVID-19 crisis.
Knowing what you know now, if you could go back to the start of the coronavirus crisis, what would you do differently?
Probably freak out less? In all seriousness, I now realize the importance of conserving mental energy for what looks to be a long‐haul experience. After the initial shockwaves and stress melted into “the new normal,” I found it much easier to embrace the situation for what it is, adapt to new realities, create a positive space for my family and my team, and sharpen my point of view on the role I felt the Travel Foundation should be playing.
The Travel Foundation
What have you learned from this time about the way you’ll manage and communicate with your team moving forward?
From the beginning of this crisis, we’ve been asked to rethink the word “essential,” and we’ve seen some tremendously positive effects result from cutting out the noise and focusing on what matters. This is a great lesson I hope to carry forward with our team and our work to shape the future of tourism.
I also believe as a team we’ve sharpened our voice and clarified our purpose, and we want to leverage that confidence going forward in further carving out our role within this complex ecosystem.
What do you miss the most about travel?
The first thing that comes to mind is actually the anticipation of travel. Whether it’s a short work trip or a family holiday, I always love looking at the calendar and getting excited about new experiences on the horizon.
But mostly what I’m missing right now are the people. I get a lot of my energy and inspiration from gathering with industry colleagues at events or working in the field, and I don’t suppose Zoom calls will ever fully replicate that experience, especially the casual and unexpected moments of connection.
What have been the surprise benefits to not traveling?
My daughter was born in November, and so far I haven’t missed a single day of her life! As someone who frequently travels for work, this extra family time has been a real unexpected treat (and much appreciated by my wife…).
At work, I’m also finding more time to dig in with the team and advance on important projects without the typical travel interruptions, and I’ve loved how much easier it’s been to schedule meetings with others in the industry since we’re not all flying all over the place like usual.
What lasting changes will there be to you personally from this time?
I’ll live the rest of my life with the knowledge that a massive, earth‐shattering event I never imagined could be just around the bend. I can’t ever un‐know this. While I think this might make me a bit more risk‐averse and appreciative of the little things, it also reminds me that change isn’t nearly as impossible as it once may have seemed.
And this is a great lesson for those of us engaged in the hard‐work of change‐making. This situation has already given me an injection of confidence to keep fighting for the generational systems change we will need to achieve if we ever hope to tackle big issues like climate change, economic equity and racial justice.
What’s been your one guilt pleasure during lockdown?
Besides the massive amounts of baking, I watched the documentary Cheer on Netflix about a championship university cheerleading squad in Texas. Not something I would have gravitated to normally, but it was recommended and well worth the watch. It was eye‐opening and fascinating. I couldn’t believe their talent, and I couldn’t get enough of their story! Very uplifting at a time when I needed it most.
Keynote: Sustainability – What Now?
The air is cleaner and the birds are singing. Some are calling for a permanent change in behavior as we witness an improved environment with fewer people traveling. Has the coronavirus pause signaled a new direction for travel and sustainability?