Wednesday 6 May 2020 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Wednesday. 6/5/2020

The Monocle Minute

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Opinion / Nic Monisse

Pretty vacant

How do you create a campaign to bring life back to your city? Budapest has begun by releasing a video advertisement that features sweeping views of an empty Heroes’ Square and the drained swimming pools at Szechenyi Baths. The iconic spaces are bereft of people except for a lone dancer moving through them. The film, produced by the city’s festival and tourism centre, is hauntingly beautiful yet feels like a placeholder: it’s a reminder that all major cities rely on the atmosphere created by the residents and visitors who fill their public spaces.

Travel restrictions and stay-at-home orders have presented city marketing departments with a challenge but also an opportunity: it’s a “chance to pause and restart” their branding as a destination, according to European Cities Marketing, the professional body for tourism and convention bureaux. The organisation recently released a recovery guide, outlining the likely pattern of revival and best next steps. Key to this, the report says, is reconsidering the types of visitors that the city wants to attract and, subsequently, the nature of the jobs and businesses that those visitors will create and support. But consideration shouldn’t just be given to tourism: cities need to think about how to retain the right kind of talent and households – or risk losing them. A recent study by the Harris Poll market-research firm suggests that many urbanites are considering relocating to less dense areas in light of the pandemic.

While the Hungarian capital will certainly need to reflect more on the types of visitors it hopes to attract (does it still want to be associated with stag dos?), there’s something to be said for pouncing on this unique opportunity to capture a city’s magic unencumbered. Tourists will inevitably return; and though cities such as Budapest need to think about what they want this to look like, they should also enjoy the rare chance to celebrate their quiet side while they still can.

Image: Shutterstock

Politics / Denmark

Pursuit of happiness

The Happiness Research Institute in Denmark releases a report today responding to a question that governments everywhere have been asking: how do you balance the health benefits of reduced infections against the social costs of lockdown? The report seeks to measure the wellbeing of 110,000 Europeans by examining the impact of factors ranging from mental health to air pollution. “Loneliness is among the biggest risks of lockdown,” says Michael Birkjaer, a senior analyst for the institute. “We’ve found that loneliness has a worse effect on your wellbeing than Alzheimer’s disease and causes twice as much suffering for people as unemployment.” By creating these new metrics, the institute hopes that governments will be able to better take these factors into account in future decision-making. “Once these numbers are a tool at their disposal, governments can make their responses proportionate to the size of the problem,” says Birkjaer. In the meantime, be sure to check in on your neighbour or relative.

Image: Shutterstock

Business / USA

Troubled waters

Miami-based Carnival Cruise Line has announced that it will begin a phased-in return to business starting on 1 August, when eight ships will launch from ports in Texas and Florida. But it isn’t likely to be smooth sailing. Will consumers be ready to return? And will ports in other countries welcome them? “There will be a segment that is very hesitant, particularly in the early days,” says Dr Ross Klein, a professor at the Memorial University of Newfoundland and associate editor of the journal Tourism in Marine Environments. “I’m not sure whether [Carnival has] quite figured out how they’re going to do it: how many passengers, how do you do dining, how do you do chores?” he says.

The cruise operator says that it will follow medical guidelines and has asked for time before disclosing more details of exactly what cruises will look like after coronavirus. Klein says that we should expect the August start date to be more “aspirational” than realistic.

Culture / Taiwan

Bedtime reading

Taiwanese bookshop chain Eslite has announced that its branch in Xinyi, Taipei, will become a 24-hour operation from 29 May. The shop, which is a short walk from the Taipei 101 skyscraper, will take over round-the-clock duties from the firm’s smaller Dunnan branch, the lease for which expires in June. Eslite pioneered the 24-hour bookshop model in 1999 with its Dunnan shop, which soon became an after-hours tourist destination. Its closure after more than 20 years is being marked by a month of events, which started last Friday with Q Jiang, a celebrity shiba (pictured), becoming shop manager for the day and encouraging customers to bring their pets. The remodelled Xinyi bookshop will also have Eslite’s first dedicated foreign-language section, stocking some 20,000 English and Japanese titles, alongside coffee, cocktails and an arts section curated by international publishers. All the more reason for foreigners to book a trip when travel resumes.

Image: Getty Images

Society / Berlin

Nightclub heroes

Berlin’s nightlife has long faced an existential crisis from rapid gentrification, which is transforming clubs into condominiums. So when venues were shuttered in mid-March – putting some 9,000 people out of work – it came as a particularly devastating blow to the already beleaguered sector. Springing to the rescue was Clubcommission, the entity representing Berlin’s clubs, which launched the online platform United We Stream as a way of bringing live DJ sets from some of the city’s most iconic venues into the homes of those in lockdown. “We knew we’d have to act quickly,” says spokesperson Lutz Leichsenring. “We now have about 60 clubs involved.” Viewers can donate by buying merchandise and virtual beers; they’ve already raised some €430,000 for a relief fund. But Leichsenring says that the initiative, which has spread to other European cities, is also about starting a wider conversation. “We have [also] launched United We Talk, which livestreams roundtables on club culture and its place in society.” For nightlife-crazy Berlin, that’s a conversation worth having.

M24 / Monocle on Culture

On screen in lockdown

Critics Simran Hans and Scott Bryan divulge a few hidden TV and film gems to get you through the rest of lockdown.

Monocle Films / London

All around the table: deli dipping in London

Hanna Geller and Jeremy Coleman of Building Feasts take us on a tour around their favourite London food shops and pick up supplies on the way to put their effortless hosting skills into practice.


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