The impact of COVID on the travel and tourism industry has been almost unbearable, but from every challenge comes opportunity. With that in mind, we reached out to key industry executives to learn what lessons they’ve learned from the COVID crisis.
Communication. That was top of mind for the executives. “Communication is key,” says Jennie Ho, president, Delta Vacations. “When there are so many unknowns and the world is full of uncertainty, transparent, succinct and frequent communication to our customers and employees are more important than ever.” Ann Chamberlin, v.p., sales, Scenic Group USA, concurs, pointing out that communication helped them navigate “the early stages of the pandemic, when there was so much uncertainty and unknowns.”
Adds Brad Dean, president, Discover Puerto Rico, “Open communication is crucial. Given how things are rapidly changing, we’ve found that maintaining an open line of communication is a crucial factor in ensuring travelers have all the latest information and details on protocols they must follow when visiting the Island.”
Dean also points to agility. “Agility and the ability to adapt have never been so important when undergoing the constant changes COVID-19 has thrown at us in the travel industry,” he notes.
In fact, says Jurgen Stutz, sr. v.p. of sales, marketing and distribution, Blue Diamond Resorts, “We had to learn the hard lesson that during a global pandemic, most things are completely out of your control. We must be patient and remain optimistic as we wait for travel and tourism to resume some form of normality.”
Susan Shultz-Gelino, v.p. of trade relations for American Cruise Lines, meanwhile, kept the age-old adage “keep calm and carry on” top of mind, adding that it’s important to “keep positive, stay focused on the near future, and make use of any down time now, to inform and educate yourself, so you can better serve your clients when all is back on track.”
And they were reminded, too, of the importance of travel advisors. “The pandemic did remind us that the loyalty between travel agents and a hotel brand is and will be always very important,” says Stutz, with Chamberlin pointing to “co-dependence. We really all are/were in this together and the supplier-advisor relationship has been put to the test. Working our relationships in both directions was the key to working through adversity,and servicing difficult customer service issues.”