When you hear about the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s easy to think of doom and gloom — particularly in the travel industry. After all, our world was upended the day travel stopped. Estimates show that the U.S. travel industry lost $11 trillion in economic output last year. In spite of the uphill battle, we’ve continually worked to fulfill traveler needs. On top of that, we had to learn how to survive both personally and professionally as we ushered in a “new normal” that will likely be here to stay. While there have absolutely been challenges, I’ve also seen a number of positive outcomes.
Here are my top five takeaways, or “COVID keepers,” that I will continue to do long after the pandemic is over.
1. Find the silver lining.
Have you ever heard the adage “never let a good crisis go to waste”? It can be hard to keep that perspective when we’re in the thick of it, but a crisis can push us to new levels — if we let it. Embracing change will often lead to new opportunities, and many women in our industry are stepping up in incredible ways. According to the 2020 Women in Hospitality Report, there are 20 percent more women CEOs in our industry than in years past. Each of these women is making a difference in her company and the industry. So while the pandemic has created some hurdles and challenges, our industry as a whole is progressing rapidly with women at the helm.
2. Embrace innovation.
The travel industry has had to continually adapt to changing restrictions and customer preferences. Those changes have ushered in improvements and innovation that will transform the industry for years to come. Cleaner planes, contactless check-in processes, and even vaccine passports are creating new and higher standards that will give travelers unprecedented peace of mind. In addition, the industry has become even more focused on diversity and inclusion as well as open communication. The emergence of groups like Black Travel Alliance enable women of color to find allies, and platforms like Clubhouse push interesting conversations like “Travel Tech Tuesday” hosted by Henry Harteveldt and Maire Walsh. Overall, the pandemic has enabled the travel industry to become more innovative, open and inclusive.
3. Look to other women for inspiration.
Finding inspiration is key to helping us navigate difficult times. Team Lioness in Kenya is one of my favorite groups that I’ve watched over the past year. Female game park rangers in Kenya patrol land to thwart poachers. Unlike men who typically patrol alone, Team Lioness stops poaching by utilizing their emotional intelligence quotient (EQ) and working together. They have successfully leveraged their soft side to extract information to succeed in capturing poachers. Leveraging our EQ can often be a secret weapon for women in business — let’s use it!
4. Respect the environment.
While the pandemic hit pause on travel, one of the big winners was the environment. In 2020, global road emissions decreased by 10 percent and aviation emissions by 40 percent compared to 2019. Travelers are also looking for more sustainable experiences. Hotels and resorts are including sustainability components like Regenerative Travel, and female-founded outdoor companies, like HIPCAMP, are delivering environmentally friendly, unique and COVID-friendly experiences that encourage people to get outdoors and enjoy open spaces that will ideally benefit our planet for years to come.
5. Encourage work/life balance.
As a mom of three teenage boys, I’ve spent years being on the road for work. This past year has given me the opportunity to work from home and spend more time with the family. My company, Sojern, has enriched that experience by promoting work/life balance through incentives such as meeting-free Flexi-Fridays — where we end the day at noon — as well as providing new health and mental wellness resources. Companies are enabling employees to work from home, take mental health days, and allowing them to take the time they need for self-care. The industry has responded in kind, and we’ve seen a rise in wellness resorts and retreats. Personally, I’m excited to check out Palmaia the House of Aia in Mexico!
I don’t want to minimize the difficulty of 2020 and how hard it was on us and our industry. However, I do believe in extracting positive insights from even the toughest situations. The pandemic has been a learning experience for all of us. I’m confident that our COVID keepers will continue to pave the path towards ours — and the industry’s — future success.