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We can’t perpetuate the hype: G Adventures founder Bruce Poon Tip INTERVIEW


As the company he founded, G Adventures, celebrates its 30th anniversary, Bruce Poon Tip talks to Traveltalk about bushfires, coronavirus and the future of travel in Australia.

Image G Adventures / Facebook

 

When did you first become aware of the bushfire crisis in Australia?

There wasn’t a specific moment because it was a slow build. It took a while for us around the world, especially where I was in Canada, to actually come to terms with the fact that this was very different to the usual seasonal bushfires: much bigger and much more devastating.

There has got to be a better way we can monitor these situations and react quicker as a global community and respond globally to these situations.

 

Some have said it was the Australian government’s fault?

It is just so easy to point fingers, but right now I wouldn’t say it was the government’s fault. When it comes to public health and safety there’s no finger pointing – I don’t think anyone maliciously would do anything to harm people.

Australia had never seen anything like it before so there was no way anyone could be prepared and be ready to respond to something like that. There will be another one that will be bigger, stronger and faster and we have to hope we’ll be ready next time.

 

And now we’re battling coronavirus. What’s your take on the current situation?

Our message has been that there is a lot of misinformation flying around that always exists in the eye of the storm. Every report I read or watch offers differing opinions about what’s happening and the risks.

We follow the World Health Organisation guidelines and the message is that it is still a relatively low risk for people to contract coronavirus.

 

 

So people should still be travelling?

While there are no-fly zones – we have shut down all trips in China and Korea until the end of April – there is a whole world out there for people to travel to that is not affected and the chances of catching this are equal to getting hit by a bus.

 

Is the media to blame for beating up the story?

Right now, it is a front page headline and everyone is grasping to report something about it. That’s how this hype is created. But if you look at the actual numbers - 90,000 people with coronavirus - is a fraction of the people who die each year from influenza or flu symptoms.

As a community and a global industry we have to monitor the situation and work with public health to maintain the safety of our travellers. But people just have to look past the hype and study the data and the numbers.

 

Do travel agents have a role to play in this?

It is up to travel agents now to be travel professionals and make sure they talk to their customers about the realities of the numbers: that it’s still low risk for people to catch this virus in places that have very few cases, if any.

We can’t perpetuate the hype: we have to know the actual data and science behind it to keep people safe, but also to promote what we all love to do, which is travel the world and have local communities benefit from travel.

 

Will this event change the future travel habits of Australians?

No, I don’t think so. Right now there is a lot of fear and panic but I hope this will dissipate within the next three weeks. It is up to us within the travel industry to bind together, calm fears and keep people travelling.

 

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Written by: Bruce Poon Tip as told to Jon Underwood
Published: 4 March 2020


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