I am on annual leave today and tomorrow. These dates have been in the diary for some time; over a year to be precise. Whilst being on leave will be a relief (for me and no doubt some colleagues) it is rather bittersweet.
I should have been in Rome, watching Wales play rugby.
Italy joined the Six Nations in 2000. Wales first played them in Italy in 2001. Living in the USA at the time, the journey was a little far. But every other year since we have been present, if not always correct. In rain or shine, good times and bad, the Rome long weekend has been a favourite and a highlight. Even if, whisper it please, Wales actually managed to lose, twice. Initially we just turned up and paid at the gate at Stadio Flaminio as part of a small crowd. Now it is a tens of thousand strong pilgrimage and to the Stadio Olimpico.
But this year, which would have been our 10th such trip, Covid has intervened and my living room sofa will have to do. And that in this year of all years for Welsh rugby (hopefully).
On the positive side it is saving me money. But that individual view illustrates the problem so many businesses have at this time. We won’t be paying for flights, accommodation, transport, food and possibly drink. Restaurants, bars and others will have to do without our purchases. And we won’t be doing retail research, especially into retail formats (Eataly for example) and markets (Campagna Amica). The scale of the economic loss is formidable given the volume of people, and the scale of spending. This is income entirely foregone; the fixture, and our trip, is cancelled, not postponed.
And it is not just Rome. We would have gone to Murrayfield twice (and the Welsh invasion every two years is large for many towns across Scotland as well as the city) and down to Cardiff twice. Rugby is my rather expensive passion, but not spending does not seem right. We may not miss the economic hit, but we do miss the social hit.
I write this not to garner sympathy for what I am missing, but to point to the significance of events of all shapes and sizes for their own local economies, local businesses and for all those that support them. The cumulative loss is huge to many places and businesses.
In some fields the pandemic has possibly postponed spending and it will be released in due course. In others there may be a post lockdown and (hopefully) post pandemic recovery as people want to spend and socialise and eat out and do the things we missed. The scale and length of this is a great imponderable at the moment. Great, but for businesses trying to survive through this desert of income, even with Government support, it must be so hard, and probably soul destroying.
There are also many people who have not been in the fortunate position we are in, and have found it hard to keep going during the pandemic. Their post pandemic spending will not be any release of (non-existent) savings, but a continuing struggle to make ends meet. It is one of the reasons we have to address the systemic inequalities in society.
So, as I watch Wales and Italy on Saturday I will be promising myself in the future to make amends for what I’ve missed over the last year. Eat, drink and be merry, with friends, in as many new and old places seems like a nice idea and if I can support local businesses at the same time then all the better. And if as many people as possible are of the same mind then maybe things will be better in the coming year for many businesses.
A Welsh win on Saturday will help kick start the process.