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A thought on the COVID 19 Pandemic and travel business owners !

With the COVID 19 pandemic catching the world by surprise, many of us were not ready for strict social isolation measures. The Coronavirus was looked at as a “Foreign” Virus by most governments, but within a few days, the virus became a global pandemic reaching all the corners of the planet. As many of us were caught off guard, unreadiness and chaos came to prominence along with rumors, false information, new social and health standards and much more !

It’s no secret that a lot of people are suffering during these hard times but also a lot of sectors and economic structures are forced to close and wait for the unknown. The travel and hospitality businesses are of course the first to endure the consequences of events of such national or international caliber. This time however, we have no ETA for remedy or cure (at least for the time being !), we are putting ourselves in self Isolation, forcing ourselves out of our businesses but also “we don’t know if this is going to end soon or last forever” adding to the endless uncertainties that our world’s currently facing. I mean, some people even think it is the end of the world ! Unless proven otherwise, there’s nothing that proves it’s not. Did you notice this sequence ? We started from socioeconomic analysis of the global travel industry and we ended up in the end of the world ! How in the world did we get there ? It’s just the brain structure, our thinking mechanism, our vulnerable human nature and we just have to embrace it but also face it.

When we talk about damages caused by the pandemic, small business owners will have a lot to say. French VIP Service was started as a bridge travel agency linking the French speaking tourists to U.S attractions and mainly those in South Florida. As we started, our services grew to include non-french speaking tourists. Our business is based on two elements : people and attractions. Well, the people aren’t coming and the attractions are shutting. With a simple math operation, you’ll realize that we’re technically unoperational until further notice. As I am putting this article together, I hear that the Mayor of Miami ordered all bars, restaurants, clubs to close immediately after 11 PM tonight (3/17/2020). Our best sellers include city, beach, social and nightlife packages. Now, we’re 100% sure we’re out of business – at least for a while. As optimists, it is safe to say that we’ll finally have some time to scale our future operations, sales & marketing and rethink our general strategy. As managers and business developers, putting in place a contingency plan that tackles the next few days and maybe weeks is vital for our existence.

As a manager and a business developer, here are my priorities for the next few days and maybe even weeks :

  1. Getting Informed. And by saying informed I mean “Legit information” coming out of official government sources and health organizations. Panic creates chaos and chaos creates panic and they all originate from false or misleading information. 
  2. Keep Safe, follow the instructions of official health organizations in your city/state/country. 
  3. Keeping an eye on the local market and by saying market I mean : trends, providers, resellers and everyone involved in the customer service journey. 
  4. Building a contingency plan. Contingency means survival. As we speak, Doordash, Grubhub and Ubereats are experiencing heavy phone demand on their services by restaurants touched by the closure decision we mentioned up there. Restaurants are moving to delivery options as an alternative since they can’t allow customers on their premises. . As a travel re-seller, we need to focus on what serves the population safely during this difficult time even if this means serving as travel planners for the next 2 seasons ahead. We have plenty of time in isolation, why not invest it in building strong rapports with current and future customers. 
  5. Every disaster reshapes the future. 9/11 changed our security measures, Katrina changed our emergency interventions and this pandemic will do the same. We have then to start thinking about what is to change in the travel industry. Have a talk with your team, as I said earlier, you have plenty of time to brainstorm. Some companies took this a bit further (by measure of their means of course), I received an email by a major communication company calling clients to brainstorm with the management on ways to have an effective work-from-home strategy and how to get the best out of the internet technologies out there. Invest in ideas, these are precious moments, they say : “need is the mother of invention” and at these times, everyone is in need of something. So, what’s your next idea ?
  6. Think about your health in general. If you’re in self-isolation just playing the safe card, make sure to do some in-home work-out exercises. Burning calories helps reduce stress levels and stress is every business owner’s enemy. Have mindful and quality time conversations with family members, friends and customers. If stress seems to be too much to handle, consider therapy, and yes, all therapy and mental health services are in the process of integrating teletherapy during this time (one of our clients is doing so). 

My losses as a small business owner operating in the travel industry are nothing compared to some businesses that I deal with. Miami lives on tourism and so does South Florida in general. We thrive on our high standards of hospitality. We are sure we will recover and we can even have a rebound Tsunami effect meaning, if this virus somehow gets cured, we can comfortably presume on overload of upcoming reservations of people who cancelled out their plans due to the pandemic. If this scenario takes place, then we will have to be ready to serve !

We will be sharing our thoughts and opinions here and there. Stay strong and tuned !

Written by our tourism professional Marcelo O. for French VIP Service

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