For the past several years we've sent a digital newsletter to our clients on the first day of each month. We write it ourselves. It contains no ads or travel hype. We accept no promotional funds, and there is no sales pitch of any kind. The smallest newsletter we've ever done was 54 pages. I thought I would share just the front page of this month's issue:
Our plan this month was to give you a status report, an update regarding where you can go and how you can best get there. It is what travel agents have always done since the earliest days, when you drove down a two-lane road until you came to town and, if you were lucky, you found a store with a globe and a poster in the window with a guy in a Hawaiian shirt and a sign above the door that read "Travel Agency."
Travel agents have been the planners of trips away from the familiar, and our offices were filled with brochures and maps. We were travel doctors, explaining the best ways one might achieve a travel goal to places far beyond the horizon. We were who you saw when you needed dream fulfillment or a simple way to get to Philadelphia.
Now that two-lane road has largely disappeared. First, travel agents got airline-supplied computers, always turned toward the agent's seat so the customer could not see the screen. The travel agent was to be the font of all knowledge. Then the internet came along. Soon, everyone had a computer and they could see flight listings in the comfort of their living room. They could YouTube their way around the world, and best of all, they could read what other travelers were saying about the places they longed to visit.
But then something happened. Soon, we were being manipulated in ways we are only now starting to fully comprehend.
Now, we know that each of us, on average, has over 1,000 pieces of specific factual data that is sold and bartered to form a more precise vessel for personalized ads that come our way.
Do you think you are ordering food with no one knowing it? Do you think you are watching shows on Netflix undetected? All of this goes into our profile, these are all data points, and they are sold by grocery stores, Google, Amazon to anyone willing to pay.
But then Covid arrived and all of a sudden everything was turned upside down. The lives we thought we had planned were disrupted, and we were forced to become the "languished generation."
So now we have the world's finest tool for the dissemination of misinformation, the computer, combined with a massive pandemic, and the travel planner is no longer in a small village along a two-way highway.
We want desperately to give you the best advice. That is what you trust us to do. But no cruise line executive can tell us for certain that they will be sailing in July, no one can predict if the hotel industry will rebound and whether people will pay $850 per night for a five-star hotel while being required to mask up outside of their rooms.
All of a sudden, the travel industry, from the very top down, has to say, "We just don't know," because, from our position, on this first day of May, that is the only truthful answer.