There are rays of sunlight amid the dark clouds, says Cosmos and Avalon chief executive Giles Hawke
In this environment of doom and gloom, it’s sometimes hard to find positives to write about.
The travel industry feels under siege: coronavirus, an impending no-deal Brexit, upcoming Atol renewals, rising unemployment and what feels like almost daily announcements about company failures.
But these failures aren’t related to how well or badly the businesses have been run. Nobody would have expected to need to be prepared for several months of costs without revenue during a period which normally drives annual profit creation.
Previous crises in travel have lasted for days or weeks in most cases, and business interruption limited for most businesses, but the current situation is so vastly different in terms of magnitude and impact. Any previous business wisdom and approach needs to be thrown out and replaced with a new way of thinking and behaving – assuming, that is, businesses have the funds and the plans to remain solvent until the ‘new normal’ is established.
Our business has moved from waiting to action stations in the last few weeks. We’ve been looking at new product lines, new ways of selling, new protocols and reassurance messages, new markets and people doing new things.
Flexibility is a new byword in terms of what we do each day and we’re asking our people to be open to doing different things and doing things differently.
We’re busy making plans for how we will keep our people busy and productive once furlough ends and we revert to a full team. How can we better support our agent partners? How do we engage in one-to-one marketing activity with our database? How do we review everything to be as efficient and effective as possible? How do we keep our cost base as low as we can? We have some plans to try to drive some volume at the back end of this year, but our key focus now is 2021, with a view that 2020 will be largely, and unfortunately, written off.
This shift from waiting to action stations has had a rejuvenating effect on us all – we have a renewed sense of purpose, energy and optimism. We have decided we no longer want to be hostage to what coronavirus and incompetent government throws at us. We’re focused on the mantra that it is better to try and to fail than to not try at all.
This renewed sense of optimism is infectious and uplifting and is creating positivity and belief. We are hard-wired to be active and busy, to find solutions and to strive to succeed and survive.
We are all fighting for survival in the travel industry at the moment and are all somewhat hostage to fortune, but we can and should look at every way possible to try to make something out of this horrendous situation.
On the bright side, the reality is that, at some point, we will be in a new normal: people will travel again, companies will spring up to replace those no longer here, and there will be opportunities and jobs for most of those affected right now.
That may not feel positive for those who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own or their employers’, but things will improve. This might sound like cold comfort right now, but we are all in this together and we will come out the other side.
The unknown is how long it will take and the toll it will take in the meantime. Charities such as Abta LifeLine – and its new TravelCares campaign – are there to support industry colleagues. Those of us who can should support LifeLine so it can lessen the devastating impact on those adversely affected.
A group of us are cycling again in September to raise funds for the Family Holiday Association. These funds are needed more now than ever. Please give what you can to such good causes.
Despite the dark clouds, there are rays of sunlight. The storm will pass and positives will come to the fore. We must keep our heads up, look for positives and do what we can to look after each other.
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