Sunday, December 25, 2011


2011 has been a hard year.

Hard politically, economically, socially, environmentally.

This past year has tested our limits in addressing challenges, finding unique solutions to problems beyond fiction.

Most importantly, this past year has tested faith – faith in systems, structures and sensibilities.

And yet through it all, the world has continued to move forward, sparking confidence and belief in possibility even when rationalizing lack of probability.

Step by step, second by second, the world moves forward.

Because it has to.

Regardless of our ages, our ideologies, our beliefs, our battles past, and our war wounds, We need to believe in the possibility of moving forward.

It is like a child’s belief in Santa…

With big big eyes, an open heart and a look of that shows just how much faith is held within that child’s little body, a child approaches Santa knowing he is the one person who can be trusted, whispered to in strictest confidence, to listen to their greatest wishes, and make things right.

As beautifully captured by Jack Sanderson in the recently released documentary “Becoming Santa”, it’s all about the remarkable force of faith.

It is this force that turned 2011 into a year of making history through possibility, and will continue to keep us forward focused in 2012.

To believe is hard, but it is essential. And it is an immense blessing.

Besides, who says there’s no such thing as Santa Claus?

Happy 2012.

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2011

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


As 2011 counts down to its final weeks, the spirit and momentum of events of the first days of the new year continue to hold the Arab world, and world at large, in its grip. 'Arab Spring', a flowing stream of revolution and reform that has been spreading across North Africa and the Middle East throughout 2011, has proven to have profound ripple effects across the globe.

2011 has been a year of global reawakening, reshaping and reconnecting. No longer are events in one part of the world simply short-term news headlines, pushed aside with short-term memory. Now, with each new story, a new question of "what does this mean here, for me?" emerges.

Interestingly, with the region's social, political and economic structures breaking apart, a bonding has been occurring. Collective conscience has transcended borders, cultures, religions and political ideologies. One by one, as nationals have courageously stood forward to create essential change in their countries, they have found the people of the world standing beside them.

Just days ago at WTM 2011, one of the world's largest coming together to global tourism leaders, policy makers, captains of industry, media and members of government, a special UNWTO seminar was held to put a spotlight on "The Future of Tourism in the Middle East and North Africa". The MENA region, heavily dependent on the tourism industry for employment, earnings, investment, trade and unity, felt the heaviest rain showers of the Arab Spring. With global travellers uncertain of the safety and stability of regional tourism destinations experiencing political overthrow, visitation to
leading regional destinations Egypt and Tunisia plummeted (offering, interestingly, destinations such as Greece, Turkey and the GCC states a surprise injection of travellers re-routing their plans). As the Arab Spring moved through the MENA region's summer and autumn seasons, tourist confidence strengthened, strengthening visitor arrivals. Still, as winter approaches, the year's stats will show a deep chill, with leading regional destinations Egypt and Tunisia expecting year on year declines of 25% - 30%.

Acutely aware of the need to rebuild regional tourism, urgently and collectively, the UNWTO brought together a panel of regional champions of tourism
from both the public and private sector, including HE Mr Mounir Fakhry Abdel-Nour, Minister of Tourism of EGYPT and HE Mr Mehdi Houas, Minister of Tourism of TUNISIA, JORDAN’s Minister of Tourism and Antiquities, HE Nayef Al Fayez, and senior leadership of Jumeirah Group Dubai, Etihad Airways and Thomas Cook.

While each voice conveyed a different story of the effects of regional uprisings, one thing was clear: together they are united in a shared commitment to see the region's tourism sector emerge stronger, safer, and more competitive on the global travel stage than ever before.

Traditional rival destinations have become bonded by crisis. Learnings are being shared, partnerships are being forged, issues are being collectively lobbied, and opportunities are being unlocked. Together, spirit is being restored, confidence rebuilt and possibility turned to probability. Recovery is underway.

To see, and feel, this firmness of spirit is not just inspiring, it is empowering. And it is a reminder of the gift that crisis can offer.

As shared by Taleb Rifai, Secretary General of the UNWTO, emerging from crisis "is not about waiting for the storm to pass, it is about learning how to dance in the rain."

How remarkable it is to pause while dancing to see who is dancing alongside, sharing their umbrella.

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2011

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


At one single moment on October 05th, 2011, the overwhelming power of connectivity our lives today came to life.
Because someone’s life had come to an end. Steve Jobs.

Without any boundaries – time zones, languages, media – word spread. And for some, tears were shed.
Our world had lost one of its greatest minds, a man who, as aptly stated by President Barack Obama: “was brave enough to think differently, bold enough to believe he could change the world, and talented enough to do it.”

For the first time in decades, the stopping of one heart caused heartache across a global community billions strong. Regardless of age, culture, location, qualification, corporation or socialisation, voices were expressing sadness at the passing of a man being described as an icon, a visionary, a modern day Edison, Bell, da Vinci.

He was a man who was able to do absolutely anything he put his mind and energies to. But he was not able to stay alive.

As the days and hours have slowly passed since his passing, one of the remarkable truisms that Steve Jobs has revealed, yet again, just what the people of the world need. He was a master at this, and even in his absence, he continues to do so.

With all of the technology we have in our loves – the iPods, iPads, iPhones, iTunes, iChat, iLife and of course the world of Mac – all of the things that keep us tech-connected to one another, what people the world over have needed at this time of sorrow has been pure, unwired, unedited and unashamed, un-grown up connection of emotion.

Through his work, be it Apple, Pixar or any of the other ventures that shaped his passion and profession, Steve Jobs did what few other great creators have been able to do. Technical expertise he had, in abundance, as have other great inventors. But within Apple’s clever codes and creative genius was the ability to not only unlock the mind of the user...but the heart, allowing the inner child to play, freely, openly, and proudly.

Only one other globally celebrated, grown-up creators has ever been able to do that: Walt Disney.

And like the late master of animation, Steve Jobs remained focused on one ever-important truth: "I only hope that we don't lose sight of one thing - that it was all started by a mouse."

The awe-inspiring technology will continue to be created, the legacy of Apple's founder and father will live on. But the inner child in Apple users - young and old, big and small, tech-savvy and simply appreciative of the basics, will, sadly, remain hurting.

The place, and face, of inspiration has gone to the clouds.

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2011

Sunday, September 4, 2011


For anyone who has ever suffered the loss of a loved one, the days building up to the day of remembrance are days building up to a crescendo of heartache. Breathing becomes heavier, thoughts slower, memories sharper. September 11th, 2011, ten years after those frozen moments in time that reshaped the world forever, is just a few days away. One never 'gets over it' - at best one hopes to get through it, dragging one's heart close behind, looking forward at the future with new eyes.

9-11. So much must never be forgotten.

Thursday, August 25, 2011


Over the past week, the world has been gripped by events in Libya. Following months of battle and determination, on both the parts of the defiant
regime of Colonel Gadhafi and the rebels, the battle reached a dramatic climax: Tripoli began to fall to the rebels. The night's sky, previously lit for months by gunfire from armed and ambitious battle, turned to a showering of gunfire sparks in celebration of the rebel's breakthrough into Colonel Gadhafi's compound, itself a symbol of the leader's fortress of control over the people of Libya. While total take-over continues, the cracks are widening, weakening the foundations once embedded by Moammar Gadhafi.

During the moments of initial triumph, the images were remarkable, the soundbytes intense, and the coverage clear in the sense of euphoria easily digestible by the minds of the millions watching on-line and on-air all over the world. Though the former leader of this oil-rich, liberty-poor nation remains in hiding, the US$ 1.4million bounty put forward by a Libyan businessman is hoped to fuel the search and capture of Libya's falling leader. Time will tell.

As the story unfolded, it was impossible for global audiences not to feel a sense of 'deja vu'. Once again, audiences were given a front seat in the making of history. The Arab Spring, now stretching wider and deeper into the North Africa and Middle East region, brought the story of our changing world to us wherever in the world we were. The expectation is of similar stories and soundbytes occurring elsewhere in the region as the spirit and determination of revolution spreads. Our minds are ready - we see it, we understand it, we move onto the next story.

Sadly, as familiarity increases, feeling decreases.

And then something happens that reawakens our senses, squeezing our hearts and minds in with a clench of panic and concern. RIXOS Hotel.

While Tripoli was falling to the rebels, and the people of Libya were taking to the streets to celebrate the toppling of their heavy-handed, decades-long leader, 30 international news journalists were taking cover inside the Rixos Hotel. Being held against their will and under constant fear for their safety, news gatherers suddenly became the news story. For five horrific days, Gadhafi loyalist gunmen aggressively prevented news teams from leaving the hotel, leaving those being held in a constant state of fear.

Watching the story unfold, even for audiences, images turned into feelings of intense fear and concern - this was reality TV in a whole, new, frightening new light. The characters were not strangers. These captives were people who millions of people welcome into their homes, offices and social spaces every day, easily recognisable and immediately feared for. These people, these familiar news faces, were now
'insiders' in the line of fire. These moments of crisis were real.

Adding a remarkable realness to the unfolding situation, was social media. Twitter in particular - became a source of not only communication of events within the hotel, but also a monitor of the strained nerves and hearts of those being held captive. CNN's Matthew Chance @mchancecnn, a seasoned international journalist who has represented CNN across the globe, held onto a thread of connection with the outside world through his periodic tweets. Information updates rapidly turned to emotional expression of the nightmare unfolding. Reading his short messages, a rawness of danger seeped through his words, turning learning what was happening into feeling what was inescapable. And it felt horrific. Here is Matthew's BACKSTORY of those days of dread:

Thankfully, the journalists and their crews were released on August 24th. While they have been freed, the darkness of those days will always hold a part of their minds captive.

To the outside world, these brave individuals unlocked not just the inside story, but a part of all of our watching the world minds and hearts, ensuring that news is never simply watched. It must also be felt.

As our world changes, so too is how we watch the world. When making sense of it all, our eyes and ears serve us most when acting as a channel to not just our minds, but our hearts. Our ability to understand the world starts with seeing. It is exponentially magnified, and appreciated, with feeling.

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2011

Sunday, July 10, 2011


The newswires of the world have been electric over the past week as News of the World readies to publish its last paper on July 10th/2011, ending the life of one of the UK's best known tabloids that took its first breath in 1843. Over 200 staff members, all who will be unemployed on Monday morning, are hard at work in the newsroom clicking out stories and soundbytes for the last time, tears running down the faces of some of the staff members as they soak up all that has happened to their newspaper - why they have become the news...and why their story is coming to such a tragic end.

The events leading up to this media headline have raised a number of critical issues. The spark was set within the newspaper environment. How could a tabloid cross such a line in search of a scoop? Yes, NotW had built a reputation for dirty tricks to get the dirt. But this?

Soon the fire spread to 'the media' at large. Public opinion turned to openly damning 'the media'. Opinion increased in aggression and accusation.

What has been interesting to see is how open public opinion about private information became. Sweeping statements about 'the media' put all journalists across all media types and all media brands into the same dustbin. What happened at NotW has been deemed a just action for 'the media' acting so irresponsibly.

This matter is not about newspapers. It is not about 'the media'. It is about ethics - the ethics held by each and every individual with a story to tell or an opinion to express. It is about each and every one of us. Within the professional media world are there people willing to cross the line? Absolutely. But there are others who also stand firmly in respect for the line, proud of their ability to know where the line is...and that they refuse to put a foot wrong. It is individual. It always is.

In today's day and age, where for some citizen journalism has gained as must weight as official news gathering, we have become 'the media'. The information, suspicions, opinions, hunches and stories we have are able to be spread across the world in a matter of seconds. All it takes is the click of a SEND key. Suddenly, instantly, widely and often with fire and fury, the story is out there. True or false. Just or unjust. Private or public.

As a result, the old adage where there's smoke there's fire no longer holds true. Now where there's smoke there may just be smoke. But the impact can start a fire. The fire, spreading through opinion, can cause significant damage to reputations, relationships, lives and legacies. Without enough information, or invitation, public opinion fuels the fire.

Is the
case against DSK credible? Will it last?
Is the marriage of Prince Albert and Princess Charlene for love?
Will it last?
Is Southern Sudan going to make it as an independent nation? Will it last?

We are so busy commenting outwards, creating community of commentary and criticism, that we lose sight of our individual responsibility of having an opinion in the first place. To create opinions is natural - we take in, process and restructure information based on our world view and our inner code. It is natural. What is unnatural is how our e-connected world inspires us to share that opinion to the world - our 'friends', 'followers' and other members of our e-audiences.

But does that mean we should be expressing our opinion? Is the subject at hand really any of our business? What good can come from it, aside from the elevation of ego for expressing an opinion about everything sexy and sensationalist? And if the people at the heart of the story were present, would we be so quick to hit the SEND button?

The issue sparked by NotW was not a debate about the right to information vs. the right to privacy. It was about right and wrong. Simple.

Hopefully, hopefully, NotW will stand as not just an example, but as a mirror, reminding us all to stop and look closely at the consequences of our opinions. Our connected world was created to bring us closer together. How we use it defines whether we achieve that idealistic goal, or we actually end up pushing each other apart.

Whether 'the media' or the individual, now is the opportunity to pause, and before hitting the SEND button, hitting REFRESH.

But that is just my opinion.

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2011

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


One of the most valuable currencies in today's day and age is CONFIDENCE.

The ability to generate within oneself a firm sense of belief, fueled by absolute clarity and conviction, creates a powerful force of nature. Confidence. With confidence leaders of nations and businesses have been able to transform the fates of their people, be they nationals, employees, shareholders, investors, whatever the case may be. Particularly in these times of immense economic, social and ideological challenge.

Confidence is not found within all people, or within all situations. For alchemy to occur, the generation of confidence demands courage, it demands a clear view of the future, it demands unwavering effort.

For onlookers, it is both intriguing and inspiring. And it can provoke a silent smile of 'bravo!'. That is, when such confident, sometimes incomprehensible acts, are fully understood.

On a recent episode of Fareed Zakaria's GPS, one of CNN's finest programmes exploring our
geo-politically changing times, Fareed put the spotlight on a nation that is making a dramatic move in literally changing the times. The issue: SAMOA, a tiny island nation in the South Pacific, has taken the brave decision to change its position on the International Date Line, moving from being GMT-11 to GMT+11. One single step, one day lost (December 30th, 2011 to facilitate the shift), a massive gain for the nation.

When news first broke of Samoa's desire to change its timezone, the idea spread around the world as an amusing 'because I can' move. Little thought or credit was given to exactly why such a change, like the nation's switch earlier in 2009 from driving on the right of the road to driving on the left, was occurring.

To look beyond the WHAT and deeper into the WHY reveals some remarkable, and remarkably confident, insight. It is all about the future - making a confident move to move the nation confidently forward in the future. From this perspective it all makes perfect sense, especially economically. A shift in time zone enables the tiny nation to make a big step forward in terms of leverage of regional commerce. Especially trade into and out of Samoa.

What is fascinating about the story of Samoa and its change in time zone, beyond the economic rationale, is the lovely example it gives of the level playing field that exists for a world on the move.

Regardless of size, stature and securities, a nation with a confident view of the future can dramatically change its position as an economy and society by taking even small steps in shaping its way of working with the world. One of the great things about the case of Samoa is how under-the-radar the nation, and region, has moved forward.

Confidence need not be noisy. Quiet, focused confidence can be far more impactful, and competitively potent, than high profile self-promotion.

Indeed, these are changing times. Small is gaining strength, quiet is making noise, subtle changes are having immense impact. Amusing is in fact astute. Confidence is as powerful as cash. And time is proving priceless.

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2011

Monday, May 30, 2011


Cairo. On a day in the last days of May, along the banks of the Nile as it winds peacefully through New Egypt, blossoms of Arab Spring are scattered in clear sight. Billboards, roadside signs, flags, all stand tall declaring this a nation of, for, and with its people. A distinct feeling of Spring is in the air. While millions of weaving cars sputter out gusts of gray exhaust in one of the world's most populated and polluted cities, still one can sense a freshness.

The presence of Spring blossoms has occurred, however, as a result of the rains. Storms and showers have made the blossoms come to life. Evidence of the uprising - burnt out buildings, broken sidewalks, spray-painted messages on shop exteriors, central squares and locations still feeling haunted by dramatic events leading up to 25.01.11 - appear like bolts of lightning on the otherwise visually calm landscape.

Today they are symbols of possibility, of responsibility, of unity and of youth-lead democracy. One man. One thought. And soon it was one million. A desire to own the future, a better future, gave birth to a movement that soon created an uprising beyond expectation and imagination. And beyond reversal.

Today, scattered about the streets of Cairo, their presence, while painful in ways, inspires. Because these are the proof of the power of conviction. These are the symbols of what it means to take a stand.

The concept of ‘taking a stand’ is not new. The presence of its sentiment being turned into world-shaping action, however, seems to have taken on a new life. With increasing frequency, issues are increasing in voice, mobilizing millions to have an impact. The power of an individual to take a stand as been unleashed to unprecedented levels as a result of our now e-connected world. Soon, communities (be they connected through social networks, coffee tables or otherwise) have become movements. These movements have become uprisings. In many cases, as recently seen in Egypt, these uprisings have become forces which have had the power to change the shape of the world around us, philosophically, politically, and otherwise.

Still, for all of its momentum, the greatest power of taking a stand comes from one individual seeking to break a silence of a perceived ‘wrong’. The fire of conviction, the courage to say something, creates attention which not only builds awareness – it gives others the courage to stand up alongside, creating increased awareness and infectious inspiration, to the point that it simply undeniable, unavoidable, and unstoppable.

Why courage? Because more often than not the issues which inspire people to take a stand are those that make others uncomfortable. They are risky. Standing up may risk one’s safety, image, acceptability or position. And this may be at individual or collective level.

One recent example of a corporation displaying courage in taking a stand is CNN. Launched in early 2011, the CNN Freedom Project By building awareness around the breadth and depth of the issue of modern-day slavery, worldwide, CNN seeks to inspire courage in audiences around the world to take a stand against an issue which has, for years, been growing undetected or denied, as a tumor in societies across the world.

To do this, for a corporation to take a stand at such a massive scale, is a reflection of the strength of conviction of the network. That, in its own way, is inspirational.

And as seen through the number of corporations, politicians, celebrities, and viewers CNN has been able to encourage to come forward and openly, visibly and proudly participate in the campaign, where there is conviction and courage, there is unstoppable movement.

Still, it comes down to the power of one. As recently emphasized by Richard Quest in an interview with Marilyn Carlson Nelson, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Carlson Companies around how her group of global travel companies is doing its part to ensure that the tourism industry does not tolerate child labour and child prostitution, it is not just up to travel companies - it is also up to the traveler to take a stand and alert the authorities of any such offenses observed. That is how we ensure that the tourism sector is truly ‘equitable’.

Will such overt examination of such a taboo issue create discomfort? Yes.

Does it require courage? Yes.

But by doing so, by taking a stand, CNN, and others in the global travel industry and other spheres of economic, social and political activity, are now taking a step forward in shaping a world we can feel proud of being apart of, and excited about exploring further.

Back in the here and now, as the deep, soothing sound of the calling to mosque blankets over the sound of Cairo traffic, its unifying tones transcend Egyptian networks and telecoms, creating a connection between where Egypt has come from…and where it is going, across all neighbourhoods, all generations, all aspirations.

One sound, one thought, reaching out and moving millions.

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2011

Saturday, April 23, 2011


In just a matter of days (hours, minutes and seconds, for those counting down), the occasion defined as "the wedding of the century" will be taking place in Westminster Abbey in London. With an estimated million spectators expected to be lining the streets in London, and billions watching on television screens across the world, the long anticipated Royal Wedding of Britain's future King and his Bucklebury princess will be underway.

Global excitement and media coverage is reaching unprecedented levels. Quite unbelievable really, considering the rather exclusive nature of the occasion. Still, the hype is inescapable, the countdown globally audible, the expression of emotion uncontrollable, the falling unstoppable...

As the big day nears, it is interesting to look back at the process of the world falling in love.

First, there was the introduction. The world outside of the Commonwealth was introduced to a prince and a future princess through the announcement of an imminent royal wedding. Suddenly images of the beautiful Brits started appearing on grocery aisle magazine racks from the U.S. to the U.A.E. Her beauty, his throne and their fairytale romance swept the world. Royal watchers or not, it was hard not to take a little look at the couple causing all of the excitement.

Then came the courtship. As the months ticked by and details around the royal wedding were carefully shared with the world, slowly slowly slowly the royal couple started to make their way into the hearts of hundreds of millions of people across the globe.
The butterflies were busy stirring up pre-wedding ideas, images and insights. Without warning they caught our eye, captured our interest, won our hearts. It was not love at first sight - it took time. But, ultimately, it did happen. The world fell in love.

It was love at first hope. For the first time in a long, challenging time, there was something happening which made our hearts feel hopeful, feel happiness, feel warmth...even if it is for someone else.

Now, it is an all-out love affair. The world is intoxicated by the emotion of the moment. The royal wedding has become a global event, an Olympic size celebration of love, romance and promise...and a magnificent Olympics 2012 warm-up for the city of London.

Interestingly, with the growth in momentum of excitement, there also seems to be a growing momentum in justification of why, exactly why, we care.

Why has the marriage of a young couple within a single monarchy, a world away in lifestyle and geography for most, taken hold of our attention, our hearts, and our plans for April 29th in such a remarkable way? Why, by latest account, are over 600,000 people now believed to be travelling to London on wedding day, many sleeping on the wedding route to be able to catch a glimpse of the newlyweds on their way to Buckingham Palace following their vows in the magnificent Abbey? Why will over 2.5 billion be watching the wedding through global media feeds of over 7000 credited journalists and 40 global networks all camped out in the global media village? Why are fashion designers across the globe waiting to see the future queen's wedding dress, knowing that the much-anticipated creation will define the next decade of design for women across the globe? How did wedding take on literally epic proportions?

Rationale is being articulated in a myriad of creative ways. For some it is a romantic heart. For some, lineage. For some it is a life-long affection in the idea of royalty. For others it is simply an appreciation for history in our modern times. And for many, it is a curiosity in what all the fuss is about.

Ultimately, why we are interested, why we will be watching, does not matter.

What does is that for once the world is being united by the concept of love, the reigniting of hope, the belief in happily ever after.

Media and mementos aside, even the most cynical of royal subjects across the UK and the globe, those still shunning the value of the Royal Family, will be raising a glass in their local pubs on the forthcoming public holiday, proposing a toast to the newlyweds.

Some things need no rationale. The fact that we feel joy is reason enough. Especially joy for others - wherever they may be geographically, socially, royally.

To William and Kate. Long live the power of romance.

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2011

Thursday, March 17, 2011


The first quarter of 2011 has been nothing short of gripping. From political uprisings across North Africa and the Middle East, to earth and life shattering natural disasters in Japan, the new year has provided a series of events which have given a whole new meaning to the word "resilience". How much can a human being endure? How much can be taken before one calls out "enough!"? At what point does the level of the water, be it political or pure H2O, rise too high?

Remarkably, as the challenges have grown in frequency and severity, the people of our world have learned to swim stronger, fight harder, stand taller, and dig deeper, all as the world watches more closely in awe. And often, in inspiration.

When pushed into a corner, be it physically or emotionally, the human response can often be beyond expectation and even comprehension. Some struggle to survive, reaching their limit, ultimately feeling no alternative but to let go - to let go of the struggle, let go of the cause, let go of the life raft. They let go of the fight for life.

But then there are those who simply will not give up. Despite all odds, all logic, all reason, they will not, absolutely will not, give up. This is when the human spirit becomes a force far greater that the physical size may reveal.

January 2011. The year began with scenes of escalating turnout and tension in the centre of Cairo began to define the growing spirit of the region. As emails and alerts heated up the screens and frustrations of protesters across Egypt, the region and the world, the force demanding change grew. Its strength elevated to such a level that, with the earth shaking, a societal and political tsunami occurred. The image of Wael Ghomin speaking to a foreign with tears quietly rolling from his tired eyes, expressing the fierce determination of the people of Egypt to take their country back even at the cost of their lives, will forever be etched into Egypt's modern history. The force was alive. It was unstoppable. And ultimately it was successful.

And now another tsunami occurs, literally, caused by a beyond-fiction earthquake in Japan. Lives of millions of its people have been dispersed across the broken and battered landscape. Once again the world watches, this time broken hearted, as a nation fights to survive. Through the devastating loss of loved ones and location, across the country the Japanese people patiently and politely start to take burdened steps forward to make sense of the 'what now'. At the same time, united by a force fueled by a distinctly Japanese show of resilience, teams of technicians put themselves directly in harms way for the sake of national (and international) safety and security, knowing full well that their efforts to contain a nuclear crisis could cost them their own lives. Risk is irrelevant. The force is at work. The result is super-human.

To see the human spirit jump out, and above, adversity with a sense of conviction and determination is remarkably inspiring. And it is infectious. At these moments, there may be onlookers nearby, they may be completely alone. Neither matters, because the entire space is taken up by the almost visible strength of spirit.

Such a moment occurred recently in Berlin at the UNWTO's press conference at the 2011 ITB global travel and tourism trade show. The stage was as seen before: a convention centre meeting room set up theatre style, all 200+ seats and eyes facing forward towards a length of tables and row of name cards revealed a panel of leading tourism figures. At the helm, Dr Taleb Rifai, Secretary General of the UNWTO.

The backdrop for the stage was, however, entirely new. While the global tourism community was reuniting to discuss the long-awaited rebound of the sector, a handful of tourism destinations reliant on the industry for national growth, development and stability were in a state of upheaval. Most notably, Egypt and Tunisia.

And so, with tourism leaders, professionals and media looking on, in an act of unprecedented tourism community solidarity, and statement of personal conviction, the Secretary General invited Minister Mounir Abdul Nour and Minister Mehdi Houas, the newly appointed Ministers of Tourism of Egypt and Tunisia respectively, to join him on the panel. Respect for their positions and political circumstances left the room silent, waiting to hear something, anything, to fill the void around the 'what next'.

Expressions of effort and destination promotion were expected from the Ministers of Tourism. What was not expected, and what had those present listening in absolute silence and with intensity of focus, were the remarkable expressions of faith, determination, resolve and vision spoken by both Ministers. Their warm smiles, personal tones and simple words initially disguised a fact that became clear very very soon: within them, within their homelands, the force was growing. And that force was going to create the future that all of their people had always dreamed of. Starting right now.

As expressed by the Minister of Tourism of Egypt, “Let me tell you that since the events started on January 25, Egyptians have regained their freedom, their pride, and their confidence in themselves, their confidence in their ability and capability to regain a democratic, secular, and unequivocal system.” As for the tourism industry, the nation's lifeblood economically, socially and competitively, the message was clear - his homeland is: “determined to do whatever it takes to regain the confidence of the travelers. We will advertise, communicate, visit, give incentives, we will preserve and defend to keep [Egypt] a golden destination for tourists.”

With similar passion and conviction, the Minister of Tourism of Tunisia made his personal commitment clear to all, later revealing that as soon as the government was overthrown he was give two minutes to decide if he wanted to be Minister of Tourism. He took thirty seconds.

The dramatic force of determination shown by both Ministers of Tourism not only powered their invitation to all to be a part of creating the future of two exceptional tourism destinations - it put tears of inspiration into the eyes and hearts of all present, enabling faith and solidarity to transcend doubt and the demand for supporting documentation. Greater meaning was given to the sector beyond arrivals, receipts, REVPAR and RPK.

Importantly, it reignited the feeling of the pure wonder, joy and need for people to come together, tightly joining arms, around something they fundamentally believe in. This feeling, this flame of determination, must never be extinguished.

These are the moments that turn the mere act of living into a fiery, infectious feeling of being alive. They can happen anywhere - in a press conference, in a peace march, on a public website, at a private dinner table. They are powerful. They are purposeful. And they are unforgettable.

They are a force of human nature.

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2011

Friday, February 11, 2011


11.02.11, the day Revolution 2.0 and seventeen days of protest brought three decades of dictatorship to an end. The day the world watched another brick of the Arab world's Berlin Wall fall to the ground. The day tens of thousands of people in Tahrir Square, watched by tens of millions of people around the world, cried out "Today the people own Egypt".
Such a dramatic time, such an incredible achievement. Time to stop, stand still, shut feel the moment, and think of all that is now past.

Because when the people of Egypt open their eyes again and look to the future, a future that starts right now, the concept of owning one's country will have turned into an active responsibility.

But what does that really mean? How do a people, eighty million in this case, 'own' their country?

Importantly, it means that the people of the nation must not just feel a euphoric sense of love and loyalty to the flag, they must demonstrate absolute commitment to the process of rebuilding their nation, working to build a new nation. One by one by one.

For any nation, the start of that process is picking up the fallen bricks of where the wall collapsed. Infrastructure of past regimes needs to be dismantled. New systems, structures and principles of social unification and transformation need to be defined, setting the foundations for the new vision and spirit of the people. And new leadership needs to be identified.

All of this, each new brick, takes time to be put in place. Care is needed to ensure that each new brick connects to the others, sitting firmly, adding strength, joined with shared purpose.

The mortar, the material that holds it all together, determining whether the bricks of the new system and structure will stand firmly to serve its purpose, or will weaken and fall, are the people of the nation. Only the purest of materials can create a mortar strong enough to endure the task ahead: honesty, determination, vision, commitment, confidence, sincere and selfless love of country and faith.

At first, the mortar must find its rightful place amongst the bricks, and then, with time, allowed to solidify and make a meaningful contribution. Brick by brick by brick.

The process of rebuilding will not work unless there is absolute commitment, by each and every national, towards collective creation. And towards collective, ongoing ownership. Ownership will demand not just strength to build, but strength to keep the new structures strong, serving their purpose in serving the people, for now and for the next generation.

To own a country is work, hard work. And unending responsibility.

But for those who have fought for their right to hold a brick in their own hands, and then place it in a position that will connect them to their future, it is the epitome of a labour of love.

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2011

Saturday, January 29, 2011


As soon as a new year begins, suddenly it can feel as though the world is once again opening up. Budget cuts, careful management of the bottom line both at home and in the workplace, were events of 2010. With a new year has come a new freedom to think bigger, think wider, think more feel, especially as economic crisis of 2008/9 (with its hangover in 2010) is now past.

And so the question arises: how will we see the world in 2011?

On the surface that question prompts an answer of travel to places one dreams of visiting on holiday. Or places to explore for new business opportunities. Thoughts turn to planning the where/when/why/with whom.

The year 2011 is, however, already proving to be about more than that. How we see the world is not about plotting itineraries. It is actually about pausing to look closer, look deeper. Because the world which we have always known is changing, dramatically, ever second of every day, everywhere.

Even in places we thought would always stay the same, because they always have, and there seemed no reason for that to change.

At this very moment the streets of Cairo are filling with protesters demanding a future of freedom, fairness, liberation and life deserved. An echo of events in Tunisia just over a week ago, Cairo may also be the precursor of events elsewhere in the Arab world, where the ground feels like it is shaking. Revolution is turning from noun to verb. In Egypt, in a matter of days a 30 year + government has been shaken at its foundations. The DNA of a nation, and region, is changing, politically, economically, spiritually.

And with it, the way we see the world is changing.

At the same time the nation of South Africa has had its foundations rocked with news of the hospitalisation of President Mandela, "Madiba", "Tata". The father of the nation, now 92 years of age, was officially unwell. Across the country over fourty nine million South Africans, along with the rest of the watching world, held their breath and whispered prayers for more time. South Africa and the world were not ready to face the future without the leader of their hearts, their conscience, and their belief in miracles. Thankfully the President left the hospital, mercy allowing him more time. Still, a foreshadow of the imminent new reality was felt. The way South Africans would have to see tomorrow, and see the world, without their beloved Madiba, was changing.

And in Davos, as the leaders of the world's economies and corporate ambitions gather for the 2011 World Economic Forum, together they work to understand and navigate the "New Reality". The past three years have shaken the foundations of how we see the world as a place of power, place of presumed security, and presumed financial comfort. But the way we see the world has changed. Profoundly.

With that change has come a shift in where we now look to for inspiration. As shared with CNN's Richard Quest in an intimate one-on-one interview in Davos, Klaus Schwab, founder of the WEF confesses that the speakers he is most looking forward to hearing from are "the religious leaders whom we have here, not necessarily the politicians. Because if you want to get inspired I think it has to be based on a kind of change of values, (sic), and we need a kind of reform of our classical approach to what we have responsibilities for."

The way we see the world in 2011, and beyond, is not about where we travel, where we visit. It is not about stories we share about what we have seen.

Instead it is about where we stand, here and now, and how we look at the world differently. The difference is not just in how the world around us reshapes. But how we open our eyes, and minds, and hearts to look at the same sight with different meaning. It may be with greater compassion. It may be with greater understanding. It may be with greater curiosity.

Whatever it is, it is in our hands. And in our eyes.

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2011