They say the recession is over or ending. Pundits have said it. Experts have said it. And we have said it here on Travel Research Online too. Undoubtedly, that is good, if not great, news for the travel industry. But we still must be aware that there is a very keen difference between “ending” and “recovered”; and there will certainly be more casualties of this economy before we are out of the woods.
If you are still in business, that’s a good sign that there is a positive end in sight. But there will likely be many bumps in the road as we exit the recession and are fully recovered. You are not immune to any of these bumps and before you come out a survivor, you will need to watch for the bumps and figure how to navigate over or around them. An upcoming column from Mike Marchev will suggest kick starting your 2010 now! TRO will be publishing our annual guide to developing a marketing plan. Nolan Burris will have more thought provoking ways to stimulate your business. These tools are in place to help you around all the upcoming bumps. But what about your competitors?
Just as your agency is not immune, neither is any travel related business. I still believe that we will see some more agencies close, a host or two, and a few suppliers cease operations before we are done. Even travel publications are not immune as is evidenced by the cessation of Travel Trade and the recent bankruptcy filing by Questex. When any business is forced to close (for whatever reason) it is a sad day. The impact of any closure is a lot farther reaching than a simple “closed” sign posted on the door and a redirected website.
I know of several travel related businesses who have been forced to close their doors over the past year. Unfortunately, I have also witnessed the competition thumping their chests as if this was some sort of triumph. It isn’t. While some businesses may have done more harm to the industry than good (Joystar and YTB come to my mind); the industry as a whole will be better off without them. But, it is not a time to celebrate. Rather, offer an olive branch and see what you might be able to do to help those affected by the closure.
To be clear, this is an opportunity for you. You will have eliminated a competitor. You may have access to new clients or new employees or new contractors. Depending on your market, contracts may open for you which were closed by exclusivity clauses in the past. But you will be judged by how you handle it.
Competition drives good business. We all want to win. We want to be the biggest or the best and it is a noble goal. But equally as noble is losing with dignity and winning with grace. Fight the fight to the end; but when you have won, allow your opponent the chance to die with some dignity. You gain nothing from that last kick. If you have ever witnessed a bullfight, isn’t it amazing that the bull instinctively knows when it is defeated and literally lays down (almost in a bow) to the Matador. At that time, the Matador offers the bull a sudden and quick death.