How TCMs are handling the effects of Coronavirus on the travel industry

There were so many very positive projections about the travel industry as we launched into this new decade and yet right off the bat we are faced with a massive problem in the form of the global effects of the Coronavirus.

Markets are crumbling, and South Africa is said to have gone back into recession due to recent economic downturns – not the least of which was the recent massive market slump.

The effects of Coronavirus on corporate travel are of course massive. Panic scenarios of flight cancellations and redirected, or cancelled, business trips have kept TMCs very busy trying to cope with the onslaught. It is not just corporate travel either, the leisure & MICE businesses are also being severely affected – i.e. the entire travel supply chain is being impacted.

The challenges Travel Advisors face

It reminds us once again that we are always subject to the great forces of nature and constantly need to ask ourselves “How should we deal with these things when they occur – and to what extent can we as TMCs be prepared for just such eventualities?”

It was only a short while ago I wrote about the role of Travel Advisors going into this new decade and promised to write a follow-up article on some of the challenges that they face. Well, here they are, just months later facing one of their biggest challenges in years!

As one article by Maria Lenhart, Travel Advisor Editor of Skift put itWith so much fear and uncertainty over the fast-spreading Coronavirus, travel advisors have been challenged to keep on top of the situation and deal with the concerns of their understandably worried clients. For many, it’s been a busy couple of weeks of handling cancellations and rescheduling flights and itineraries.”

This is a challenge that is very difficult for Travel Advisors to face as their natural instinct is to try to take control and save the massive impact so many cancellations could be having on their businesses.

Handle with care

The reality, however, is that taking control should be about being in control of handling what is necessary and offering empathy and understanding to those affected clients. We come back to that all too important ‘human element’ that I have always believed should be prevalent in any difficult situation.

Those who understand the bigger picture, like risk management experts, are advising that TMCs should, rather than try to make the decision for the client, direct them to the centres of disease control to assess the level of risk for their people. They say every client will have their comfort level, so let them make their own decisions.

Light at the end of the tunnel

As many statistics and reports are showing, there is however – as is usually the case when any disaster strikes – light at the end of the tunnel. My personal advice to TMCs therefore would be to advise travellers not to make the decision to cancel too hastily. Unfortunately the scare mongering is not highlighting the positive recoveries from the virus (VIEW MORE INFO HERE)

Clients should take a little time to see what happens next before making cancellations that could negatively impact their businesses.

Riders of the storm

As human beings, especially those driven to succeed, we tend to try to influence others and take control of undesirable situations in that way. I suggest that the negative effect of this Coronavirus outbreak, as justified or unjustified as it may be, is something that goes beyond our control. It is the ‘fear of the unknown’ which can always result in what some would see as an irrational panic response.

When one comes to think of it, whenever one travels internationally there is some fear of the unknown. This is exactly why our corporate travellers like to know that you, as the Travel Advisor, has advised them correctly as to every aspect of the trip and will have their backs throughout the process.

In a case like this one, all the advice we can give our clients is to consult the experts in these matters, not to act to hastily and then make their own decision. Obviously we should back that decision up with the same expert service that we always provide.

This is one case where we, just like investors all over the world, are simply going to have to ride out the storm and take the knock. It is a better alternative to advising a client to send an employee to a potentially life-threatening situation. The unknown may not be something we should fear, but we have to, at very least, respect it.

LIDIA FOLLI

CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER

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