It’s Valentine’s Day and love is in the air. In our business, you might not think it is terribly loving right now; but hold on, I have good news for you. 2021 and beyond is setting up to be not only the Year of the Ox (for you Lunar calendar people), but the Year of Love! Well, perhaps not “love” but one of relationships.
For travel, the past 90-days has been, shall we say…. challenging. Insurrections, Federal assistance grants, more potential Federal assistance, layoffs, new rules, a vaccine arrival, and questions about when travel might be able to truly re-commence. Despite the turmoil, there are some positive signs ahead; but you need to read them, and prepare!
Clients Will Love Us
Clients from this year forward will be decidedly different. More different than any other time in the history of travel. Over the past twenty-five years, our vale proposition has slowly eroded. As more methods of purchasing travel emerged, clients felt emboldened to use them. And to a large degree, we turned our back and let it happen. Now, travel is in a state of confusion. Is it safe to travel? What do I need to remain safe and healthy? What is legally required? What are the policies of the hotel? Airline? Cruise line? Few of these questions can be answered by technology or a vendor. Vendors know their own product and are likely to offer advice that may be contrary to their hurting bottom line.
As it was in the 1950s and 1960s, travel will become this uncharted territory for clients and they will need someone to separate the wheat from the chaff for all but the simplest trips. Imagine the time it would take to find out all of the requirements of a European cruise with a 2-night pre-cruise stay and a week long FIT post-cruise. What do the airlines require? Cruise lines? Hotels? When do you need a COVID test? Where can that be arranged? When? Who to call if a test comes up positive? What about quarantining? Are there masking regulations? Will insurance cover my expenses if I am denied boarding for a false positive test? I can probably go on for several paragraphs of “what ifs” for future travel.
Relationships will be key! Critical. As much as we have tried over the years to have our profession considered as trusted advisors alongside the accountants, lawyers and doctors, we fell short. Now is the time.
It will not be easy. The “what ifs” above are tough questions and we are going to have to work a lot harder than we ever have in the past. And we are going to have to be on top of the ever-changing regulations—something I do not see relenting anytime soon. For example, last week it looked like domestic flights were going to require a negative COVID test to fly; today, that seems to be off the table….for now.
The demand for travel is there. Study after study says that the American consumer is ready to go; with the caveat that they can do so safely.
The return of travel is still not imminent. Do not kick back and wait for it to return. If you do, you risk your ability to claim a piece of what I believe to be the largest surge to travel professionals the industry has seen. Look at your processes. Identify your sources. Read the news—daily if not hourly. Set the expectation with any employees or contractors. Communicate with clients and prospects to let them know what you are doing to ensure their safety when they are ready. Identify your pared down list of preferred suppliers (this will be critical) and arrange meetings with them to work on a plan together moving forward.
And as this all comes into place, you will be in a prime position to pull that trigger when the floodgates truly open!