I've run in several marathons around the world, crossing the bridges and boroughs of New York City, climbing the historic hills of Jerusalem and even joining a race up Aspen Mountain. Prior to the pandemic, I had plans to go to Paris this April to run a 26.2-mile route there.
For many of us in the travel industry, it feels as if we're running a marathon every day, struggling to keep our businesses moving forward. But in this marathon, there's an additional challenge: We have no idea how far ahead of us the finish line may be.
Worse still, it's a race that feels as if it's uphill all the way, with the incline increasing the further we go.
As painful and challenging as it may be, we know failure is not an option. And we know that when we get to the end, we will be better for it: We will have learned more about our potential and created strategies that will serve us well in future races.
And it will, I believe, end in a runner's high.
One thing I was happy to discover when I began to run marathons is that runners help each other along the course. We hand water to one another, get out of the way if someone wants to pass, pick up a fellow runner when he or she falls. True, fellow runners are competitors, but without them, the race is meaningless. Nothing good comes from a runner dropping out. The field becomes incrementally less interesting.
There has never been a longer, steeper, more challenging race than the one leisure travel retailers and suppliers find themselves in right now. To cross the finish line will require a marathoner's perspective and unity from all of us. In a marathon, competitors become teammates, and when the field is still crowded at the end of the race, everyone feels better about themselves.
To use a metaphor from a different type of racing, the industry recently hit a worst-case trifecta: pandemic, economic setbacks and the urgent need to confront social inequality. How do we make sense of this confluence of events while simply trying to keep our businesses alive?
Selling leisure travel is a form of entrepreneurship, and entrepreneurs are wired to be productive. Business is slow, but time is precious. We know our industry is likely to be the last to fully recover. People are afraid to travel, nervous to be in crowds, uneasy about spending money during uncertain times.
I'm in advertising, a subset of media. My company, The World's Greatest Vacations, sends out a million targeted digital media impressions every week and 1.1 million premium direct mail pieces to the most active vacation traveler households each spring and fall on behalf of suppliers.
Those of us in media have an opportunity and responsibility to help the travel community as it runs this uphill marathon. The World's Greatest Vacations would like to offer, free of charge, use of our resources to lend you a helping hand during the pandemic.
We know that staff cuts have become the unfortunate norm, and I'd like to make our team of digital, design and marketing experts available to help you get your message out to our highly targeted consumers. We can even provide photo/videography imagery on your behalf. Let consumers know what you're doing, when you're opening and how to take advantage of flexible bookings and great rates. Our multiple channels, site and newsletter are yours to tap.
In addition to the lessons I've learned about teamwork with competitors during marathons, I also embrace difficulties in my past that serve as constant inspiration. I had a form of epilepsy that caused 20 seizures every month. I was fortunate after 22 years of uncontrolled seizures to have successful brain surgery 16 years ago and am one of the few people cured of epilepsy. I'm a bonafide medical miracle, and although my experience was not typical, it underscores the importance of perseverance and my belief that none of us succeeds alone.
All who make it to the other end of this particular marathon will be winners. We're here to help you get there, so please don't be shy to let us know if you need a helping hand. You can contact me at [email protected].
Richard Shane is the founder and CEO of the World's Greatest Vacations.