Voyzant’s CEO reflects on a year of change

Chippy Jegathesan

One whole year has passed since the world was gripped by the corona virus pandemic. I remember all the hope, excitement, and energy that I had at the end of 2019. I had just sent out holiday wishes to our airline partners, celebrated with my staff and was ready to enter the new decade. When the first rumblings of COVID-19 were being heard, while we were a little anxious, we were all blissfully naive to the upheaval that awaited us. We entered our first lockdown hoping this would just be for a few weeks, maybe a month or two and then we could all get back to normal. The months dragged, the toll of the disease increased and effectively the whole world went into lockdown. Our naïveté turned into anxiousness, uncertainty as we were disconnected and isolated from family, friends, and colleagues. We watched as our industry was dealt a catastrophic blow: flights were canceled, borders restricted, airports shutdown, cruise ships docked as people panicked to get back home from holidays and business trips.

We were faced with challenges professionally, socially, and mentally. Some of us had to balance our new workspace with our family at home, we worried and felt powerless to those who were vulnerable to the virus and sadly we said good-bye to many colleagues and associates in this industry who had to fold under the economic weight of the pandemic. Those of us who remained fought for our survival in this industry and to ensure its sustainability. Challenge, sacrifice, and loss seemed to become the recurring themes that we faced each day, week after week and month after month; Despite all these hurdles, our industry and community never gave up hope. We persevered every step of the way.

Gotta have faith

I have always had faith in the resiliency of the travel industry, in fact one could almost say it was a blind faith. I witnessed this industry rocked by the events of 9/11 and saw how we successfully bounced back stronger than before but this past year… well even my faith was tested.

I found inspiration and strength in the beautiful words of Peace Activist and Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, “Hope is important because it can make the present moment less difficult to bear. If we believe that tomorrow will be better, we bear a hardship today.”

In the face of all the uncertainty placed before us, we never lost hope. In July of 2020 I got to experience this ambition firsthand when I was invited to fly on Air Canada’s new Airbus A220. I hadn’t been in an airport let alone an airplane since February. The rapid changes that had been made in the airport to ensure passenger health and safety and the protocols Air Canada had in place for their airline left me energized with a non wavering belief that the travel industry was going to make it. We would bounce back like we always have.

Overcoming challenges on the road to recovery

Voyzant Inc. faced extreme challenges due to the pandemic. Associates voluntarily made personal financial sacrifices so that essential team members could remain employed, the work continued as we conducted meetings via Zoom and agents worked tirelessly as they adapted to new regulations while assuring their customers that they would one day travel again. As the CEO of Voyzant Inc., the pandemic profoundly revealed the impact of my decisions and the responsibility I had over the welfare of so many. I learned more than ever that without compassion no one wins.

The well being and morale of those who dedicate countless hours of their life to the success of a company is integral for any business to succeed. Our staff meetings every second day went beyond a work activity report but provided a space for our staff to be seen, heard and make sure that they were ok. The struggles that each person had to endure due to the pandemic may have been different but acknowledging that there were struggles and allowing the space and support for those needs not only helped us successfully navigate as a company but also allowed us to connect to each other. Our “people first” approach was a major component to successfully overcoming each trial that presented itself and we become a close indestructible team.

We stood ten toes down and invested in our future working closely with our technology vendors and airline partners to provide a seamless customer experience and ensure their satisfaction. Our upgraded telecommunications systems provided our staff the necessary tools to have an efficient and simple work from home environment that catered to the needs of our customers while adhering to the “Stay at Home” initiative from our legislation. We launched a successful 24/7 customer support system that allowed our customers and airline partners accessibility and open communication.

We increased our investment into New Distribution Capability (NDC), a system designed and implemented by our airline partners, that enabled us to promote and provide an extensive range of services to our clients. The range of services that NDC allows us also includes the paid ancillary services such as preferred seat allocation, excess baggage and, lounge access. I am proud that regardless of the difficulties that last year presented, Voyzant Inc. was able to implement strategic initiatives that safeguarded our staff and sustained the expectations of our customers.

Voyzant Cares takes off

2020 was also a year where the words community and accountability took on new meaning. We were able to get through last year because we all came together and worked as a team. We supported one another and went beyond our comfort zones. We committed to ensuring the safety and health of our travellers by implementing new guidelines, we listened and heard colleagues who may have felt they were invisible or that their voices didn’t matter, and we committed to our planet’s environment by creating goals and measures to become more environmentally responsible. I have always felt that true success is marked by one’s level of service and contribution to society.

Voyzant Cares, our Corporate Social Responsibility initiative, has always been an integral part of Voyzant Inc.’s identity. Providing quality service includes being of service to those who are less fortunate, lending a helping hand and actively ensuring that this world is a safer and happier place for everyone. 2020 saw Voyzant Cares expand its outreach programs and provide aid to organizations such as: Jessie’s the June Collingwood Centre for Young Women, The Scott Mission, The Table of Mercy and Extendicare Guildwood through numerous financial donations and distributing vital PPE materials. The privilege of being able to have a positive impact on people’s lives is one that Voyzant Cares takes very seriously and a duty that we are proud to uphold. While 2020 was a year of constant challenges, it also gave us the space to grow and become a kinder and more humane industry.

Ready for what’s next

The news of a viable vaccine at the end of last year was a tangible sign that we had effectively turned a corner and would be able to return to some semblance of normalcy. Things aren’t going to necessarily go back to how they once were, but I feel it would be a lesson lost if they did. The pandemic forced us to engage, appreciate and empathize with each other and that shared experience brought us all closer. As we rebuild our industry, we cannot lose sight that this new journey holds wonderful opportunities for us all. The safety protocols in airports, on airplanes and the vaccine have eased the fear of travel in consumers.

A recent study conducted among a national sample of seven countries that included, India, the United States, Australia, Canada, Mexico, Japan and the United Kingdom by American Express and released to the Global Travel Trends Report revealed that 87 percent of people have said that having a trip planned in the future gives them something to look forward to.

Audrey Hendley, President of American Express Travel recently said in a release:

“The pandemic environment is giving rise to emerging trends, such as the increasing appeal of working from anywhere while traveling globally, luxury being defined as more personalized experiences, cleanliness and privacy as the ultimate luxury amenities, as well as a growing interest in the environmental and social purpose of their trips and travel companies.”

The travel industry has always been defined by ingenuity, technological advancements, tenacity, imagination, and community. In overcoming the trials and tribulations of the past year and as we move beyond this monumental one-year anniversary, we see that these definitions still hold true.
As the CEO of Voyzant Inc., it has always been imperative that the company guarantees the satisfaction and well being of our employees, clients and partners while remaining a dynamic force within the travel industry. 2020 tested that but here we are one year later stronger, united, and looking forward to an exciting future. To my colleagues, employees, and partners I encourage us to look toward the future.

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