Friday, December 31, 2010


There is something about the last moments of the last hours of the year. Seconds pass like beats of a drum, their sounds heard and deep vibrations felt across the globe. Each strike of the drum soon represent as a reflection for each and every one of the millions for whom the drum beats, a moment of immense importance which occurred over the twelve months past, moments which for many will define 2010.

The closer we get to calling out "one!" the more the feeling of excitement grows for the year just seconds away from beginning anew. The excitement may be filled with hope, it may be filled with relief, it may be filled with promise, it may be filled with prayer.

And finally, it is here!

May the last seconds of your 2010 tightly and lovingly embrace your first of 2011.

Happy, healthy, heart-smiling New Year!

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2010

Sunday, November 28, 2010


The occasion of 'Thanksgiving', celebrated at the end of November in the USA (October in Canada), has taken on a greater significance this year. Global significance. 2010 has been a year of surprising challenges, surprising stories of triumph, surprising heroes. So much to reflect on, so much to give thanks for, so many heroes to express thanks to.

Heroes are single stars in a dark night's sky. They make us look up...and they make us look for more stars through the faith they bring with their light.

Most importantly, heroes remind us, clearly and vibrantly, that it's about so much more than just 'me', 'here', 'now'. And that it is for each of us to inspire others to look up. Through acts of goodness, kindness and purpose. Because we can.

CNN's annual search for 'Heroes' once again uncovered a world of truly inspirational, ordinary people doing extraordinary things. And in so doing they have re-sparked the night skies:

May 2011 be a year when the word 'hero' evolves from noun to verb, from a single star to a glowing constellation, keeping us looking up with fingers pointing to ensure others also see, and feel, their power.

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2010

Monday, October 18, 2010


October 13th, 2010, the day a miracle occurred, thirty three times.

Following sixty nine days of prayer at a place known as Camp Hope, hope became visible as the Phoenix capsule rose to the surface of sun-parched Chilean ground and the lives of thirty three trapped miners were set free. Thirty three heroes, celebrated one by one by crowds of anxiously waiting family, by heads of national leadership, by teams of medics and media, and by the watching world.

Online, on-air, on the front of newspapers, on mobile handsets...the world held its breath, held its focus and held its hope that each and every miner would re-emerge, hearts beating, healthy. Even now, days on, images of the San Jose mine rescue in Chile continue to fill the world's airwaves. Stories and scenes of miners celebrating a life re-captured. Celebrating a miracle.

A remarkable time. In Chile, and everywhere else. Today these thirty three miners now stand tall as heroes. But they are heroes not simply for having been trapped down in the mine for over two months. It is because of their enduring determination to live. Through the darkness, both physical and psychological, they looked for the light. As expressed with rawness and realness by miner
Mario Sepulveda: "I saw the devil, I saw God. God won!"

Their strength, their spirit, their story, their solidarity now form the DNA of their miracle.

And together, these men and their miracle, fed the world - at a time when feeding was desperately needed.

The past two few years have been exhausting on the spirit of the world. Global economic crisis seeded a global emotional crisis, all at a time when global concerns regarding safety, security and sensibility continue to grow. While technology seeks to bring people closer together, underlying fear of the person unknown continues to push us apart. Differences become defining and dividing.

As a result good news has become a precious, rare commodity. Through our day to day life it can often feel that reasons to believe in the goodness of mankind need to be mined from all that exists to prove otherwise. Increasingly scarce - reasons for the world to connect through a pure spirit and determination, around something positive, something which reminds the world of the priceless value of life, of one more day, of hope.

And then last week, for the first time in a very, very long time, the world was able to come together, quietly and calmly, with one single shared emotion: HOPE.

Hope, a single heartbeat beating softly and patiently deep underground in a Chilean mine, gaining in strength as days of human drama increased in count. Soon the heartbeat began to beat with extraordinary strength, turning the hope of the world into one body, one spirit, one prayer and one joy.

The Phoenix capsule travelling up the Plan B rescue shaft to the waiting world was, in so many ways, a journey up a (re)birth canal. For the miners now rejoicing life, renewing vows, reaffirming faith and repeating prayers of thanks, it was the start of life anew.

For the watching world it was a powerful force which swept across the globe, breaking down borders both political and personal, feeding a vital part of the human spirit.

Most importantly the miracle in Chile was a powerful reminder of a fundamental human truth: sometimes to find hope one has to dig deep...but it is there. And it is waiting to see the sunlight again.

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2010

Thursday, September 23, 2010


As the recent global economic crisis
tightened its grip across the globe, the business travel segment found itself grounded. Business trips cancelled, conferences cancelled, incentive trips cancelled, exhibitions downsized, meetings re-e-engineered, hopes for making targets cancelled.

There was simply no budget, no justification, no nerve, no hope. Too many black ink cartridges were being replaced with red. It was a clear situation of black and white - until the crisis was over travel was suspended.
There was no grey area.

Understanding the logic, e-alternatives were found. 'Skype' became both a noun and verb. Expectations were adjusted around movements of the bottom line and the business cycle. No one was going anywhere.

But making sense of it all did not make it any easier.
We are not a generation comfortable with prolonged restrictions to comfort of lifestyle. The crisis of 2008/9, and its hangover of caution throughout 2010, has been the first time such financial strain of this degree has ever been felt by billions across the globe.

But the crisis has not just been financial, it has been emotional. The fear generated by the world's fastest spreading, widest reaching and deepest penetrating economic shutdown has rattled the spirits of people across the world. A bankruptcy of faith and confidence occurred, causing a crash in the energy required to perform.

And, importantly, a crash in the value of business culture.

The arrival of Q2/2010 has, however, brought with it a return in business confidence levels. And with that a return of people on the move. The seats in the pointy end of the plane are warming up again. As are meeting rooms, conference halls and spirits. Justification of un-suspending spend is now all around. Clearly being grounded hurt business. Now is the time to get back to 35,000ft to get back into the black.

Supporting this hypothesis, a study undertaken by Oxford Economics in 2009 revealed, painfully, that over all the average US business would be forced to lose 17% of profits (28% of revenues) during the first year of suspension of business travel. This loss would require a three year period to recover. Bottom line.

But intuitively businesses across the globe have also known that the losses were not just at a commercial level, they were also at a cultural level. The freezing of budgets which froze internal activity, company conferences in particular, froze spirits.

Which is why visionary leaders, truly holistic leaders who put into practice the adage of 'our people are our greatest asset', are remaking commitments and rebooking venues to reconnect their people. Instruction from the C-suite is seeing hundreds of people being removed from their offices, relocated (often at enormous cost and logistical complexity) to places which allow the start of a strong tomorrow to start today.

Importantly, effective conference programme design is not only about sharing business plans and prophecies. Of equal importance, if not greater, is sharing of the process of rebuilding faith, rebuilding a future vision, and rebuilding the fundamental bonds of the organisation.

It is about cultural reconnection. And creating that reconnection may require letting people let go. Safely. It has been a long time of holding one's breath. Now is the time to exhale deeply. Together.

This process, whether it unlocks laughter, tears or fears, will ultimately unlock the spirits of those present. And in so doing, create an energy of renewal, recovery, rediscovery and release - a release which will raise the level of confidence, conviction and commitment of the company culture.

There can be no greater fuel for future impact, no greater feeling of achievement for a true leader.

This article is dedicated to the courageous leaders across the globe who, with their visionary eyes and open hearts, recognise investment into their people at this fragile, faith-rebuilding, future-redefining time as invaluable.

To you a glass is raised
with thanks, with immense respect, and in confident anticipation. Not only do you know the above to be true, you feel it... and you live it.

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2010

Sunday, August 29, 2010


The world in which we live today often feels as though it is moving at a speed far faster, and fired up with far more energy, than ever before. Events are unfolding with seemingly greater intensity. And having a greater global impact. Extreme situations are becoming extremely familiar. The drama of daily life is appearing everywhere, every day, every time one looks at a TV, computer or mobile screen.

How has this happened?

One of the reasons for the hyper-acceleration of happenings is the hyper-activity of social media commentary.

Where once news networks were relied on for information and insight, public opinion has gained unprecedented power. Immediately, as an event occurs, it is captured, analysed, shared. Through images and text the simple flapping of the wings of a butterfly on one part of the world can cause an immediate storm a world away. And a flurry of commentary around what happened: why the butterfly chose to flap his little wings at that precise moment, in that precise location. Precisely what did he mean by it?

Connections are being made, between people, places and points in time.
And voices across the globe are sharing their opinions with global audiences.

All it takes is the click of a 'SEND' button and thought can become thought leadership.

It is truly remarkable and empowering that one is now able to share ideas, information and opinions across borders, across cultures and across ideologies across the world. For millions it is life changing. Enablement has occurred through e-connectivity. And with it has come social and economic freedom.

The power which comes from the SEND button can, however, be overwhelming. The temptation to 'tell us what you think' and know that the world is reading can be too great to pass up. Particularly when one holds a position of leadership, be it political, private business or as a recognised personality. Fifteen keystrokes of fame.

And how seductive the invitation to engage when it comes to sharing opinion in open e-forum when voices are united in critique, with growing numbers of followers and growing flames of fiery opinion.

Sadly, often, momentum of opinion sharing takes on a life of its own. Words shift from helpful critique to hurtful criticism. A common enemy breeds heated commentary. The messenger and the message become confused.
The need for a moment of pause and consideration of impact is lost.


And before you know it your name is sent into cyberspace, attached to words which will eternally appear in any Google or Bing search ever conducted on your name...

For all the possibility which has been created through the global connectivity which now characterises the times in which we live (and share), the responsibility of this power of opinion must never be forgotten.

To hit the SEND button is to leave an e-fingerprint in history. Together these fingerprints can build unity of community of thought and positive impact. Sadly, however, so too can it create ever-embedded negativity.
The butterfly effect has taken on a whole new meaning in our new world of global opinions.

Importantly, however, just as the butterfly never loses sight of the effect the flutter of his wings can have on the world around him, he maintains a healthy perspective regarding his place in the world. Tiny, beautiful, essential...and potentially powerful.

So too must we never lose sight of the impact of our opinions
. And responsibility we hold for the impact of flapping our wings each time we hit the 'SEND' key.

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2010

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


In a matter of days the world's largest sports event will come to a close. 2010 FIFA World Cup champions will be crowned, fans will blow their vuvuzelas in unison of tens of thousands one last time, stadiums will empty, the media will switch channels, athletes and travellers will go home. The FIFA World Cup lens will move to Brasil. South Africa, the host nation, will resume regular programming.

And the hangover of 30 days of football festivities will set in.

It has already started, actually. Following the first of two Semi-Finals in one of the nation's three major host cities, the morning after the night before for Cape Town is still, silent, sad. There is a feeling of it's over.

The hang-over is being felt not just by fans celebrating Holland's success in securing a place in the Finals (or commiserating Uruguay's not), but by the people of the host city. It is time to turn the lights out in the city's new, iconic stadium graced by the backdrop of Table Mountain and encircling sea. That feeling of sadness will soon take over Durban as the host city braces itself for their hosting of the second Semis this evening, and then the moment of turning off the lights in their beautiful new stadium.

Magnification of this feeling, this sadness, will hit a crescendo as the Finals are played. While there will be (already is) immense pride felt by South Africans across the country and world in the successful hosting of the Games, tears of good-bye will fall for not only departing fans, but for closure of a dream.

The man has landed on the moon. The vision has been realised. And whichever team takes home the FIFA Word Cup, the people of the host nation would passionately argue that it is South Africa which won.

But what now? What next? What after the moon?

What can we expect?

Hosting of major events come with them immense expectations - expectations of delivery, expectations of accountability, and expectations of transformation. Especially economically.

But the reality is this: 30 days of sport cannot transform, sustainably, a national economy. It is simply not possible.

What is possible, and more meaningful, is the transformation which can occur in national confidence.

There is no question that through successful hosting of this mega-event the confidence which exists in South Africa has grown exponentially across the people of the world and across the people of the nation. And of great importance, of potential investors.

Confidence is a currency, especially for nations emerging as new forces of social and economic development on the global stage. It is a critical fuel for the growth and development of nations. And it is this currency which must be sought out as a key deliverable when mega-events are executed by nations.

By showing the world 'we can do it',
nations taking on global event challenges (ie. Beijing with the 2008 Olympics, South Africa with the 2010 World Cup, India with the 2010 Commonwealth Games and others), are able to showcase proof of delivery and strong ROI.

But this confidence needs to be channeled, with absolute clarity, towards a 'what next' - the new vision, the next planet to reach. Because to conclude a mega-event with simply good-byes and a headache would be to shortchange a dream.

So important to sustainable mega-event success is the host nation having ready a 'what next' - a post-event development plan which uses as capital all that has just been achieved, qualitatively and quantitatively
(and naturally aligns to the long-term national development strategy).

Developing a 'what next', and overtly communicating it to the nation immediately following completion of a mega-event, ensures ROI of host nation/city investment is realised through
leveraging, long after the event concludes, newly established:
  • memory of success,
  • confidence in delivery,
  • unity of national spirit,
  • commitment to building the nation,
  • participation on the global stage, and
  • desire for investment into hard and soft infrastructure of the future
towards fulfilling a new vision.

To look up to the moon is not only about setting one's eyes on a place higher and brighter, it is about holding one's chin up with pride. And powerful conviction. Every single day.

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2010

Friday, June 11, 2010


In just over one hour the first whistle will blow on the 2010 FIFA WORLD CUP in South Africa. Finally, following 12 years of visioning, 6 years of organisation, an estimated US$ 4 billion in direct capital investment, selection of 32 international teams, and millions of man-hours of preparations, KE NAKO - it's time!

And for 49 million people, with the world watching alongside, a life-long dream will come true.

For South Africa the hosting of the 2010 FIFA World Cup has been a remarkable project. Packaged as an international Mega-event, the 2010 Games are the greatest single injection of investment the nation has seen since its liberation in 1994. A national upgrade programme, the 2010 Games demanded that the country get to work, ensuring that the fundamentals were well in place to host the largest, most watched sporting event on Earth. Estimates of investment levels vary - there are as many projections as opinions.

SA2010.GOV.ZA predicted in late 2009: "Before adding new stadiums in Cape Town and Durban, the original estimate was $295 million. Don't be surprised it at the end of the day, it's a lot more than the £3.7 billion."

In early 2010 the Government’s total contribution to infrastructure and stadiums stood at R17.4 billion. Of this:

  • R9 billion was allocated towards transport and supporting infrastructure
  • R8,4 billion funded the building of five new World Cup stadiums and the upgrading another five

In addition to World Cup infrastructure projects, funding has also been channeled towards non-infrastructure projects – sports and recreation programmes, arts and culture programmes, policing, emergency medical services and telecommunications upgrades. The source of these massive funds? The people of South Africa, through the National government, though these will be supplemented by contributions from provincial government, local government and other private sector and investment partners.

Immense amounts of investment, in a nation hungry for the foundations of a nation in rebuilding mode.

So why make such an investment into what could be simply a tourism event? Why not hospitals, and schools, and utilities? Why this, now? Why, where there are so many risks of "I told you so!" if something goes wrong?

Because of what we will build beyond 2010, once the Games have ended, champions been crowned, fans departed and stadium lights turned off. We know there will be red ink when it comes time to balance expenses vs. earnings. The global economic recession, troubles with games and airline tickets, accommodation challenges. There will be losses. There will be questions re. viability. There will be questions re. R.O.I.

But there is one more important question which a nation needs to ask when weighing up the pros and cons of massive Tourism investment, especially in Mega-Events:


Think about it. What if, on May 15th, 2004, South Africa had not been awarded 2010 World Cup host nation status?

Or if Beijing had not been awarded hosting of the 2008 Olympic Games?

Or India the 2010 Commonwealth Games?

What would we see? Today, six years on, would we actually see any difference to the day before?

And considering the job and earnings losses caused by the global economic crisis, would we have endured had we not had the 2010 Games to deliver on?

As recently expressed by Dr Laurine Platzky, Deputy Director-General, 2010 FIFA World Cup Coordinator in the Department of the Premier, in the Western Cape (home of host city Cape Town) in a speech at the book launch of the new, iconic CT Stadium:

"Imagine if we had not had the World Cup. Would we by now have housed and employed all the people in the city? Would we, with all those billions spent on the World Cup, instead have educated all our children, fed the hungry and restructured our city - probably not because we would still have been arguing on how to do it all. Forgive me but without a tight deadline, budget and dedicated teams of skilled people, structural change is not possible. Nothing like time and money to focus the mind. "

What if we hadn't?
  • What would our streets look like?
  • What would our airports, stadia, telecomms, security and transport systems look like?
  • What would our society look like?
  • How would our future be different?
And importantly...
  • How would the world look at us?
  • How would we look at ourselves?
  • And how would we feel when we look at our flag?

The calculation of the ROI of Tourism Investment, be it a major event, a major development or a major campaign, includes a number of metrics. And not all of them are numbers, quantitative, black & white.

The challenges are leverage, legacy and linkages. And they are for each and every national to make 'work' to ensure that the Games truly work for the nation.

To soundbyte South Africa at this precise moment would be a cocktail of the deafening sound of the vuvuzelas, the magnificent flashes of colour from the waving flags, the pure tears of anticipation as the clock counts down, the global headlines already announcing South Africa's readiness to welcome the world...and the world's readiness to welcome South Africa. And there is still one hour before kick-off of Game #1.

These are the moments which inspire belief, inspire relook, inspire future visitation, inspire confidence in the possibility of growth and development, and inspire future investment.

They are not defining moments, they are RE-defining moments.

But what if South Africa hadn't?

It's hard to even imagine.
Just as the feeling in the hearts of South Africans, here in South Africa and across the world, right now, could ever have been.

It's time!

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2010

Monday, May 17, 2010


Aerial views of the world are always so incredibly inspiring. A wide-angle lens has the ability to turn our world into a textural canvas of wonder. A spectrum of colour arranged in combinations reflecting both courage and care in creation, looking 'at' soon turns to looking 'within'. Blues dancing with greens, browns breaking through bands of white. Mountain ranges, seascapes, cloud formations, carpets of desert, endless beauty. Together these are the landscapes which form the greater masterpiece of the globe. Such views inspire vision, inspire faith, inspire respect and appreciation. To see the world in its pure, untouched glory inspires the purest of smiles.

Though sadly, at this very moment an aerial view of the world - the Gulf of Mexico in particular - would inspire a desire to look away. First in shock. Then in sadness. Ultimately in quiet shame.

Over a once-perfect canvas, blues now are broken by clawing bands of black, darkness swallowing up the bright. Each and every day the claws of blackness are reaching wider, creeping nearer and nearer to the green.

It started just over twenty days ago. A massive oil rig commissioned by a massive international oil company seeking energy to feed the world's massive hunger for black gold set out on a massive operation. A small black dot of an event on the regional map, indistinguishable by the naked eye. Out of the blue an explosion lit the sky with towering flames of red and smoke clouds of black. Something had gone horribly wrong. Initial calculations - eleven lives lost. The ache life changing for all involved: families, colleagues, onlookers.

Such loss of man in man's quest for what more there is to be found. All that was left were endless flows of tears.

And then the spillover of the tragedy - it was not only tears flowing. So too was crude oil. Massive amounts of it, oozing out from a leak in a pipe on the floor of the Gulf, flooding oil straight into the Gulf of Mexico, unstoppably. And with it, more loss of life. Little lives - feathery lives, furry lives, jelly lives, shelled lives, tens of thousands of little lives. Lives lost which broke through the corporate oil company headlines and made it possible for the world to not only see the impact of our efforts to master the world, but to feel the impact.

At this stage, over three weeks on, calculations are unattainable as the impact of the spill is exponential. Current estimates state up to 200 gallons per day, and still leaking. Ominous black dread. The costs have been, and continue to be, massive. The black spot on our waters unforgiving, untamable, unstoppable.

One of the reasons for the inability to calculate the damage has been the ever-growing increase in the number of spheres of impact, including:

Obviously, from the accident itself:
  • Losses of Oil, from the leak
  • Losses of Revenue, from the wasted oil
  • Losses of Money, from the clean-up
  • Losses of corporate Brand equity
But more importantly, from the growing oil slick and contamination of waters:
  • Losses of Aquaculture
  • Losses of Tourism industry activity
  • Losses of Natural Environment
  • Losses of Earnings and Jobs, of those dependent on the Gulf for livelihoods
  • Losses of Political focus, from the emergence of crisis
  • Losses of federal Funds, diverted towards clean-up efforts and compensation / support / economic restimulation of those places effected

Sadly this catastrophe has begun to show signs of a campaign, even before there are signs of repair and recovery. In the US it is being referred to as "Obama's Katrina". Creative questions have been raised regarding whether this was in fact a conspiracy. Sadly such creativity of thought in the political space is not being applied where it is most desperately needed - in the scientific space seeking solutions urgently required to stop the leak, contain the spill and save the Gulf. And seeking safe, truly sustainable forms of energy, for the better of all lives, including the little, voiceless ones.

As Ted Turner, the courageous and visionary founder of CNN, recently questioned in an interview with the network: how is it possible that on the same day that we launch a rocket into space we cannot plug the hole?

Because soon, in the thick of all of the oil globules sinking to the bottom of the Gulf and in the thick of all of the debate regarding blame, the little heartbeats of the little lives underwater will stop...all while the oil continues to flow.

Ultimately, the events in the Gulf of Mexico poses a critical question: when it comes to sustainable energy, where should we be applying our energies?

From every direction the current situation in the Gulf of Mexico it is an absolute mess. Industrially, politically, economically, socially, philosophically, environmentally. An aerial view alone shows what a profound dark spot this mess will leave on our record as a civilisation seeking to find a better way to create the future, to move forward.

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2010

Saturday, April 17, 2010


Sitting in Africa's largest airport, JNB, waiting to board a flight to the USA (LAX) thankfully via the Middle East (DXB), there is a strange sense in the air. A feeling not usually felt by air travellers embarking on a journey. A feeling magnified by the television in the lounge providing news updates from the UK on the latest from European airspace: "thank Heavens my flight is leaving!"

Why such inner relief? Why feeling so thankful for being able to do what has become an expectation - book, buy, board, fly? Because across the globe, since the third eruption of a volcano named Eyjafjallajokull
far far north in Iceland, planes and passengers from America to Australia have been grounded. Mother Nature has spoken and sent us back to our rooms.

As a result, since April 14th, dismay has spread across airports and airlines as wide as plumes of volcanic ash. While NASA imagery showed the extent of the grey area, for aviation experts across the world there was no grey area - there was simply no way flights could continue into and out of the region.

The call was made. The engines were switched off. The departure boards translated 'Cancelled' into as many languages were required to alert passengers across the waiting world. Anywhere and everywhere. And the watching world taken through a 101 on the impact of ash on aircraft windscreens and engines.

As has become a pattern since the beginning of the decade, once again we are experiencing an event beyond fiction and imagination. Another event which has had us stuck in thought wondering, with furrowed brows, "but how could that happen?" Once again we have been shown that acts of God will always, always trump acts of technology, innovation and bravado.

And once again we have been reminded of just how much we have come to take for granted.

Global air travel, getting from A to B when and how one wishes, has become an expectation. Our awe has shifted from the power of flight to the power of in-flight entertainment. Our ability to come and go as we please / need absolutely has enhanced the reach, productivity and joy of our lives. To be able to board a flight, fall asleep, and wake in another culture, time zone and state of mind is a gift. Even for those who spend more time up at 35k than in their local gym, it is a gift. Often a favourite space. Air travel has become a true enhancement to quality life.

And so, to be grounded is to be stunted, practically and emotionally. Not to mention financially.

At present losses to Airlines are estimated - on a daily basis - to be:
  • 66% of European Flights
  • 180 Transatlantic flights
  • 28,000 flights
  • $ 200 million dollars
as well as prompting declines in share prices of +/- 3%.

This does not even take into account the losses in revenues and productivity for business and export.

But what must not be overlooked is the loss which takes place in, for lack of better words, heart. Moments lost, personal moments of meaning, due to lack of mobility. This article has in fact been inspired by a Client who is currently stuck in JFK, desperately trying to get back to the UK since the end of the week, in order to stand beside his brother at the end of the aisle, as Best Man. The Best Man's wedding speech will now be an email transmission. The day will be a series of photographs. The heartbreak enduring.

Would I exchange my ticket to enable his flight? In a heartbeat.

As the days ahead unfold and the aviation skies into and out of Europe open up once more, may we not lose the sense of blessing each time we board. Our movement is now part of our identity...

Time to board.

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2010

Sunday, March 21, 2010


hroughout the calendar year, throughout the world, nations stop to mark days of significance - moments in time of the creation of the history of a nation, shaping the lives, lifestyles, values and future vision of its people.

Public Holidays. Days of national 'pause'. Days meant for national reconnection to history, to meaning, to one another. Days where events are organised to celebrate, to commemorate, to reflect and to refocus.

Days to be still, because it is important to be aware.

Sadly, however, the business and busy-ness of everyday life has turned public holidays into simply days off. Dates on the calendar set aside for national/cultural/religious observance have become opportunities for people to get personal stuff done. To get some rest. To get things in order for when the pause button is released.

When the day arrives, however, we are reminded of the reason for the occasion...and often humbled by its depth of meaning. How could it's original, collective intent have been lost by immediate, personal priorities? How could its purpose have been taken for granted? Especially when public holidays are set aside to ensure that the story of the history of a nation is shared generation after generation, by each and every person who is a stitch in the fabric of the nation.

Almost every nation in the world can look at its annual calendar and identity two to three public holidays set aside to bookmark important chapters of the story of the evolution of the country - as a place, as a people, as a spirit...and as hosts to travellers to our land who often arrive because of the remarkable stories of our past, and how they shape our future.

In losing the meaning behind public holidays, are we losing the importance of the storytelling?

One of the world's strongest examples of the usage of public holidays as active, on-going reminders of the story of a nation's progress is the re-structured calendar of South Africa.

On its liberation in 1994, then President Mandela and the national congress felt it imperative that the people of the new South Africa, and the people of the world, never forget all that the nation fought - the moments which shaped the stories of the struggle, important footprints along its long walk to freedom.

As a result seven new national public holidays were created, making it possible for South Africans (and its visitors) to come together throughout the year to
mindfully salute and celebrate all that took place to take the nation forward.

Most notably:
  • March 21st: Human Rights Day - created to ensure that the people of South Africa are aware of their human rights and need to continuously honours and protect same.
  • April 27th: Freedom Day - celebrating the first democratic elections held in 1994 and the nation's new constitution of 1997.
  • May 1st: Worker’s Day - commemorating the importance of workers and trade unions
  • June 16th, Youth Day, honouring the young people lost in the struggle against Apartheid and Bantu Education
  • August 9th: National Women’s Day - honouring the critical role which women played in keeping the struggle alive, and the importance of continuing to protect women as part of South Africa's strength and future
  • September 24th: Heritage Day - celebrating the nation's diversity of cultures, customs, traditions, histories, and languages
  • December 16th: Day of Reconciliation - a day to collectively, as a nation, reflect on the need to rise above conflicts of the past and continue to work together to build a new nation.
Still, dates on a calendar do not guarantee days of purposeful pause. Stories are words on the pages of a book until warm hands and hearts begin the storytelling.

The political leadership of a nation, particularly those in the Tourism sector, are perfectly positioned to be carriers of the stories which showcase the nation to its people and its visitors. With their profile and platform, leaders are able to ensure that understanding, appreciation and active commemoration occur, annually, with inspiration.

But this requires overt, organised and official commitment - commitment to lifting the dates off the calendar and into the hearts and minds of people, at home and across the world.

Interestingly, in making such a commitment the nation also makes it possible to create a new bouquet of traveller experiences. Through turning historical, cultural and religious public holidays into events, events which become national times of unity and celebration (whilst maintaining the essence of their meaning), a rich array of new tourism experience development opportunities are created to grow both international and domestic traveller numbers.

A natural Tourism sector growth opportunity.

But more importantly, a mechanism to keep the important stories of a nation alive.

And turning storytelling into a strategic lever for destination growth and development - in spirit, in unity, and in visitor numbers.

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2010

Saturday, February 20, 2010


Across the globe the Travel & Tourism (T&T) sector has become recognised as a powerful vehicle for building economies, societies, and futures. Through the sector a destination – city, nation, region – can be joined through a shared vision, identity and sense of purpose to open its doors to travellers of the world. In sector building is nation building.

Sadly, sometimes this building needs to occur from the ground up.

January 12th, 2010. Haiti. A new year. New hopes, new aspirations, new energy, new opportunity. But then the Earth shook. And in 10 seconds the nation’s capital came falling to the ground. Buildings collapsed onto the lives of the Haitian people. Over 200,000 souls were taken by the earthquake, leaving behind millions of lives broken to rubble. All in just ten seconds.

Almost as immediately the global community turned its eyes and hearts to Haiti. Aid workers and funds started to pour in. In a spirit reflecting the times in which we now live, actions spoke clearly that we are one world, facing this crisis as one. With Haiti the world gasped, the world grieved, the world gathered to help break through the rubble to set free those still holding on to life. And the world started thinking of how to rebuild the future of the Haitian people and their homeland.

At the top of the list of ways to enable Haiti to rise again was the T&T sector.

The Island nation, already known and experienced as a destination for sun seeking travellers, has the potential to be rebuilt to once again welcome back those who, through their spending could in fact help rebuild the nation, tourism sector and beyond. T&T can have a very real role to play in lifting the structures, systems and spirits of Haiti, rebuilding off of a solid, safe, secure and sustainable base.

In addition, the process of rebuilding the sector will open up meaningful opportunities for Haitians to work, and therefore earn, again. This re-activation of the cycle of engagement, employment, earning and spending would allow the ripples of economic activity to spread stronger and wider.

Sounds like a plan.

Rebuilding Haiti through rebuilding the T&T sector is indeed a powerful, achievable vision. With it, however, needs to be sensitivity. With all building sites comes the risk of locals getting hurt, in ways completely unintended.

A nation reengineering as a T&T destination, even with the greatest of humanitarian intent in the mortar of each building to be constructed, needs to ensure that the building of a tourism sector reflective of the needs and wishes of tourists is also sensitive to the needs and wishes of the locals of the destination itself. For to build a tourism industry for the needs of visitors without being cognisant of the needs of the people of Haiti will risk severe damage.

For a local who has lost everything as a result of natural disaster (or even man made crisis) to see hotels rising and yet no homes, resorts and yet no road works, water sports & scuba centers and yet no schools, meeting places and yet no medical facilities…even if all of the development is being put in place to improve the lives of the local people through T&T, the investment into T&T will risk actually alienating the local people.

If it appears that the focus of rebuilding is on tourists, and not the people of the destination, a very natural of reaction of “what about me?” can be expected…thus creating animosity and anger towards the industry - and travellers.

By no means should of areas devastated by disaster look away from the T&T sector. Quite the contrary - the sector can in fact act as a valuable force for rebuilding of the infrastructure and economy of the destination. And the spirit of the people. There is so much good that can and will come from the T&T sector taking an active, upfront role in destination rebuilding.

The sector must simply ensure that the bigger picture is always kept firmly at the forefront of planning:
• Sharing the new vision for the destination – and its benefits for the people of the destination – with the people of the destination
• Involving the people of the destination in destination design and development
• Addressing fundamental needs of the people of the destination into integrated destination development plans.

As T&T works to build a world bringing travellers closer to global destinations, so too should the sector work to bring people of the destination closer to global tourism.

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2010

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


Mega events - large scale activations of sports, cultural, religious or other gatherings of people from across the globe at a single location at a set point in time - are massive drivers of Travel & Tourism (T&T) sector growth.

Major events are a powerful means of fueling growth in the key areas of T&T sector development and measurement. These include, to name but a few,:
  • Increase in Arrivals
  • Stimulation of Traveller Activity
  • Increase in Yield
  • Stimulation of Investment
  • Stimulation of Employment and Skills Development
  • Flattening of Seasonality Curves
  • Increase in Destination Competitiveness
  • Building of the Destination Brand
  • Increase in Tourism Sector Structure, Stability and Impact
  • Building of Legacy

2010 is set to be a year of exceptional Mega-events. Starting with the Winter Olympic Games in Canada in February the year will unfold in a series of major events opening up major opportunity for destinations. Other Mega-events include: the FIFA World Cup in South Africa (June & July); the Commonwealth Games in India (October); the World Exhibition in Shanghai, China (May to October).

To successfully pull off a major event can be, however, an event. An enormous investment of time, energy, commitment and spirit are required by the people of the destination over and above the massive investment of funding.

This applies particularly to the people directly involved in Mega-event preparations of infrastructure and communications to ensure the event is truly a success, in the moment and long after from a legacy perspective.

Case in point: the 2010 FIFA WORLD CUP in South Africa.

Since that magic moment on May 15th, 2004 when FIFA President Sepp Blatter opened the envelope to reveal South Africa had finally been awarded Host Country status the nation has been hard at work. The 2010 Local Organising Committee under the strong leadership of Dr Danny Jordaan has worked tirelessly with FIFA, South African Government and Private sector stakeholders to ensure that the Games happen in a way which redefines success:
  • delivering a world-class FIFA World Cup with South African spirit and style,
  • shifting and uplifting global understanding and perceptions of South Africa as a leading global nation, truly alive with possibility and committed to delivery,
  • showing South Africans that, when working together, they are one team, one goal, one pride, one force for positive shared change
  • leaving a lasting legacy which all South Africans can benefit from
National airports, host city stadiums, rapid transport lines, broadcasting centers, road systems, telecomms cabling - the nation became a focused, deadline-watching construction site, aligning efforts and hopes of the people of the country and, interestingly, providing a degree of employment and investment insulation to the impact of the economic downturn of 2009.

While the Games officially begin mid-2010 with the blowing of the first whistle on June 11th, 2010, delivery of the Mega-event has already begun.

On December 04th, 2009 the FINAL DRAW took place in Cape Town (one of the official Host Cities of the 2010 Games) - the critical appetiser event to the main course of the 2010 Games where the final fixtures were determined for the Games: who plays who, where, when. As the world's football VIPs descended on Cape Town, the world's media set its cameras firmly in place on the city and venue to ensure that over 200 million football lovers across the world had a front seat at this critical pre-event event.

Recognising what was at stake for the Host City and South Africa in terms of exposure, expectation and expertise, the 2010 delivery community worked tirelessly to ensure delivery excellence. From Dr Jordaan and his 2010 LOC leadership team, to CT Host City government officials from the Office of the Premier to the local Tourism authorities, to ACSA (Airports Company South Africa) teams, the leadership team of the CT International Convention Centre, SAPS (South African Police Services) and other critical stakeholders... every effort and ounce of energy was applied towards ensuring this moment of truth became a positive, inspiring moment for the nation's and continent's history books as South Africa staged a dress rehearsal for Africa's first ever FIFA World Cup.

Visitors from across the country and world arriving into the shiny, stylish, newly-upgraded, magnificently reopened CT International Airport experienced their first moment of Host City awe. The awe continued on first sight of the iconic, elegant CT Stadium (which officially handed over the keys to the Mayor of CT just a few days after the Final Draw marking ahead-of-schedule completion of the Host City's pride and joy). Within the city of CT itself the feeling of pride and anticipation of all Capetonians was electric, climaxing in a 20,000+ strong street party just outside the FINAL DRAW venue. The event itself, executed with cutting-edge technology and theatrical capability within the CTICC, went without a hitch - the links held and the media world was fed with footage. For the entire week media coverage captured build-up to the FINAL DRAW. The world's news leader, CNN, brought its sports journalism and production best to CT to set up camp and cameras to capture, through the week, around the clock, around the city and around the world, the scope of sporting and human interest stories associated with the 2010 Games and Friday's draw.

Exceptional, endless, effectively invisible commitment all around. Because the reality is this: while the world saw FINAL DRAW red carpets and on-stage razzmatazz, these unsung heroes working behind the scenes saw little sleep, little TLC and little applause. And they did not seek to. Their efforts were focused on something so much bigger - a sense of purpose.

At the close of the FINAL DRAW, while FIFA and the world praised South Africa's hosting of the event with great success - and without incident - these remarkable, invisible event delivery teams quietly popped champagne corks amongst themselves, enjoying a private and intimate celebration.

Still, these unsung heroes across the list of acronyms and accountabilities deserve the awareness and appreciation of the people following the event, at home and across the world.

This principle applies not just to the 2010 FINAL DRAW, but to each and every Mega-event which takes place in the 2010 FIFA WORLD CUP. And, importantly, every major event in the world.

To move on too quickly to the next To-Do would be a great shame as the spirit of the moment would be lost forever.

Tourism is an exceptional sector. It is fueled by not only strategies and sizable budgets, but also people who work beyond measure, more often than not invisibly, to ensure that their destination is showcased and celebrated as a prelude to creating a safe, stable, sustainable and strongly admired place which they can proudly call 'home'.

These unsung heroes are all around us. We know exactly who they are and the enormous difference they continue to make. Find them, celebrate them. Do not let their moment to shine, the moment to sing their praises, the moment to pause and feel deeply why we love what we do, pass by.

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2010