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Karryon 2021 in Review: Resilience, Reflection and Reconnection

As we crawl towards the holiday finish line and finally put our out of office on for 2021, Karryon founder Matt Leedham reflects on the rollercoaster year that was and looks towards a new year of optimism and opportunity for the travel industry.

As we crawl towards the holiday finish line and finally put our out of office on for 2021, Karryon founder Matt Leedham reflects on the rollercoaster year that was and looks towards a new year of optimism and opportunity for the travel industry.

Penning a yearly review used to be a pleasure to write. There were always plenty of travel highs to celebrate; naturally, a few lows and moments to learn from and insignificant periods of the year that merely ‘happened’ as the days, weeks, months, and seasons rolled by.

That was until the pandemic came along and changed everything.

Thinking back to this time last year, it’d be fair to say the mood had been relatively bright until around December 17. Then the Northern Beaches outbreak hit, and sadly NY21 popped in the dark to the flattest of fizzes.

But we got through it, and by mid-April, a window of nationwide and trans-Tasman travel freedom had opened up before Delta appeared onto the scene in July to disrupt plans, slam the window shut again and send most of us inside again for Winter.

LUIS ASCUI. Credit: AAP Image

That hit hard for so many reasons, but mostly because we weren’t expecting it. This wasn’t how it was supposed to play out. Thinking we were beyond the worst, we felt ripped off as suddenly, every day in lockdown felt like a lifetime where space and time morphed into an unfathomable and energy-sapping black hole of simply getting through what was flung in front of you.

By global standards, though, we were still blessed as we watched much of the world from our screens endure enormous suffering and loss, including so many of our fellow Australians. They remained desperately locked out of their own country, unable to be repatriated as arrival caps were reduced and scarce seats went for astronomical prices.

Billions of shots were consumed (not the fun type, the necessary type), swabs were taken, borders were shuttered, bubbles were burst, and plans were cancelled. Far too many Zoom meetings were endured, but by around October, we started coming up for fresh air again as Sydney and Melbourne finally came out of the mother of all lockdowns.


Our International borders reopened (woohoo), and the first commercial flights arrived and departed, some state borders remained inconsistently closed and still are (groan), but most importantly, a mantra of ‘living with’ not ‘fearing’ the virus was proclaimed at a leadership level, which led to confidence in travel and the need for travel advisors returning as people began to once again, believe.

However, as we reach the end of 2021 and the second calendar year of COVID, and with the third year just over the hill in March, uncertainty and disappointment are testing us again as Omicron brings another familiar anxious pause and more complications to the arrival revival of travel.

But this, too, shall pass. We know all too well how to manage the lows now, so I think it’s essential to end the year focussing on the high points where we did get to wave our arms around and scream wildly on the rollercoaster of 2021.

How to sum up the year? Here’s three words we’re taking into 2022 as our key takeaways from the ride that none of us wanted to go on.

1. Resilience


Another tough year. But almost three years into the pandemic, is there any other choice but to remain resilient? Travel is in our DNA, and if you’re reading this, I know it’s in yours too. It’s what we do and what we love.

Besides, we’ve all got this far, and we’re certainly not giving up now. The last few months have shown us that 2022 is already looking like a tremendous recovery year, despite the current blips.

We are over the worst; we have learnt so much, and the noise is that the travelling public doesn’t want to put their lives on hold any longer.

The Golden age of travel is upon us, and while there will be hurdles and undoubtedly more lows, our resilience, flexibility and new collaborative ways of working we have all built up in spades will see us through.

Through our Together In Travel initiative, Karryon is committed to helping rebuild and reimagine the industry and aims to bring back and reconnect as many people as we can who were sadly forced to leave or want to enter the industry in 2022.

2. Reflection

Save The Travel Industry

The end of the year gives us a chance to reflect on the journey to date. Where are we at? What are we doing and why? Have we made a difference? And how can we make a difference next year?

Keeping on top of the insanely paced (and often depressing) news media landscape has been exhausting and has forced us to work in different and more innovative ways. But we think we’re better for it and we hope it has kept you informed and entertained where possible.

Tourism Australia’s ‘It’s our best shot for travel’ campaign

As an independent publisher relying on advertising to fund our business, we’ve also been honoured to work with many new local and international partners in 2021 while rekindling legacy partner relationships and working together on numerous rewarding projects.

But undoubtedly, our proudest achievements have been our work on the Save The Travel Industry campaign we created in March, donating ad space and time to amplify Tourism Australia’s Our Best Shot For Travel campaign and the evolution of our Together In Travel initiative, which we started at the beginning of the pandemic. None of these projects could have happened without the overwhelming industry support, passion and collaboration.

3. Reconnection

The defining image of 2021? The first trans-Tasman arrivals to Wellington. Pic: Wellington Airport

For me, this powerful image sums up 2021.

Seeing the joy and the tears of reunited loved ones as enablers of travel. Witnessing the world starting to stitch itself back together country by country and the happiness and relief that it brings to so many. Hearing of friends and industry peers excitement at returning to work in travel again after so much loss.

Catching up and seeing our extended travel family in person again after so long. Sharing inspiring memories of industry trips and experiences as we all begin to communicate the wonders of the world to those who want to see them.

This is the wonderment of travel and the reconnection we’ve all craved for so long.

This is who we are as humans, as communities and as citizens of a world we love to explore and share.

This year I was lucky to head over to New Zealand in May on the first flight to Auckland with Qantas and, more recently, on the first Fiji Airways flight over to Nadi on December 1, when Fiji’s International borders reopened. Both were unforgettable experiences that only strengthened my beliefs about the power of travel.

Sure, 2021 has thrown us many curveballs, and at the time of writing, we’re still not done yet. But look past that, and we believe that 2022 will be a year of the continued celebration and collective learnings of reopening and reconnection of the world.

The fantastic news is that all of you out there reading this have a starring role to play in making it happen.

On behalf of the entire Karryon team, a huge thank you for your kindness, partnership, feedback and support in 2021.

Take good care of you and yours, have a restful, safe break and here’s to a prosperous, kind and collaborative 2022.