It's painful and personal for us in the travel industry to hear about the losses suffered by our friends and colleagues in areas devastated by hurricanes Harvey and Irma.
And if you have done your job well in matching travelers with the perfect vacation experience, it might be equally painful for your clients, as well. They, too, have spent time with tourism workers. They know them not only as waiters and housekeepers and general managers, kids club counselors and guides but as fellow humans who have families, homes and a life outside of work.
They may even have proprietary feelings about certain properties and destinations, places they look forward to returning to year after year.
Your clients and guests, too, are in shock and perhaps mourning losses that feel very personal.
You brought them to the places they regard as an extension of their home and introduced them to people they have come to regard as friends and extended family. Now you have the opportunity to help move your clients and guests past feelings of helplessness they may experience when reading about the catastrophes.
Many international organizations are providing short-term relief. But for tourism and hospitality workers across much of the Caribbean and Texas, the suffering created by winds and water in late summer 2017 will last for months, possibly years, as they not only rebuild their lives but wait for employers to restore their livelihoods.
Although longer-term recovery is as important as short-term relief efforts, it's human nature for even well-meaning people to move on to other concerns once the critical relief phase has ended.
Fortunately, there's an organization, Tourism Cares, dedicated to helping the industry's workers, enterprises and destinations recover after a disaster. Following the destruction of Harvey and Irma, it reached out to partner with 12 tourism organizations to create a Destination Disaster Recovery Fund. (Full disclosure: I serve on the board of Tourism Cares.)
Whether you're a travel adviser or supplier, if you have ever helped a client or guest establish a relationship with a destination and its residents, Tourism Cares would welcome your partnership, as well.
There are several ways to help your clients and guests provide meaningful assistance to the people and places they care about. For example, Tourism Cares will provide any travel agency or supplier with a company-specific URL to use to interact with customers who wish to donate to help stricken areas.
At the Pure conference in Marrakech last week, I spoke about this possibility with Kerri Lisa, director of global partnerships and development at Four Hundred, a Virtuoso-affiliated, membership-only retailer that provides personalized travel services to high-net-worth clients. Over the years, she has sent many of her members to the islands of St. Barts and Anguilla, which were heavily damaged.
Her clients, she said, "would expect us to come to them with something like this. If we didn't offer them these types of opportunities, I wouldn't be doing my job."
She said that her clients would not only be glad to help but would feel an even closer tie when some of the properties reopen.
"My job includes the booking of hotels and vacations," she said. "But it's also my job to look for ways to engage people deeply with travel and destinations."
Those interested in procuring a white-label URL to provide to consumers who might want to donate to the recovery fund should contact John Yonce ([email protected]).
Other options for collecting contributions to the fund would be to solicit, and possibly match, donations from your employees. Or perhaps let your clients and guests know that you will donate either a fixed amount or a percentage of any trip you book. You could also offer a point-of-sale donation option on your website or over the phone.
The collected money will be spent to:
- Restore valuable but vulnerable tourism sites and attractions.
- Invest in social enterprises so that travel fully benefits those most in need.
- Foster skills training and workforce development, especially for those displaced or temporarily out of work.
- Build greater capacity for tourism and cultural nonprofits.
- Promote recovery tourism through marketing and by engaging industry buyers.
In addition to working in conjunction with the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association and Texas Travel Industry Association, the 12 other organizations working in partnership with Tourism Cares are ASTA, CLIA, USTOA, U.S. Travel, the National Tour Association, the National Association of Career Travel Agents, the American Bus Association, the Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International, Destinations International, Skal, the Southeast Tourism Society and the Student & Youth Tourism Association.
Tourism Cares has gained significant experience, and met success, with helping industry workers affected by the earthquake in Nepal. Details about what it accomplished there and with its other programs can be found at www.tourismcares.org.
So please consider deepening your ties to clients while helping them connect even more closely with the places they love. And while you're at it, consider getting involved with Tourism Cares and making a donation yourself, joining early donors, including NYC & Company, Abercrombie & Kent Philanthropy, Adara, Amadeus IT Group, AIG Travel, Bucuti and Tara Beach Resort, Globus, MaCher, the Jordan Tourism Board North America, Shackman Associates, Robin Tauck and myself.
Correction: Kerri Lisa is director of global partnerships and development at Four Hundred, a Virtuoso-affiliated, membership-only retailer. Her name was misspelled in an earlier version of this column.