What do you say to an industry that has completely stopped? We’re faced with forced down time in our homes and many advisors have had all of their profits for the past six months wiped out. Yet clients still need counseling; some are asking if it’s viable to steal away to Mexico for a few days, others want to cancel cruises months out and need to be convinced that they should wait and see if the supplier sets new, flexible policies for refunds and rebookings.
I can tell you the days following the tragedy of 9/11 felt hopeless and so did the weeks following the financial crash of 2008. All we knew then was that we didn’t know what the future held and it was both humbling and nauseating at the same time.
But things got better—so much so that the biggest challenges luxury travel advisors have had in recent days is that they didn’t have enough time or help to handle the influx of business.
One certainty for now is that it’s easier to pivot in 2020. Advisors have the bandwidth and the technology to work remotely, making self-isolation and social distancing easy to do. Even those working primarily in a brick-and-mortar agency are likely already quite nimble at shifting to their home offices when needed.
The consumer of 2020 is incredibly resilient; they will forget these most recent struggles and will be bursting out the front door when given the green light, thanks to an overdose of quality family time.
I predict wellness will become even more important in travel itineraries, albeit in a different form, as clients retain their new hyper-awareness of germ spread and surface cleanliness; it will be up to the hotels and cruise ships to convey a message of pristine environments once they’re back in business.
Travel advisors will need to keep a wary eye on the hotels they’re sending their clients to after this crisis as, unfortunately, that part of the industry is facing massive layoffs and budget cuts. You’ll want to support your travel partners, but note that in past travel industry crises, hotels came back differently. Many weren’t able to afford all of the luxuries they once offered. Soaps and other in-room amenities got smaller or went away. Flowers in the lobby disappeared and many on-site restaurants were shuttered because of the slowdown. This all sounds so superficial now, but you’ll need to manage your clients’ expectations if luxury rebounds in a diluted format.
I recently read a letter from a Brown University professor to her students who could not return to campus from Spring Break to finish out the semester because their campus was shut down. She advised them to take this time to read and do research, to feed their minds. Acknowledge that this is a challenging time, she said, and give in to the grief. But first and foremost, “move forward,” she said. “You will look back and be astounded at what is possible even during times of grief and struggle.”
This is great advice for travel advisors and, really, for all of us. The world still awaits you and your clients; until then, learn, learn, learn, so you can stay relevant to your ever-changing customers. You’ve recreated yourselves so many times over the past two decades and I’ve no doubt you’ll do it again in even finer fashion than before.
In this issue, you’ll see we’re still writing about the wonderful destinations and hotels that await us in a post-coronavirus world and you’ll find great inspiration in Matt Turner’s profile on Virtuoso’s CEO, Matthew Upchurch. Read on and enjoy.