With the ground shifting under our feet every day, our industry is stressed. And when you're stressed, it's easy to forget that you're also loved and appreciated. So, for everyone who's feeling frazzled, I've written a love letter, addressed especially to you.
Call center and support reps: We're sorry
We know that with so many cancellations, refunds, future credit requests and (yes!) some bookings, you're hearing from some severely distressed travel advisors. They reach you after they've just spent hours calming down clients enough that they can find out their needs, have already weeded through myriad supplier policies, tried to make sense of contradictory emails and website statements and scoured FAQ pages trying to find an answer before finally picking up the phone to call you.
When you answer the phone, keep in mind that they're seeing you as a lifeline, perhaps their last hope. They're frustrated, and you're a faceless representative of the company they may feel has frustrated them. They often do not have the time, or take it, to understand what you're going through, as well. You will be the recipient of incredible angst and possibly anger. That's unfair. We may not have been the nicest of people on the phone, and for that, we're sorry. We know that many of you are doing a fantastic job under trying circumstances.
Business development managers: We're thankful
BDM/SAM/SM/NAM, whatever your title, we're super thankful for you!
Many of your counterparts and friends are furloughed. Now you're tasked with taking on multiple roles, territories and accounts, all while stuck at home (which is an additional burden for road warriors like you). Many of you are working seven days a week, glued to your email night and day, trying to keep up with escalations and clarifications and offering justifications, trying to balance the policies of the company you dearly love and the impossible scenarios you're encountering from the travel advisors you've spent your career nurturing.
Oh, and by the way, we know you're digging deep to find ways to help us all get back to selling your product or destination. Keep it up. We see you and are thankful for all that you are doing.
Industry leadership: We're believers
Your leadership throughout this pandemic will be studied and written about by business and leadership scholars for decades, chronicling how you work relentlessly to tackle the impossible. We're watching you, with amazement, as you make the tough calls and unpopular decisions, all while enduring the (often-uninformed critics) of our beloved industry.
You might be experiencing night sweats and feel on the verge of tears as an enterprise you've spent years to build is careening, yet you present a strong front to the tens of thousands of employees and their families, travel advisors, stockholders and travelers. We cannot begin to imagine the weight of the responsibility on your shoulders.
But you show up. You show up on videos, webinars, Zoom calls, Facebook Lives and conference calls. You answer our questions, lead your team, balance sensitive information with the need for transparency and candor and keep the faith that the world will want to enjoy your products when this is over. Trust your gut and your instincts; they're what earned you the position you hold today. We believe in you.
Consortia, hosts and association partners: We're in this together
We have a vital role at this momentous time in our industry. We walk the tightrope, providing our members the support, guidance, tools and pep talks they need to keep moving their businesses fiercely forward and ensure that their businesses will be there for the long haul. Let's keep working together to keep hope alive with positive, empowering and hopeful messaging. We're most definitely in this together.
Furloughed/laid off: We're bringing you back
As Covid-19 continues to hold us hostage, we are saddened with the "goodbye for now" emails that pop into our inboxes from our beloved industry friends. Our message to you is: We are all fighting, fighting hard every day, to do whatever it takes to bring you back. Your position may have been eliminated "for now," but you are still part of this industry. Don't lose touch. Reach out if you need help or advice or just want to catch up. We can't wait to welcome everyone back into our inbox and buildings. Hang in there.
Travel advisors: We're in awe!
You launched your business because your heart told you that the travel experiences you so adore, the countries you have visited and the adventures you've lived shouldn't be kept to yourselves. You love to share, and your curiosity and zest for life drove you to say, "I think I can do this for a living and help others!" You chose to march the path of transforming this passion into a profit machine. Now that your trajectory changed this year, with profits plunging or erased, you're nonetheless still finding ways to keep hope alive for your clients. You're inspiring folks to be OK with dreaming. You're balancing your clients' expectations with supplier realities, your needs and the unknowns of the world. Sure, that cruise you sold just canceled ... again. The destination that told you "c'mon down!" just said, "on second thought...". The hotel you booked closed without notice. Corporate clients have ceased traveling. You're working for free right now, and yet, you're still in it. We are in awe.
To newbies: Special love
Welcome to the best, most exciting industry ever. It's full of passionate, caring, hard-charging hope purveyors, game changers and world peacemakers. The skills and resiliency you'll learn during this time will serve you well in your business for decades to come.
To everyone who has read this far: It's coming back
You're all rock stars. We're fortunate to play a role in what will be a truly collective comeback story. Stay positive, be safe and keep the faith as we move -- fiercely forward -- together.
Jenn Lee is vice president of sales and marketing at Travel Planners International.