Crawling out from the Challenges Provides Insight for us All
Written By: Jackie Friedman, CTC, CTIE, President – Nexion Travel Group
Ask anyone who has ever missed a step or taken an unexpected tumble, that uncomfortable feeling of being out of control stays with you. On the next walk down the stairs, you might find yourself gripping the railing a little tighter and closely watching your feet. Many travel advisors are dealing with a similar anxiety as a result of the pandemic. Even though things are getting better and many advisors say they have never been busier, the memory of their discomfort stays with them.
In 2019, we were riding high. Yes, we dealt with terror attacks and smaller outbreaks of illnesses in recent history, but nothing could stop people’s passion for travel. Except, as it turns out, a global pandemic. I won’t belabor the events that followed, but it shook travel advisors to the core. And as the months passed, and it started to dawn on us that this pandemic wasn’t going to be over quickly, fear set in.
That type of fear, brought on by a sense of helplessness, is not something you just shake off. So many travel advisors were dipping into savings, taking on second jobs, laying off staff and facing the grim knowledge that they might eventually run out of runway. Thankfully we did have relief programs, but those will never compare to the revenue from a thriving business. And while advisors are grateful for bookings coming back, it feels a little bit like whiplash. As an industry—not to mention as a global population—we endured a collective trauma, and that doesn’t disappear because your phone is ringing again.
I can’t tell you that something like this will never happen again, and that is part of the trauma—events like this make you realize that nothing is ever certain. But we can move forward by taking lessons from the pandemic and applying them to our businesses as the world opens back up. Here are some things you can do to regain control in this chaotic time:
01. You now unfortunately have experienced what it takes to keep your business running. Write down everything you need to be able to pay for to keep the lights on, and then file it away. Hopefully you will never have to refer back to it, but it is useful to list out what a bare bones business would look like.
02. Join an industry association like ASTA. The relief funds I mentioned earlier were made available to travel advisors in large part because of ASTA’s lobbying efforts. It is so important to be involved and advocate for the travel advisor profession.
03. Make education and training a focus, even in a busier environment. Developing your niche is crucial to reaching new clients, and you need to be able to present yourself as the expert you are.
04. Think of ways you can develop immediate cash flow, including always selling travel insurance and charging professional fees, as I spoke about in my last column. It is good to have a roadmap to ensure money is coming in regularly, even if it is not at time of travel.
05. If you’re not part of a host or consortia, start looking at your options. They offer fantastic programs and tools that will grow your business, and that you might not have access to on your own.
06. Be kind to yourself. It is OK to still have a sense of ongoing concern after something like COVID-19.
We might be worrying about the falling that could happen in the future, but I know that if we take a deep breath, do things to take control and harness our fears into something productive, we will be able to make useful the lessons of the pandemic.