That Was a Heck of a Quarter

That Was a Heck of a Quarter

How the Ukraine war, inflation, and market volatility impacted us — and what’s next? Here’s a sentence I never thought I’d write: Greetings from Saudi Arabia! I am visiting this unexpected destination to look at tourism development opportunities in Riyadh, Al-’Ula, Jeddah, and elsewhere. Saudi is fascinating, stunning, hospitable, and, from my Western perspective, very surprising. There are obviously very serious human rights concerns to take into consideration. But the country’s efforts to slowly open itself up to tourism has me thinking quite a bit about the future of our industry. More on that in a future column. For now, I am dwelling on the present, which is also surprising and stunning… for very different reasons. I am referring, of course, to Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and the humanitarian and…
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What’s in Store For 2022 (It’s Not All Bad)

What’s in Store For 2022 (It’s Not All Bad)

Normally at this time of year I send you the results of our annual Pulse of the Industry Survey. This year, well, let’s just say that the pulse is a little bit hard to read at the moment. Once the patient stabilizes a bit (sorry to torture the metaphor) and there’s more clarity in the marketplace, we’ll survey our industry peers to understand their feelings about business and where it’s going. In the meantime, I have been speaking to a number of travel advisors about the current state of affairs and thought it worth sharing a few of the common threads I’m hearing. Not surprisingly, everyone wants to talk about the omicron variant and how travelers (and we) are reacting to it. The general consensus:  Travelers are feeling anxious and…
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How We Are Dealing With Hiring Challenges Right Now

How We Are Dealing With Hiring Challenges Right Now

Struggling to find people to fill your open positions – or that have the skills the job requires? You’re not alone. “How is the recovery going for your business?” For every 10 people in the travel industry that I ask that question, I get 10 different responses — and 10 different predictions as to what might happen next. But just about everyone agrees on one thing: Hiring has become very, very challenging. The so-called “Great Resignation” is happening across industries (and across the globe, if unevenly), and even if it’s somewhat exaggerated, it seems to be hitting travel, restaurants, and leisure especially badly. And the problem is global, as far as I can tell. In the U.S. the accommodation sector added 23,000 jobs in October — a huge jump from only…
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How Luxury Travelers Are Feeling (and Spending) Right Now

How Luxury Travelers Are Feeling (and Spending) Right Now

Our new survey takes the consumer's temperature at a crucial time for the industry... We are entering a pivotal moment in our industry’s recovery from the pandemic, with both good and bad news across the board. Vaccines have unleashed a huge amount of pent-up demand. Airplanes and hotels are packed, prices have risen, and employers are struggling to fill vacant positions. On the other hand, corporate and MICE still lag far behind the leisure recovery. And the delta variant (and others) are threatening to put a halt to all our progress. As travel advisors and industry executives plan and implement their Q4 initiatives and refine their 2022 forecasts, I wanted to take the temperature of the luxury traveler consumer at this critical juncture. What trips are they planning now? Where…
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The Lessons We’ve Learned (And Are Still Learning)

The Lessons We’ve Learned (And Are Still Learning)

The great news from Europe last Wednesday, that the European Union will allow vaccinated vacationers back this summer, could not have come at a better time as there is no doubt we are seeing and hearing of booking momentum. Everyone I talk to is focused on forward bookings, staffing challenges, and other immediate-term issues. It’s an exciting time, if still chaotic and frustrating. It’s important to keep one eye on the future, as we build for coming success. What are the broader lessons we’ve learned in the past year-and-change that are worth holding onto? What wisdom can we use for our businesses in the future, but also guide our everyday thinking? I was fortunate enough to hear from many of our industry’s top minds at a recent virtual travel leadership…
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The pandemic’s not over, so how should we talk about it? Why innovative messaging is so critical to engage your customer.

The pandemic’s not over, so how should we talk about it? Why innovative messaging is so critical to engage your customer.

This must be what Purgatory feels like. One year after the first lockdowns, travel is still stuck in the in-between: much better than the catastrophe of 2020, but not quite ready to celebrate yet. For every reason to be hopeful — an uptick in bookings, progress with vaccinations, talks about global health passports — there is a reason for continued caution. As of this writing, about 18% of the U.S. population has received at least one dose and just shy of 10% have had both. With progress this gradual, many consumers are still hesitant to make plans. Those sentiments were a theme at an industry roundtable I co-hosted last month with Jack Ezon, Founder and Managing Partner of Embark Beyond. Many of the travel executives in attendance shared a mix…
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We Are Living in an Age of Anxiety…

We Are Living in an Age of Anxiety…

To say that we are navigating an uncertain world is a huge understatement. The pandemic, the economy, the American election, the future of our great industry — are all causing substantial confusion, anxiety, and stress. While we are all focused on figuring out what might happen next and how to deal with it, one issue that I fear we are not paying enough attention to is mental health. Whether you are considering your workforce, your business partners, or your clients, emotional and psychological wellness is at risk. Studies are showing that the pandemic is having broad psychological repercussions. In a survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation in mid-July, 53% of U.S. adults reported that their mental health has been negatively impacted due to worry and stress over the coronavirus — up…
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Black Travelers Matter: So why is our industry so damn white? (Part two)

Black Travelers Matter: So why is our industry so damn white? (Part two)

In my previous post, I wrote to you about the issues of racism and diversity and how the travel industry comes up short in multiple ways. I also shared insights and advice from experts I’ve spoken to. I’ve received a sizable number of responses so far. Most have been positive, thanking me for exploring the subject. Others have complained that I’ve waded into politics—however, I see this not as a political issue but as a business issue. Today, I focus on the subjects of marketing and operations, as well as the concept of “anti-racism,” and make the business case for why diversity matters.  If you missed the last post, you may read it here. What Message Does Your Advertising Send? Diversity in Marketing As Tyronne Stoudemire, Vice President of Global…
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Black Travelers Matter: So why is our industry so damn white?

Black Travelers Matter: So why is our industry so damn white?

The last time I wrote, in May, we were still trying to understand the short- and long-term effects of the global pandemic. We have learned quite a bit since, but with recovery faltering in many places, the overall outlook is still a bit cloudy. One thing I believe we’ve all learned is to expect the unexpected. But I’m writing now on a different topic. Among the many surprising things to have happened this year is how quickly the issue of race and diversity has burst into our collective consciousness. Of course, racial inequality and injustice have always been a concern, particularly for members of minority groups. But the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police in May and the protests that followed, first across the United States and then around…
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Talking Travel: How to Communicate to Consumers and Employees Right Now

Talking Travel: How to Communicate to Consumers and Employees Right Now

As I write this, the travel industry is beginning to see some light at the end of the tunnel. The recovery will be likely tentative at first, and focus on staycations, drives, and short-haul trips. But there are so many dependencies—transmission rates, social-distancing regulations, border closures—that it’s impossible to make meaningful predictions. I’m curious to hear when you anticipate business returning, where your forward bookings are concentrated, and when you may start to bring employees back. Meanwhile, in the here and now, things remain confusing. For every story about reopening there is another about the virus resurfacing. That makes it particularly challenging to communicate, both externally to consumers and internally to nurture company culture. These topics were on the agenda of a series of roundtable discussion with industry leaders that…
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