“Unprecedented” is defined as something that has never happened, been done or been known before – so it’s no wonder the word has become synonymous with Covid-19. Hardly a day goes by that I do not find myself saying it.
During my career, I have witnessed a number of cataclysmic events that have rocked the industry to its core and were unprecedented in their time, from the unspeakable acts of hate on 9/11 to the ash cloud that shut European airspace and stranded more than 10 million travellers in 2010.
What makes Covid-19 different, though, is that the true test for our industry goes beyond temporarily grounded flights and suspended sailings. The challenge lies ahead. Travel and tourism will return, but only by adjusting to the fundamental way in which the world has changed.
We must steel ourselves with the knowledge that, while the size of the challenge may be unprecedented, our industry’s ability to rally and respond is not.
We have form for coming together and inspiring each other, and I am confident we will do it again. Leaders are already stepping up and showing the most admirable levels of resilience and positivity.
Only recently Mary McKenna and her team at Tour America launched a new brand called Zoom Holidays, which is innovatively modelled around agents speaking to customers via the video chats we’ve all become accustomed to doing.
I fundamentally believe companies who show this level of creativity, adaptability and innovation – while working in the interest of the whole industry – will be the ones who come through this successfully.
The green shoots of industry collaboration are already showing; from the outset of the pandemic, Clia and its partners across the cruise community responded by working with local and national governments around the world, as well as leading health authorities, to coordinate efforts during the ongoing suspension of cruise operations. Further to this, myself and other leaders within the industry gather weekly to share learnings and tackle new challenges.
Collaboration is paramount, as we know the industry’s comeback has got to be stronger than the setback we have all experienced.
This collaboration is also evident in the RCL leadership team, whose efforts have been non-stop in response to the dramatic change in business conditions.
We know our ships will be sailing in a changed world and have engaged experts in public health, epidemiology, design and sanitation to help shape the new standards and procedures for our return to service strategy.
At the same time, we are supporting our brilliant travel partners with the launch of RCL Cares; a shared hub across all four RCL brands – Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises, Azamara and Silversea – featuring helpful information including links to UK government and Abta advice, wellbeing support for families, trade FAQs and contact details for sales support teams.
It is my firm belief that in a time where separation has been life-saving, togetherness will be the only way forward – togetherness as an industry, togetherness within companies, togetherness with our crew, our guests and our trade partners.
After all, when life hands you lemons, don’t simply sit on your own and Google lemonade recipes. Borrow some gin, find out who has the tonic, and suddenly it’s a socially distanced cocktail party!
Jo Rzymowska is vice-president and managing director EMEA, Celebrity Cruises