Charting the road back for travel industry

Restoring confidence in employees and guests. Coming together to share new industry practices. “This is an incredible opportunity to reimagine our business,” host and Boca Raton Resort & Club president and managing director John C. Tolbert said at Thursday’s travel summit.

As the hardest hit industry in the coronavirus shutdown, four travel leaders were intent and upbeat as they detailed plans to restore confidence in travel and hotel stays.

After Sept. 11th, travelers said “they would never get on a flight again,” but they did, said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association. Seventy percent of people say they want to travel again, he added.

Dow presented the economic impact and industry’s relief requests to President Trump and Vice President Pence at the White House recently. He talked about “the disproportionate damage to the industry, now in the billions.” He came away impressed with agreements on stimulus and millions in aid so far. “It was a casual meeting but important to get money to workers and a huge promotional campaign,” he said.

Florida has an advantage as a driving destination and one of the top five places people want to return to, said moderator Bruce Himelstein, a former Ritz-Carlton executive and founder of The BJH Group.

“Retail, travel, restaurants, golf, tennis, spa, marina, boats…we have them all,” agreed Tolbert, on one of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ industry working groups on reopening the state.

Tolbert’s confident best practices that include masks and “how we separate tables for social distancing,” can be factored in. “Hybrids have to be reinvented” for meetings and events, he added. “Charities are ready to go into the fall. We’ve been around for 96 years and we’re more excited about the future than the past,” he added.

How will the industry convince corporations to resume business travel? “We will have to get corporations to start changing their policy,” Dow said. “It will be different the first six months to a year.”

Jorge Pesquera was asked how he was altering marketing plans as president and CEO of Discover the Palm Beaches. “We came right out of the gate with early facts and did a webinar. We have a message of hope and a light at the end of the tunnel.”

“We have to think creatively,” Tolbert said. “The power of the collective to do this thoughtfully has to reach a level our customers know we really care about them. We’ll learn from every part of the industry and it will get better.”

“Being able to see that life sometimes throws you a curve ball and confident you can move forward,” Pesquera said.

“Travel is everywhere, and we’re such a big part of the global economy, the skies the limit,” Dow agreed.

By Marci Shatzman



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