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A place on one of Forbes’s “30 under 30” lists has long been a marker of status and potential for a group the magazine has proclaimed as the US and Canada’s “brashest entrepreneurs”.
In a time of global crisis, they were offered an additional reward this week: a month-long trip to a five star hotel and beach club in Bermuda, “one of the most desirable destinations in the world”, to escape from the “monotony and gloom” of the coronavirus pandemic.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention includes Bermuda in its highest level-4 tier of Covid-19 risk, classed as “very high” risk, and says “travellers should avoid all travel to these destinations”.
But within hours of the Guardian’s inquiry on Monday, a spokesperson for the magazine said it was “not proceeding with this initiative”. They claimed that the trip had been intended to “create a protocol that could allow us to come together and build community in a safe way that also serves as a model for the world”.
The invitation had been posted on a Slack group used by some of those who have been featured on the annual list and shared with the Guardian by two people. Recipients were told that “in a time of global chaos” Forbes had “decided to undertake something unprecedented, something amazing, something magical”.
“We’re going to do our first ever residency,” the message, sent by Forbes editor and 30 under 30 creator Randall Lane, continued. “A programme for the entire month of March, where people can work all day, and then network, engage in live programming and have incredible fun on nights and weekends.”
A Forbes employee added in one message that there had been “an overwhelming response”. One recipient said: “I am so incredibly stoked for this opportunity.” Another said: “See you in Bermuda!”
The trip – which some suggested had echoes of Kim Kardashian’s private island birthday retreat, “where we could pretend things were normal just for a brief moment in time” – had 75 places available. It was to be conducted “safely, with state-of-the-art testing, quarantine and bubble protocols that rival anything in the world”, the invitation said.
It explained that Bermuda had been chosen as a destination for its “advanced safety protocols” and said attendees would be expected to self-quarantine for five days, provide a negative PCR test, and be tested frequently on arrival.
The CDC says that those who must travel to Bermuda should wear a mask, stay at least six feet from people not travelling with them at all times, and wash their hands or use sanitiser often.
Details of the plan were first revealed on Twitter by Rachel Zarrell, one of the honourees in 2018 for her work as a brand strategist at BuzzFeed.
Zarrell, like many other social media users who saw the post, questioned the reliability and wisdom of Forbes’s approach. “It only takes one person with a delayed Covid result or a false negative to get everyone sick,” she wrote. “And as we get inch closer to half a million dead [in the US] it feels incredibly myopic to organise a big privilege party on a tropical island.
“You can test your little heart out but you’re living in a fantasy if you think 75+ affluent young people are going to quarantine.”
Dr Vicky Forster, a British cancer research scientist who works at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Canada, tweeted that she had not seen the invitation but that if she had “I would have told them that this was a stupid idea”.
But Glenn Jones, interim CEO of the Bermuda Tourism Authority, said Bermuda was the right choice for such a retreat, adding: “I hope they come. Our business is safe tourism, we’re up for this.”
The 30 under 30 list, which despite its title names 600 people across 20 categories each year, has a network of more than 5,000 people who have been included during its 10-year history.
While a place on the list is to some a prized badge of achievement and promise, it has also been criticised as an elitist and arbitrary institution. It has worked to better balance its honourees after early criticism for a lack of diversity.
Those considering the invitation were told to “get ready to make lifelong friendships” ahead of a planned eight days in “pods” of 25, a group size said to increase safety, before merging into a single bubble.
Forbes has previously run annual summits for honourees and others described as “entrepreneurial minds, visionaries and disrupters”, with speakers including Serena Williams and Sir Richard Branson. The 2020 iteration in Detroit was cancelled as a result of the pandemic.
The Forbes spokesperson said: “We’re not proceeding with this initiative but we are committed to tapping into the brainpower of our global community, partnering with others and demonstrating a path forward. We wanted to find a way, with the help of the Bermudian government, to create a protocol that could allow us to come together and build community in a safe way that also serves as a model for the world.”
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Forbes drops Bermuda trip for entrepreneurs to escape Covid ‘gloom’ | Forbes magazine