Our culture and our heritage are what unites us together! With the coming of this catastrophic pandemic, our culture and heritage are also facing a setback. In a bid to contain the spread of Coronavirus, many companies have asked their employees to work from home instead of coming to the office. As the world is getting used to working and operating from their home to follow social distancing norms, the travel industry has also come up with a collection of activities that would provide people an option to “travel from home”. So besides ‘work from home’, ‘travel from home’ is also going to become a part of our lives soon!
It is an unavoidable fact that some of the most moving experiences of art often involve being in crowded spaces, be it museums, galleries, theatres, or concert venues. COVID-19 being announced as a pandemic by the World Health Organization has posed a special challenge to art institutions around the world. As a result of this, public gatherings, tourist attractions, and cultural institutions have become the riskiest places to be at as the infection spreads. Since there is no movement happening either domestically or from across the border, the tourism sector is one of the few most naturally and hugely impacted sectors.
Museums and theatres across the globe have shuttered their doors, while event planners have canceled events and fairs, all in hopes of keeping potential patrons safe. COVID-19 has hit the cultural life of our communities very severely. Libraries, memorials, community centers, museums, and all cultural venues have been kept closed for the lockdown period. In addition to this, performances, festivals, parades, carnivals, intangible heritage events have been canceled. All of this has posed a major threat to various forms of culture. Workers in the arts-related sectors are often in an already precarious situation of being self-employed individuals or freelancers. They are likely to be left without any income for months. The active involvement of all of us in the cultural life of the community has been destroyed by COVID-19 and so has the welfare and the quality of our democracies.
In these uncertain times, technology is coming in handy to maintain human contact with our culture and also preventing ignorance against our heritage. It also helps in boosting our faith that times will soon take a turn for the better. From following live meditation sessions provided by Buddhist monks to having virtual visits to see the dogs of Chernobyl to cooking with a Moroccan family and a 360-degree tour of Monaco, many interesting adventures are now available online. Tourism and hospitality service providers are even trying their level best to come up with different ways that could keep travelers and key patrons engaged during the ongoing lockdown. Technology is making it possible to visit places and destinations virtually and plan our travels for a later date. The Ministry of Travel and Tourism has launched its “DekhoApnaDesh” webinar series to provide an insightful detail on the many destinations and the sheer depth and expanse of the culture and heritage of our Incredible India. This step shows how our partners continue their efforts to protect the indigenous artifacts. Some other institutions have also come up with creative ways of keeping visitors engaged by including trials of virtual versions of shows and exhibitions. Several closed museums have begun experimenting with digital exhibits. Online experiences are even accessible via the Cultural Heritage Administration website in some countries so that people remain in touch with their culture. Meanwhile, a series of live concerts have led fans to use live streaming to stay in the loop!
Even if we can’t have the option to travel, we can virtually see principalities of cities and legendary attractions of countries across the globe through 360-degree experiences that our travel industry is continuously working on. They say virtual reality to travel from home was trending due to the pandemic and the uncertainty around the ongoing lockdown.
Although all virtual efforts for promoting diverse activities are being done to prevent people from traveling and keeping them entertained whilst they are at home today, people are only planning for what needs to be done once the lockdown is lifted. Traveling internationally might not be a top priority for the majority of the global population, partly due to fear of coming in contact and partly due to the collapse of the economy.
Covid-19 will completely change one’s lifestyle. Masks and gloves will be a part of our clothing, carrying sanitizer wherever we travel, effective queue management to reduce wait times will be followed on a priority basis for places where a large number of people are to gather like stations, malls, museums, monuments, etc. Many supermarkets are now following the same approach to limit the number of people in the store at any given time and enable business, as usual, perhaps laying the foundations for consumers to accept such practices as the new norm. People will prefer driving on there own rather than using public transport, a new way of traveling via trains or airplanes will be defined by social distancing and increased sanitization. Social distancing will probably become a long term feature in our lives. That doesn’t mean any human contact for the foreseeable future. It means all of us will need to take sensible steps with regards to regulating our interaction with the world.
There are a number of possible futures facing us. Out of them, only one can transpire and that will depend on how governments and society respond to coronavirus and its economic aftermath. Hopefully, this crisis will be considered as a lesson to learn, rebuild, produce something better, and more humane. But we may slide into something worse. Closures, cancellations, and delays come out of an abundance of caution and mainly to keep people indoors. Safeguarding the public remains the world’s top priority to prevent the spread of the virus. But already, the evidence is mounting: Long after the outbreak has waned, the world of culture will still be reeling from its impact although the industry is working hard enough to protect our cultural heritage.