Am I ready? I check my COVID uniform. Gloves on? Check. Mask on? Check.
I jump out of the car, ready to run into the grocery store for a few essentials needed for the week. The masked gentleman two car spaces from me catches my eye, points to my car door and asks, “How are you doing?”
He’s pointing to the car decal for our small business, Lay Travel Group – Dream Vacations. “We’re doing okay,” I tell him optimistically. “We’ve been lucky to have more reschedules than cancellations. It’s a tough time, but people will travel again.”
This is the mantra. We will travel again. It may not look the same. It may happen slowly, but it will happen.
In the meantime, Chris and I focus on taking care of the clients whose travel has been interrupted this Spring and Summer. Rescheduling and recreating their new dream vacations for a different time. Some are traveling this Fall or Winter. Many are traveling next year.
This occupies much of our time currently. We are not the only Travel Advisors rescheduling with travel suppliers. Although we and our clients are, of course, the most important, the travel suppliers are trying to work with millions of people around the world whose vacations have been disrupted, so we often have to get in line and wait. We’ve spent many hours on hold listening to the beautiful music cut in and out (why is the music never clear?). However, aggravating this may be, at the end of this wait, we typically talk to one person who answers our questions, takes care of our needs, and assures us that our clients’ travel will be magical.
Despite this optimism, we know that person on the other end of the line is worried. They are worried about what is happening in the travel industry as a result of the pandemic. According to industry polling, travel has fallen 85% compared to a year ago. Less travel means less need for travel professionals. Yet, this person calmly answers angry, agitated calls daily, all while understanding the job may not be there tomorrow.
Top travel companies in the industry must cut employees in order to remain solvent. Disney earlier announced it would furlough 43,000 employees during the COVID-19 quarantine (they are now debating when to open again), cruise lines are not sailing and airlines have lost 1/3 of their employees who accepted early retirement or voluntary leave. Other top companies are cutting executive pay, furloughing employees and cutting hours to make it through this time.
This is the heavy, scary and disappointing news we are reminded of each day as we read updates from travel suppliers, hear from other Travel Advisors, and receive news through industry publications. Although faced with the daunting data and headlines, we are not scared.
Our business is young and not as impacted by the pandemic. We aren’t so established that we have employees to pay or commercial leases to maintain. We were just starting to see better-than-expected success in the months before coronavirus became a concern. Our expectations were appropriately realistic from the beginning of our small business adventure. We spent nine months researching the industry and making informed decisions before jumping in. We understood most new businesses don’t make a profit in their first few years, so planned accordingly.
As a result, we are not worried. We’re hopeful. We train and prepare for the time people are ready to travel again. The current situation will improve and we are confident people WILL travel again. We aren’t going anywhere. We’re going to survive this situation and be there for you on the other side, ready to help you see and experience the world.