The new year marks not just the start of 2022, but the beginning of the third year of a pandemic that has beaten and battered the travel industry. Considering that, David Kolner, Virtuoso's senior vice president of strategy, is keeping one thing particularly top of mind: mental health.
"I think it's a major challenge for owners and managers -- or anybody, even [independent contractors] -- who are running a business," Kolner said. "They have their own level of struggles."
Being under stress for a prolonged period of time is fueling things like the so-called Great Resignation, Kolner theorized.
"But I think it's something that needs more attention, even within our own industry," Kolner said, adding that an emphasis should be placed on "the importance of helping each other during these times."
One of the things Kolner sees as a balm to stressed business owners is once again attending in-person events. These could be a way to connect with other people and process and cope together, he said.
Virtuoso has noticed a trend in recent months: When holding events, time on the agenda for people to just say hello to each other has to be doubled or tripled nowadays, instead of starting programming immediately when attendees reach a room.
"You need to put more buffer time in because people are craving these human connections," he said.
Mental health is one of the things Kolner is hoping to see an added emphasis on in 2022 (Read more of Kolner's thoughts about that, as well as those of other industry leaders, in the Dec. 27 edition of Travel Weekly, which features a look at the year ahead for the retail sector and many other areas of travel.)
"I hope we are going to be able to be more honest about [mental health] and to support each other, more so than it just being a thing that's kind of glossed over about the industry," Kolner said. "Because it has been a rough 18 months, and it's going to be, probably, a rough 2022. I don't mean that in a super negative way; I would love to raise more awareness and positivity on this."
For those unwilling to visit events in person, many virtual options are still being offered.
And outside of once again finding human connection to bolster mental health, there are numerous resources available online. To start: The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services runs MentalHealth.gov, the CDC offers some specific resources on coping with pandemic stress and the Mayo Clinic offers suggestions on Covid-19 and mental health. Here are some tips from the Small Business Administration specific to business owners. Professional counselors are also a great resource, and online services like Betterhelp.com offer online services.