Wholesalers

REVIEW: Bruce Poon Tip’s new e-book explains what a post-COVID-19 world should look like

Christian Fleetwood

With Unlearn: The Year the Earth Stood Still, Bruce Poon Tip has penned a 24-page love letter to travel, grounded in unprecedented times.

Written while in isolation during April 2020, the G Adventures founder and New York Times best-selling author’s new e-book asks an important question: what should the world look like after coronavirus?

It’s one academics, industry bodies and public figures have puzzled over since the deadly novel virus made its presence known across the world. It’s one that still doesn’t have many decent answers.

But if there’s anyone with a new perspective on this – one that we haven’t heard yet – it’s certainly the quirky and goofy man behind the world’s most successful small-group adventure travel company.

With clarity, turn of phrase, and his trademark sense of humour, Poon Tip backs up his belief that the current times afford us an unbelievable opportunity to change tourism for the better.

“There is no question travel has changed, that it won’t be the same on the other side of these days of global isolation,” he said. “I think there is a fine line between hope and hard reality.

“I think there is also a difference between what I would like to see and what might actually be possible. We have a chance to reset everything.”

From rethinking ‘sustainable tourism’ and all-inclusive luxury, to promoting the benefits of homestays for community empowerment, and returning as contributors to culture instead of consumers, Unlearn shows what the new normal ought to be.

It’s also a book sure to get the industry talking – as you’d expect from a text called Unlearn, there’s no shortage of controversy.

Bruce Poon Tip

There’s the bold claim that tourism could have halted some of history’s worst atrocities, like the genocides of World War II. As Poon Tip writes: “The world can’t sneak up on you if you’re there seeing it, feeling it, tasting it, talking about it.”

Does that overstate the role of travel? Not for the man who believes tourism is the world’s “fastest path to peace”.

And, as you’d expect from the founder of an adventure travel company, there are plenty of digs at the cruise industry and consumer culture, with the entrepreneur urging travellers to make efforts to ensure tourism dollars stay in the pockets of local communities.

It could be as simple as “buying your drink from the guy with the cart on the street instead of from the big chains”, Poon Tip writes.

This all comes together with a very important chapter dedicated to the ‘leakage’ of funds outside of destinations and communities, with the G Adventures founder taking precise aim at “resorts, cruise lines, and multinational chains of all sorts”.

“If you take one thing away from my first instabook, I’d like it to be this: The tourism industry is not tourism… we are tourism,” Poon Tip writes. “Which means if we want less leakage, there will be less leakage.”

At the end of Unlearn, I found this to be a great little book to get travel professionals thinking sideways as well as forwards, to get them inspired and dreaming – exactly what we need in morbid times.

It’s a challenge to reimagine how we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic – and perhaps books like Unlearn will help us come into the light with a renewed sense of purpose and a little more accountability.

Unlearn: The Year the Earth Stood Still is now available for download on Apple Books, Amazon and Kobo.

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