Tuesday, March 17, 2020

An Open Letter to Travel Industry Professionals during the Coronavirus Pandemic: True Stories & Gratitude

Travel Industry Professionals of San Diego PROST

An Open Letter to Travel Industry Professionals



Dear Travel Industry Family,

We know we are all in this together. Together, we are facing hardship unlike anything we’ve seen before. The future of travel, OUR future of manifesting “dreams come true” for others, is uncertain. But one thing is certain. We are a family, and we have each other’s backs. 

These are trying times. I know many of you are dealing with cancellations, angry travelers, and frightened, unhappy customers. I cannot extend enough gratitude and compassion for those airline reps, cruise staff, hotel clerks and other employees on the front lines being subject to an onslaught of blame and anger as you try to resolve what you can without losing it. I respect you for your professionalism, grace and composure. And I commend you for your brave faces and showing up to work each day knowing it could very well be your last. THANK YOU.

Travel agents and advisors, you have your hands full and are working hard to do everything possible in the best interest of your clients. They are lucky for you. You’ve got their backs. Perhaps there is a silver lining for you especially. This could very well be a turning point and great lesson to travelers currently spending hours trying to get through to online booking engines, where they are lost in long phone queues and unanswered e-mails. That’s not to under-appreciate those customer service agents either! But for those travelers who have an agent personally looking after them, whom they know they can call in a crisis, who will bend over backwards to serve them, well, you deserve a standing ovation. You put forward the best face of the travel industry in times like these. THANK YOU.

Smaller independent tour and cruise operators, I appreciate you for having my back, for allowing small business-owners/writers/photographers/independent contractors like me a place to thrive and stay afloat when times are good; and for keeping me on your radar to consult for creative solutions when times are tough. Please don’t hesitate to give me a call if you’re stuck on what words to say, what images to use, anything. I’m here for you. And THANK YOU for being there for me.

We are all humans, each and every one of us. This letter would go on endlessly if I took the time to thank and acknowledge all of you, but believe me, you do not go unnoticed or unappreciated. Please know you have in me an ally, a friend, an experienced professional who's been around the world and through a few hoops and rodeos. And please know you have in the travel industry at large, a family. 

THANK YOU again for all you have done and continue to do to keep the world turning and travelers moving. If not moving, then planning…and dreaming. I don’t need to tell you, but now is not a time for hard sells or desperate pleas of selfish or corporate interest. Now is the time to think outside the box, diversify, put others before ourselves, and keep the dreams alive. After all, we are the industry of turning dreams into reality. We've got this.

Be safe, be well, look after yourselves, your families, and our beautiful planet.

Sincerely,

Here's To YOU, Travel Advisors

 In no particular order, because you are ALL important and appreciated. 



Aline Coleman, All World Travel, Inc.

Nichole Marie Coudayre, World Travel Destination Specialist

Claudia Austin Travel, Luxury Travel Agent

Laura Allen Epstein, SMART FLYER Travel Agent

Bob Lindley, Flight Attendant, American Airlines

Amit Sankhala, Owner, Encounters Asia and Jamtara Wilderness Camp

Yvette Glass, Avoya Travel Travel Agent 

Lauren Hefferon, Tour Operator Ciclismo Classico 

Judy Garcia, Travel Leadership Consultant at Direct Travel 

Steve Avalos, Director of Sales, Western U.S., European Tours and Variety Cruises

Heather Hills, Flow Voyages, Travel Advisor

Colleen Falk, Director of Sales & Marketing Chicago Marriot Naperville

Gail Berkeley, Vice President, Destinations & Adventures International Travel

Justin Smith, President, The Evolved Traveler

Comment with you favorite travel advisor, even if it's you! Just getting started here....

WATCH THIS SPACE FOR UPDATES and SHOUTOUTS to my travel industry family and friends!

Now, True Story 


On the morning of Friday the 13th, 2020, as I was scanning headlines and updates, the phone rang. I saw who was calling and expected the worst. Instead…

“Hey Kymri! Steve here. Send me your invoice right away, I want to make sure you get paid while we still can”. Then, “I have another job for you, what’s your coming week look like? We need your way with words.”

Although his message was entirely unexpected, his gesture of reaching out to me was not the least bit surprising. After a lengthy, brainstorming, and thoughtful conversation, I hung up the phone and smiled, “and so it begins...again.” 


Thank you Steve Avalos, Director of Sales, Western U.S. for both European Tours and Variety Cruises

When the Going Gets Tough

The travel industry, from large entities such as airlines, to small independent contractors like myself, is obviously taking a HUGE hit due to Coronavirus. But for veterans who’ve been working in the travel industry for 18 years or more, this is not our first rodeo. We also took a big hit on September 11, 2001, with repercussions that lasted years. We lost so much in the blink of an eye - jobs, companies, clients, payments, travel liberties. It’s taken years of commitment and hard work to build back up and recover to this point. Now, once again, we have been shaken to our core and are facing a complete unknown and uncertain future.

As someone whose passion, work and livelihood was deeply entwined in travel, and STILL IS, I would like to share some insights gleaned from that experience almost 18 years ago when buildings collapsed and planes fell and travel halted on a day, month, year that we will NEVER FORGET.

It’s a Small World


While this is only just becoming apparent to some, anyone working in the travel industry will concur, it IS a small world. We have friends and colleagues and clients spanning across the globe. We’re just a phone call away from someone who can help almost anywhere in the world, and who can share the realities from afar. We know, firsthand, the interconnectedness of our global community.

The travel industry is a small world, too. Over the years, the same names and faces bounce around and re-appear in different positions, at different companies, bringing with them an arsenal of experience and a growing resource of contacts. It’s an industry where bridges are built, not burned. 

We Are a Big Family


From airlines to cruise lines to tour operators to hotel chains to travel agents to small independent contractors like me, we all understand the value of relationships. We are there for each other, working together as one family to stay afloat. Maintaining those valuable relationships ensures that someone will always have your back, and that you will have theirs should the tables be turned.

We Understand What Comes Around Goes Around


When one of us is in a position to help a former colleague who may have lost a job, we pick up the phone and call that person first. In times like these, we offer up our services to each other and to clients and help where we can. These small day-to-day gestures of faith and goodwill have a way of coming back grander, and often when least expected. 

Second True Story


As an emerging travel photographer, I had been introduced to the brother of a former colleague (more of a friend, really) I had worked with in travel. He was expanding his tour operations to include India, and I had recently been to India. When 9/11 hit, he was in the process of selecting images from two albums of slide transparencies I delivered to him (that’s how it worked back then, the honor system of handing over physical tangible assets). Building that relationship was an important lead, so when he called asking to use several, but being unable to pay at the time, I didn’t hesitate. His brochures were beautiful and I was honored to see my images in print. Sure enough, as the dust settled, and when I least expected it, a check arrived in the mail, along with a query for more. I never doubted his integrity, and in return I earned a loyal, paying client for years to come. 


Ever grateful to Jim Berkeley, Founder & CEO of Destinations & Adventures International Travel

As one of my guests on tour with me in Namibia said, “Good things come to good people.” The t-shirt one of my guests wore throughout a People to People tour in Cuba put it most simply, “what comes around goes around.”  




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