Arnie Weissmann
Arnie Weissmann

A number of you have written in response to my recent columns regarding the Covid-19 crisis, and this morning I found a note in my inbox from Dan Mahar, CEO of Tauck.  

After framing the beliefs that guide his management philosophy, he shared a communique he had sent to his team that I think could serve as a model for management-to-staff messaging during this period of uncertainty. With teams throughout the industry working from home (as ours now does at Travel Weekly), I found its blend of motivation, gratitude and realism striking just the right tone for these times. It ends with a poem that frames what we're all going through in a perspective that's too easily lost in the whirlwind of our new and serious responsibilities -- personal and professional -- and our concerns about what the next day will bring. Having obtained Dan's permission, I'd like to share it with you:

Re: Your column, "Surviving, and after":

Arnie, I have led through two dramatic impacts -- 9/11 and financial crisis -- and tons of smaller ones related to weather, terror, unrest.

Through all of these, I firmly believe that the same philosophies that enable a business to thrive prior to a crisis are the ones that will enable it to survive (and perhaps thrive) during a crisis. 

Do not forget: Take care of your team, and help your team take care of your customers. Those are still the primary keys. No doubt, managing expenses, choosing what to suspend or sustain, and other decisions (without a playbook) are essential and challenging. But the overriding philosophies around "always doing the right thing" and taking care of your team and your customers is what will help companies thrive. Business will come back. People's desire for time with friends/family and experiences will remain. 

Who knows? It may even deepen, as you suggest toward the end of your column. I recall a survey by American Express following the 2009 downturn titled "present tense reality." The survey showed that upscale customers realized the world was really screwed up at the moment (politically, financially, etc.), but that they were okay personally, and they valued "relationships" and "experiences" even more. Time with friends/family and travel emerged as being most valuable. The survey also spoke to the importance of the "moments" at the time of sale, when people's desire to serve made it special. Travel advisors across the country will be the front line here, and their readiness to "serve" clients will be so critical to the recovery.

Thanks for keeping the messages flowing. While everyone is dealing with cancellations for spring travel, people need to feel hopeful, and we know there will be better days ahead. Not sure exactly when yet. But they will come. 

As regards taking care of our team at Tauck, Tuesday (St. Patrick's Day) was the first day of our work-at-home schedule. People love our campus and office environment -- it's a special place.  I was concerned it was a bit lonely for some people to be apart from their colleagues and wanted them to know we were thinking of them. And I thought of the "porch light" as a metaphor. It's the beacon that's symbolic of a place of comfort/welcome. The porch light will help sustain our team until the time when we're physically back together once more, again pursuing our vision and serving our guests. 

Here's what I sent Tuesday evening: 

Good Evening Team -- 

Day One is now history! Our work-from-home experience has commenced. And I miss seeing you all! I hope you're all doing well and feeling healthy. And thinking of your loved ones too. It's important we take this step to spread out -- as so many individuals and businesses are doing across our country; together our American spirit is rallying to do what we each can do to win! It's heartening.

I'd like to thank the entire IT department for their amazing hard work in enabling the connectivity we all are using today. We asked them to put a plan together just one week ago today, at our March business review. And now, it's become a reality. We are so grateful for your service to us all.

As you know, we are seeing many cancellations in April/May 2020. Fortunately, our guests are keeping their bookings for summer/fall. It's so important -- perhaps one of the most important things we can all do -- to encourage and facilitate the ability of our guests to transfer to a later date this year or any time in 2021. Our guests are so critical to us always, and especially in challenging times like this. My sincere thanks to our entire reservations team for all you're doing to serve our patrons and advisors and to retain them for future travel. All our energies must be directed towards making this happen.

Stay close to your colleagues during this time. Keep communication channels flowing. Keep connected with our guests, our travel advisors, our supplier/partners. Together, this amazing group of people and companies will endure through this period.

There is a great saying, "Home is where the heart is" -- and our "home" at Wilton Woods is dark at present. But truly, the porch light is on -- and it will be there shining bright for us to welcome us back as soon as we can be there. 

And last -- Happy St Patrick's Day! I received a note today from a tour director in Ireland, who shared the prayer/poem below, credited to a Capuchin Franciscan brother named Richard:

Yes there is fear.
Yes there is isolation.
Yes there is panic buying.
Yes there is sickness.
Yes there is even death.
They say that in Wuhan after so many years of noise
You can hear the birds again.
They say that after just a few weeks of quiet
The sky is no longer thick with fumes
But blue and grey and clear.
They say that in the streets of Assisi
People are singing to each other
across the empty squares,
keeping their windows open
so that those who are alone
may hear the sounds of family around them.
They say that a hotel in the West of Ireland
Is offering free meals and delivery to the housebound.
Today a young woman I know
is busy spreading fliers with her number
through the neighbourhood
So that the elders may have someone to call on.
Today churches, synagogues, mosques and temples
are preparing to welcome
and shelter the homeless, the sick, the weary
All over the world people are slowing down and reflecting
All over the world people are looking at their neighbours in a new way
All over the world people are waking up to a new reality
To how big we really are.
To how little control we really have.
To what really matters.
To love.
So we pray and we remember that
Yes there is fear.
But there does not have to be hate.
Yes there is isolation.
But there does not have to be loneliness.
Yes there is panic buying.
But there does not have to be meanness.
Yes there is sickness.
But there does not have to be disease of the soul
Yes there is even death.
But there can always be a rebirth of love.
Wake to the choices you make as to how to live now.
Today, breathe.
Listen, behind the factory noises of your panic
The birds are singing again
The sky is clearing,
Spring is coming,
And we are always encompassed by love.
Open the windows of your soul
And though you may not be able
to touch across the empty square,


From Our Partners

2020 Yalla Tours Webinar
Expo Dubai World Fair, Cuba, Egypt & More with Ronen Paldi of Ya’lla Tours USA
Register Now
Sandos Hotels & Resorts
Read More
2020 Kaanapali Beach Hotel Webinar
Exciting News at Kāʻanapali Beach Hotel
Watch Now

JDS Travel News JDS Viewpoints JDS Africa/MI