I do firmly believe that steering a business through the kind of battering that we have had to face in the last couple of years has had a lot to do with balance. Analysing the challenges that lie before us at the start of any new year has proven to be a challenge in itself and the unpredictability of the COVID pandemic, its resilience and determination to re-invent itself, has made it an almost an impossible task. Like the Captain of a ship that is embarking on a voyage upon treacherous seas, we can but chart our next course and simply try to take all precautions against the worst kind of storms. I think therefore, that it would be irresponsible to just breathe a sigh of relief that we have now been green-lighted again to travel internationally, without assessing the potential challenges that lie ahead of us – but subsequent analysis of the great opportunities that could lie ahead of us, and balancing the two, should give us a reasonable chance of navigating our way through 2022 relatively unscathed.
This year has started with rapid growth and as I have alluded to in several articles, the big danger of having to lose key people in difficult times is that we now have to rebuild a greatly weakened industry, not only in the travel arena but throughout the hospitality sector. We have lost many skilled people, both in the frontline teams, as well as support staff knowledgeable in the travel sector but a massive challenge is to try to onboard people who have left the industry as a whole and this includes airline, car hire, hotels, restaurants and many more. Many people have gone into other areas of employment or become entrepreneurs and started businesses. Having done that they are not likely to return to an industry that is still seen to be struggling.
Out of necessity, short term contracts had to be offered during the crisis, so a challenge is now to fit people into permanent positions again. Getting all this going again and onboarding new people comes with many challenges. It is clear that HR, Training, and IT Support, roles for example, also need to grow as we onboard the revenue generators, to support that business growth. We have to attract this talent out of other industries outside of travel, that would possibly not experienced as much upheaval as travel. We are now faced with intricately, complicated compliances and protocols and customers need to be led by the hand throughout the travel experience. This too will place a huge burden on the number of travel professionals available to perform such a function but will be an essential factor towards recovery.
Another issue is now assessing which of the suppliers you were using are still operational, reliable and still willing or in a position to help. We have to remember that many businesses (and this certainly does not only apply to the Travel industry) who had to take loans from the Government in 2020 are due to start paying these monies back this year, so having already been financially weakened by lack of revenue, they now face an additional financial burden to continue to operate!
Now for the glass half full stuff! 2022 is already offering us opportunities we have not experienced in the last 2 years and we need to embrace and use them as incentives to get our workforce and industry back on course. People are just itching to get out and see other people, to travel again and start to rebuild their networks – face to face. As any great business person knows, body language and the nuances of an in-person conversation can be very telling and priceless in value when it comes to closing a deal. We are already seeing Product Trade Shows, events and conferences being well attended and although some attendees may still be online the move to travel to events again is certainly gaining momentum. Germany is already starting to advertise large in-person events so we can anticipate that international travel, as well as a lot of inbound travel too, as stats are showing that many who were denied access to our shores in December did not cancel but simply postponed their travel plans.
Striking the balance
Certainly, uncertainty is a challenge that we face and a lot of people will only be booking their travel very close to the departure time, still circumspect about the change of our status. But, they can also currently get excellent prices for travel and hospitality, so once again there is that balance between concern and opportunity. I do not doubt that if we can find solutions to our challenges, we can certainly take advantage of the opportunities that 2022 is already affording us. Zig Ziglar, the US motivational speaker and trainer said, “Success occurs when opportunity meets preparation”, so we need to ensure that when the tide turns, we are prepared to meet the next wave of opportunity head-on and with a perfect sense of balance between what we face and what we know we can overcome to ride the crest of the wave again in 2022.LIDIA FOLLI
CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER