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NEWS


When former world heavyweight boxer Mike Tyson was asked if he was worried about Evander


Holyfield’s fight plan he answered: “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” For the travel industry, the coronavirus crisis


Steve Dunne CHIEF EXECUTIVE, DIGITAL DRUMS


Our industry is on the ropes, but you can be a beacon of light


feels like a successive flurry of painful left jabs and right hooks that has left everyone reeling. It has international governments, global industries and the travel sector on the ropes, trying to catch a breath as wave after wave of dreadful news lands home. The sector, which has been brilliant in how it


has handled the crisis so far, has responded with a series of strategies ranging from urging the public to keep calm and maintain travel plans to being flexible with customers who want to change or postpone travel itineraries.


Change your stance The frustrating thing about it is forecasting how the crisis is going to play out. In most crises, there is a template from which to work, but not this time. And, like a boxer whose game plan isn’t working, the industry must change its stance, adopt a more defensive approach and prepare to recover. I was asked recently if anything good could


come out of this. I said it could be the moment large segments of the public rediscover the unique service of travel agents. In a crisis, people panic. They get confused and


conflicted with different information, think mainly about their own circumstances and hunker down. But, in a crisis, people also reach for people. They


gravitate towards calm expertise: to people who have access to the best knowledge, can guide them through turmoil, make recommendations and give


counsel. In return, consumers will give their trust to those who advise them – and give their business to them in the future. The only real segment of the industry that can do that powerfully is travel agents. On the high street or on the end of the phone, they have a humanness and approachability that websites and call centres don’t.


Sow seeds of recovery The next few months will be painful for all businesses, regardless of size, but now is also the time to be laying the seeds for recovery. Many consumers will want to carry on travelling, just not now when things are changing so fast. Consumers fear being stranded in a foreign


location or being in lockdown away from home. The lack of information – and the uncertainty – will be what really gets to them. And when that happens they want to deal with people. Ideally, face-to-face, but if on the phone, preferably with someone they know and who understands how they feel. Travel agents can offer that service, often where


other travel organisations can’t, by giving tips for when circumstances change, providing numbers to call, or offering tailored and personal advice. So, agents, amplify your skill sets to your local


market; emphasise your knowledge of travel and focus on the humanness of your business. In this current dark storm, be a beacon of light


for travel consumers. Like a boxer facing a ferocious opponent, it may be that changing your style and stance can help you survive and even win.


Read more columns by Steve Dunne: go.travelweekly.co.uk/comment


10


19 MARCH 2020


travelweekly.co.uk


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