Travel industry doesn't stand still during travel stand still:
What do people holding senior positions in tourism do when tourism largely grinds to a halt? Well, apparently they continue to keep busy with their tourism work duties.
Travel Courier reached out to a number of household tourism industry names and found that they’re remaining busy during the coronavirus pandemic, partly by preparing for the day international travellers are once again on the move.
Here are their stories:
Malia Asfour, Jordan Tourism Board North America
Count Malia Asfour among those who aren’t putting their feet up these days.
Asfour heads the Jordan Tourism Board North America office and says there’s been no reduction in her workload.
“Actually, I feel that I am busier than I have ever been and there seems to be less downtime,” she reports. “Zoom fatigue is real but I also feel that the unknown also carries its own kind of fatigue. We have been extremely busy at JTBNA, our team meets daily and we are working on phase and scenario planning with our crisis team, evaluating what content we should be sending out when and how, working on educational opportunities and webinars with the trade, communicating relevant information and keeping everyone abreast on changes and opportunities in the industry in Jordan.”
Asfour is also part of a Destination Task Force Group and Destinations for Destinations committee that’s constantly meeting and learning from each other on what destinations are doing to prepare for a comeback. Different members of her team are working with different groups and have been busy.
Asfour is keeping her fingers crossed that the travel industry will emerge stronger than ever when the pandemic ends.
“It is a strange time and we will get through this, but it is a bit murky what travel will look like and how it will evolve as we return to it,” she says. “My hope is that we learn lessons from the past and we do a better job with sustainable measures put in place.”
Paul Strachan, Bahamas Tourist Office
Working from home doesn’t equate to more free time for Paul Strachan.
In fact the opposite appears to be true.
“I’ve never been a fan of working from home because I like the social interaction of an office environment,” says Strachan, who oversees the Bahamas Tourist Office’s Canadian operation. “(But now) I have nothing to distract me during the day, so unfortunately I tend to work longer, extended hours with limited to no structured breaks. I’ve gotten slightly better over the past two weeks, as I now force myself to take a few breaks and change my scenery.
“As a start, I never thought I’d miss the routine of sitting in traffic for 45 minutes twice daily, and sometimes even longer depending on weather conditions.”
Strachan’s day now typically starts as it always has, with a quick scan of his emails so “that I have a feel for the type and scope of work I’m facing that day. I would generally use the time during my morning drive to craft mental responses and structure activities I wish to accomplish during the day. My COVID-19 commute is now two minutes, even on a busy day!”
His day continues with numerous conference calls and virtual meetings to stay connected internally and with partners. “Much like everyone else, we’re brainstorming and crafting business development plans using various scenarios, so that we are prepared for the recovery and rebuilding of our tourism product once mitigating factors are resolved.”
Strachan does set aside time for personal interests.
“I initially thought that the flexibility of working from home would allow for opportunities to take on more projects around the house and to enjoy a few hobbies,” he says. “Not so much. I enjoy gardening, but spring seemingly has not yet fully arrived, so in the meantime, I’m reading a whole lot more, I’ve baked a few desserts, and will soon be putting even more pressure on myself to create a new exercise routine.”
In the meantime, Strachan is looking forward to the end of these days of self-isolation.
“While I’ve adjusted to my new work routine, I’m really looking forward to what the new ‘normal’ will be, and to reconnecting with my colleagues, industry friends and partners in the more traditional face-to-face manner,” he states.
Amalia Meliti, Tahiti Tourisme Canada
Amalia Meliti has a number of things in common with all her tourism board colleagues, one of which was being caught off guard by the tourism-crippling coronavirus pandemic.
Meliti, responsible for Tahitian tourism promotions in this country, concedes coronavirus has presented challenges but adds that she’s adapted as needed.
“Since the start of the pandemic, along with the global community, my family and I were thrust into a situation we had never anticipated,” Meliti says. “It’s truly one of the most difficult things we’ve all had to navigate, and it’s time like this when you truly lead with your heart and not with your mind. I wake up every day believing and hoping we are getting closer to flattening the curve, and one less tragedy. We are getting closer to finding a cure, and closer to healing. I lead my daily routine with these thoughts, or manifestations, and then go about the day taking care of my two young boys and many industry Zoom calls. Being home with young children means there is no ‘daily’ routine, I pivot every single day for them because if you have kids and are going through this pandemic, you know that no day is the same.”
But Meliti also is admirably devoting time to assist another group of people who now have their hands full.
“It is incredibly important for me to show our kids the importance of helping their local communities as much as possible,” Meliti says. “Now that we have more time to offer support to our communities, I’ve been able to get involved with my sons’ schools in offering meal support for their teachers who are continuing to educate via virtual classroom. I am excited about this effort because I called the school principal to see how we can do something special for our teachers during Teacher’s Appreciation Week. This resulted in what I dubbed the ‘Meal Train.’ Typically, this is something you set up for a person you know is either sick or caring for someone who is sick and has less resources to cook or buy groceries. We used this model to show our appreciation for teachers by taking the load of cooking as they manage their own at-home challenges and helping our kids to get an education. For many families around the world, teachers have been our true heroes during this pandemic, and I cannot thank them enough, so why not cook for them? Along with other parents, I will be delivering a three-course dinner for each teacher and their families for the entire week, and sending a bottle of Tahitian monoi oil as a stress reliever. It keeps me calm, so I hope it will do the same for them.”
Meanwhile, Meliti has found a silver lining in the coronavirus cloud.
“I think I’ll miss the open schedule, being able to talk to friends and family so freely (when the pandemic ends),” Melitist says. “Even though we are practicing social distancing and facing uncertainty, this situation has brought us closer together and eased our anxiety knowing we have each other. Oddly enough, this great pause has brought a certain level of calmness that I didn’t know I’d have in such a crisis, teaching me a lot about myself through this process. And whether it is for my kids, husband, colleagues, or friends, it has made me incredibly appreciative of my social networks and shown me that if you lead with your heart, you will get through this and inspire others to be stronger and hopefully healthier!”
Christine James, TL Network
The technological advances of recent years are enabling Christine James to easily keep in touch with travel industry counterparts at a time when we’re being urged to stay at home.
The TL Network’s James and her colleagues are relying on the likes of webinars to reach out to industry people, who are grateful for the contact.
“Most of my days are spent supporting our membership through these unprecedented times,” James says. “This ranges from hosting /co-hosting webinars to sharing helpful tips on how to manage their business through COVID-19 to keeping them abreast with the ever-evolving supplier policies around cancellations, rebooking and future travel credits. I’ve also been actively engaging in regular scheduled calls with ACTA and other industry leaders to contribute input to support their lobbying efforts with the various government bodies on behalf of the retail travel industry. In addition, TL Network has launched a series of ongoing live and recorded webinars targeted at both front-line advisors and owner-managers on how to re-invent or re-shape their sales techniques and strategies to deal with our new reality. Our members are hungry for this kind of guidance so our webinars are very well attended. On a positive note, our members still remain determined to ride out the storm and many have expressed their sincere appreciation for all the TL Network is doing to support them on all fronts.”
James hasn’t had a chance to develop new interests yet but has been able to catch up on some personal projects over the weekends and is keeping up with her fitness routine by taking part in online palates and yoga workouts.
“Of course, I miss the physical interaction of going to the gym and social contact with family and friends but I’m substituting that with Zoom virtual gatherings and happy hours!” she says. “Most of us in the travel industry are sociable by nature, added to the fact that our jobs require us to travel frequently, all of which has been taken away so it’s a struggle to fill the void. One thing I know for sure — once this is behind us, I will never again complain about the amount of travel I do!”