Hey! That's me! From March 19th, 2020. Sitting at my desk, headset firmly attached to my ear, probably on hour ten on hold (no joke - I soon began making Spotify playlists of the hold music to entertain myself) with one of the many companies to cancel my clients' upcoming trips. Those last two weeks in March 2020 were the longest hours I've worked yet in this job, and since my position is 100% commission-based, dependent on clients traveling, I was working all of those hours to actively make no money.
No, it's not a flattering photo. But it's a real photo of what the onset of the COVID-19 global pandemic was like for those of us in the travel industry. As I sat there for hours on hold while simultaneously refreshing my newsfeeds and reading Facebook posts, I became increasingly concerned for the future of my industry.
Tracking the COVID-19 Pandemic
Since January 2020 I had been obsessively following the updates from a friend of mine, an American ex-pat living in Shenzhen, China (now collected into a book that you can buy!), and the latest out of Italy, where I had had clients traveling in February 2020. It was difficult to wrap my brain around what I was certain was coming - the messages of forced optimism coming from within the industry balanced with the experiences of friends and acquaintances around the world didn't line up.
I work in an industry that is dependent on leaving home. How do you balance that with being a responsible global citizen and steward? How do I advise clients who are looking to me as a travel professional to make decisions on their upcoming travel? What is going to happen to all the small hotels and tour companies that I loved working within the Before Times? Will they all survive?
Responsible Pandemic Travel
As the world began to reopen in the summer of 2020, my clients (and myself) ran the gamut from being ready to be back out in the world to not being comfortable entertaining the idea of travel, compounded by the shaming happening on social media channels. Whatever choice someone made in regards to taking tentative steps back into the world, in someone's eyes it was the wrong one and they were super happy to tell you why.
I first decided to take a path that I normally take in all aspects of life: a path based on science, logic, and neutrality. I began sending my clients twice-monthly updates on the state of the industry - what was open for travel, entry requirements, and trends I was seeing in the airline and hotel industries. Providing information so that my clients could make informed decisions about what was right for themselves, and always remain their advocate on whatever their decision was.
My first set of clients to travel post-March 2020 left on August 8, 2020. My first international clients traveled in December 2020. And at the other end of the spectrum, I just canceled a trip last week that was scheduled for November of 2020, pushed back to November of 2021, and now will hopefully be rescheduled for November of 2022, depending on the circumstances.
ALL OF THESE ARE VALID CHOICES.
COVID-19 Travel Research
In August 2020 I decided to stay relevant to the travel industry in the eyes of current and potential clients by starting a podcast to highlight various destinations and small hotels and restaurants that one day people could one day visit again. The project never got off the ground, because in the course of working with a market trend consultant I began to realize that travel might not reemerge in the way it had been pre-Covid era due to a confluence of circumstances - change in priorities and change in financial situations chief amongst those. And what the research and forecasting were showing was not lining up with the agency where I worked.
So, like pretty much everyone else in the service industry, I reevaluated my work circumstances. Was there a better model? Could the role of travel "agent" or "advisor" evolve into something different? How do we position ourselves in relation to both clients and local businesses to promote the success of both?
Starting Holiday Road Adventures
Cheryl and I got to talking, and then our talks become more serious. And then in August of 2021, I participated in the Great Resignation and let the owners of my agency know that I would not be renewing my contract for 2022 and was starting something new. It was a really tough decision - I've really enjoyed where I've been! I just...wanted to pivot and saw an opportunity to create an innovative model for a new global environment.
So here's what you'll find at Holiday Road Adventures:
An agency whose focus is You. The client.
We are a general travel agency and do not focus on any one type of travel or destination. We have agents that specialize in various things, but as an agency, we feel it better to be here for whatever your dreams may be.
We consider ourselves a travel services company rather than an agency. Over the coming months, we will be releasing more features to create a digital community of travelers and provide our clients resources from the beginning of their dreams to their fruition of them.
We lead with curiosity and seek to foster connections between ourselves and local establishments around the world.
Come join us. And we'll see you soon.