Written By: Jesse Morris, Owner – We Book Travel, LLC
Starting a business is scary. One of the “What If” scenarios that keep me awake at night became real recently with Covid-19. I am coming upon my three year anniversary of jumping feet first into the travel world and this very scenario was one of the things that concerned me. More experienced agents have compared this to September 11th in that business has dried up. The saying “This too shall pass” comes to mind and I am sure its true, but that doesn’t make me feel less scared.
I would bet that many of you are scared too. My business is mostly cruises and people are terrified of what might happen. The news media coverage has put everyone on high alert, even in situations where it’s unwarranted. Let me be clear, everyone should take this outbreak seriously. At the same time, some people are treating it like the world is coming to an end. My brain knows that unless you are elderly or have a compromised immune system then getting Coronavirus is akin to having a really bad cold or the flu (or so I have been told). I have read articles from people that actually have the virus who say it really isn’t that bad but preventing the spread so that we do not overwhelm our healthcare system needs to be a high priority. The CDC website has great information that allow our clients to make smart decisions about travel. Intellectually, I know that we will be fine. Our industry will recover and thrive. However, my heart tells me a different story.
I am writing this at the beginning of March and so it’s hard to say what the situation will be by the time this is published. Everything could be over and all right with the world, it could be much worse or it could be exactly the same. In any event, those things that scare me will persist on. I worry about viral outbreaks. I worry about war. I worry about terrorism. I worry about nonsensical things that I know in my head will never come to be but my heart doesn’t use logic. Travel is how I feed my family and I am sure that for many of you thats true as well. Owning a business means being smart enough to know how to navigate these unknowns using logic and proper planning. Owning a business means not allowing your heart to overrule your brain.
If we look back in the history of our industry, so many businesses failed because they were not prepared for the “What Ifs”. When airlines decided they didn’t really need us, agencies either had to adapt or die. When the internet made it easy for people to be their own booking agent, successful agencies adapted while order takers perished. Even if we assume that this viral outbreak were to end tomorrow the truth is that another “flu” will happen. Wars happen. The unknown and unforeseeable happens. So we have a choice. Do we close up shop, bury our heads in the sand, and allow fear to overtake judgement or do we adapt.
The needs of your business will be different than mine. How I plan and prepare will differ from you. You may not be able to anticipate and prepare for every threat. However, having a response plan is not just a good idea, its critical to the sustainability of your business. If you were to have no bookings for six months, could your business survive it? How would you adapt? What is your response plan? Without a plan, my head wouldn’t be able to keep my heart at bay. I am still scared, but I am prepared for it.
Feel free to share your thoughts with me at [email protected].
EDIT: It’s been 4 weeks since I wrote this. Our entire industry has paused and we are all being tested in ways that most people did not anticipate. Fortunately we are presented with an amazing opportunity. We have the chance to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt what we have said all along, there is value in using a travel agent. Our industry is going to be thrust in the spotlight more now than ever before. Our response will determine our future. Together we can get through this and together we can push our industry to new heights.