New Normal
Seated left to right: Roger Dow; John Tolbert; and Jorge Pesquera

A recent webinar hosted by Boca Raton Resort & Club, A Waldorf Astoria Resort, with travel industry insiders—U.S. Travel Association’s president Roger Dow, Boca Raton’s president and managing director John C. Tolbert, Discover The Palm Beaches’ CEO Jorge Pesquera, and Bruce Himelstein, who moderated and is the former CMO of The Ritz Carlton Hotel Company & Loews Hotels and founder of The BJH Group—put the focus on the new normal when it comes to travel, with Tolbert noting that, “The power of the industry as a collective must create a standard where guests feel they are safe and taken care of.”

Added Dow, “I think we need to have a set of industry standards on cleanliness and health, and we’ll learn from each other. I think it’s going to be different the first six months to a year, but I’m hopeful that we are going to get to a better place.”

“Once we put protocols in place,” noted Tolbert, “then people can feel comfortable coming back to sanctuaries, to safe havens. This new protocol is not going to be cheap, so we need to come together for universal implementation across the entire industry.”

Pesquera also mentioned safety, trust and confidence, noting that “over the short term, we are going to have to do everything we can to bring trust and confidence, to show that we are safe, and that people can travel safely.”

“I do hope though that this is not the new normal. The days when people can shake hands and hug each other have to come back.”
–Jorge Pesquera, CEO, Discover The Palm Beaches

Re-imagining the Drive Market
During the conversation, with the stunning Boca Raton Resort & Club as a backdrop, Himelstein noted that he saw a recent study that pointed to Florida as one of the top destinations that people want to come back. He asked, “Does the drive market get redefined here?”

“I think everybody seems to agree that this is going to be concentric circle from your destination,” Pesquera said. “Initially, staycations in Palm Beach County and South Florida will be the main thing, attracting people who have cabin fever and are yearning to get out of the house, feel comfortable being in their car, and want to go to a very well-defined environment that is very clean, sanitized, with all the rules and distancing regulations. Then, we’ll go into the state of Florida, we’ll go into the Southeast U.S., and we’ll go into the Northeast. People will be driving, I’m sure, from DC, Philadelphia and New York.”

And travel they will, even if for the short-term it’s drive-to destinations, according to research that the U.S. Travel Association has conducted. Dow says that 70 percent of people are ready to travel as soon as it’s right to travel—they are going to need a signal from the travel & tourism industry, as well as from the government and health leaders.

We are looking forward to bringing back our work force as a united community
when it is safe, and as part of the Florida Task Force, we are looking
to data and science to drive those conversations.
–John Tolbert, President & Managing Director of Boca Raton, Resort & Club, A Waldorf Astoria Resort

“If it’s just hospitality that says it’s ok to travel, maybe 25 percent will; if the government says it’s ok to travel maybe another 25 percent, but if it’s government, the health systems and travel & tourism, it goes up to 60 to 70 percent. We need to restore confidence that these are the best places to be, cleaner than your home.”

Dow did note, too, that he thinks when we’re on the other side of this that travel & tourism will be a “better industry because of this,” with Tolbert emphatically adding that “the biggest tragedy would be if nothing changes coming out of this time—we all need to be reimagining our businesses.”