This post isn’t about travel protection – we all know the benefits, and I’d just be preaching to the choir. But this post is about paying it forward, appreciating what we do, and being thankful for the awesome experiences we get in our industry.
Just over a week has passed since the devastating earthquake that shook Nepal, triggering landslides, avalanches, and flattening entire villages. Images and videos of ruins, devastation, loss of life, and the long road to rebuilding are everywhere. It’s a cold reminder that in the blink of an eye, everything can change.
To date, the official casualty numbers stand at 7,472 dead and over 15,000 injured, with thousands more affected in some other way. Included in these numbers are 74 tourists/visitors who have been lost while visiting Nepal during the largest disaster in Nepal since 1934 (another earthquake killing over 10,000). The death toll is sure to rise as they continue to search the rubble and families scramble to try and make contact with family members living or traveling in the area at the time.
It’s easy to remove ourselves from something like this when it happens 7,600 miles away and we can turn off our televisions or close our computers to avoid seeing the headlines. It’s also difficult to feel like we can make a change being so far away. As an industry where our financial well-being relies on other areas to attract our clients, I often think we don’t do enough to give back (besides tourist dollars) to places and people in need.
When was the last time your agency donated time, supplies, or a monetary contribution to a good cause? I learned real fast when I began working with non-profits that I felt compelled to do something for them when they booked travel with me. A donation to their cause or simply volunteering with their organization for a day; it truly makes an impact both professionally and personally.
In our travel bubble we always hope for the best and plan for the worst when our clients travel, and I can’t imagine the concern and investment it would take if a client was involved in something like the Nepal earthquake. Frankly, it scares me. Not so much professionally, in the sense that there would be more work involved and sleepless nights – but personally, knowing someone I’ve sent somewhere is going through devastation. Recent events, from the hurricane in Los Cabos to the attacks in Tunisia and now with Nepal, continue to make me realize the incredible responsibility we have with sending people around the world.
On the flip side, we as agents of the travel industry have a pretty sweet gig. Although it’s not all lollipops and gumdrops in our day-to-day work, the perks of being able to visit some amazing destinations all while we are “working” afford amazing life experiences that we are fortunate to have. Although the monotony of FAM’s can become overwhelming, just remember that you are still lucky and fortunate enough to travel. Period. What we provide and experience is a luxury, not a necessity, and we should be thankful for each opportunity we get to be away from our home to travel.
I hope to never lose that humanistic view on travel, what it does for people, and how life-changing it can be. As agents, that’s one more benefit that our clients should innately receive that sets us apart from the OTA’s. I know personally that I need to remain cognizant of this and focus less on the monetary value, and more on the experiential value. Unfortunately, it seems that I’m only reminded when issues arise around the world, but will be making an effort to stay grounded and aware at all times. I will also be making an effort with my agency to do more–both within my local community and in the broader world markets, especially where I have sent multiple clients. I challenge everyone to do the same.
Nathan Graeff is the owner of Capital Travel and Events based in the nation’s capital of Washington, DC. His agency is a full service travel agency serving leisure and business clients but specializes in adventure travel, non-profit agency travel and accessible travel. Nathan is a home-based agent and a member of Millennials in Travel and OSSN.