We’re no strangers to hardship in travel.
As A&K’s founder Geoffrey Kent recently pointed out; we’ve been through revolutions, epidemics and catastrophes. Those of us who have been in this business for a while have survived Sars, 9/11 and the 2008 financial crisis.
The last 15 months have been different, though – coronavirus has been like all these incidents rolled into one.
The opening lines of a recent Skift/McKinsey report on the travel industry resonated with me: "Navigating the Covid-19 pandemic has been like sailing into a hurricane."
As the pandemic refuses to dissipate completely, how can we continue to navigate this storm best? As an industry, we can "raft up" – a boating term meaning many vessels tied together – for safe-keeping.
I believe that by coming together, tour operators and travel agents can make the travel industry great again and that it is collaboration, not competition, that will help us bounce back.
It’s been shown collaboration does move the needle for companies that invest in this strategy. Companies that regularly collaborate with suppliers and other industry partners demonstrate higher growth, lower operating costs and greater profitability than their industry peers.
At Cox & Kings and Abercrombie & Kent, we aim to be exemplars in the collaboration space. It’s a big aspiration, but we’re working on it. Since day one of the pandemic, we’ve been in the trenches with our partners – dealing with refunds, cancellations and repatriations.
We’re still standing together as we attend the Travel Day of Action today (23 June) to demand the government allow international travel to return safely and bring forward a tailored financial support package.
Unfortunately, the government is yet to fully acknowledge the issues the travel, tourism and aviation industries continue to suffer. I’ve hoped for more tailored support in each Budget – we’ve all survived on very little since the pandemic started.
Getting each other through is key until our balance sheets get back to a better place. A&K director of sales James Coughlan, agency sales manager Mark Harris and I recently held a forum with agents, sharing market insights and trends. We’re already planning a second forum and an updated marketing support toolkit.
Until a fair wind blows again and beyond, for me, sticking together in the travel industry is the only way to go. We may be starting relatively small with simple collaboration efforts that deliver results quickly, but as we all rebuild, we’ll be getter bigger and more innovative.
Collaborations and partnerships are pillars for the renewal of the travel industry.
Kerry Golds is managing director of Abercrombie & Kent and Cox & Kings.