This time it is bad. This time it all could last awhile. This is, short of nuclear war, about as bad as it gets. Imagine we’re all in the coffeehouse business and it turns out that one out of every 10 coffee beans in the world causes death. We’d all close down, right? The Wall Street Journal would write our business obituary and we’d shutter our doors.
But I am not at all sure that would happen to the travel coffeehouses. I don’t think the strong women and supportive men of this industry, the proven survivors, would just pack up and find something else to do. No, I think you’d see a lot of tea shops opening their doors.
No one is traveling at the moment, and we know there will be lasting repercussions. There will be some restructuring, and some of our friends will not make it.
But I have a sense that strength permeates our industry, and when this is over, I know for a fact that most of us will still be standing.
And you know what? Some of the toughest fighters Covid-19 is ever going to encounter are travel legends in the most vulnerable age group. That will be one of the ironies of our survival.
When the owners of the largest travel agencies in the U.S. meet informally over drinks to talk about their experiences, the conversation often turns to “my dinosaurs.” Every one of these companies has agents in their 80s and 90s who have significant client followings and who have been through the wars and the challenges.
I hope each and every one of you is safe and well. I don’t ever want to lose a single reader to another profession. Do you remember 2008 and the recession that ended up depleting our profession by about 40%? We were gone because no one had the money to travel again. Those who did would be booking online. The role of personal consulting in our industry had ended. That’s what the media reported.
Well it didn’t exactly work out that way. You see, we are the real “Survivor” winners. Prior to Covid-19, our biggest industry challenge was a shortage of knowledgeable agents.
Cities are in lockdown as I write this. Our government is advising that no one should be socializing with other humans. There is no toilet paper, let alone Purell, and the airports are empty. Flights are being canceled around the world. We’re spending all our time handling cancellations, along with a few optimistic rebookings for next year. Most travel advisors do not get paid unless they sell stuff, and right now, our clients are afraid to drive to the supermarket. Starbucks won’t let guests sit inside.
So, given all that, one would imagine most of the commissioned travel advisors in America have just walked away from their jobs. They have abandoned their desks and their clients and gone off to seek employment selling something a bit more tangible than dreams. Why would they stick around to console clients and assist with refunds and insurance and all the heartbreak associated with dreams delayed, honeymoons canceled along with “last family trips together”?
But you know what? They have. They are working at this moment as trusted advisors and family friends. Many are providing emotional support to their clients. No one is walking away.
The fact is that now more than ever, our clients, in these most challenging times, realize why a human who cares about the outcome of the best days of their lives can never be replaced by a bot or a call center.
We’re still standing. We might be holding hand sanitizer, but we’re still standing!