By Dr. Peter Tarlow
During the last three months, tourism has basically come to a halt. Organizations and business cancelled meetings one after another, hotels suffered from low to no occupancy, airlines faced their biggest challenge ever, and trade show ceased to exist. Yet despite the hardships of the last few months, slowly but surely tourism will be reborn and its leaders will once again have to create new ways not only for the pubic to travel but to lead by example and travel. Remember that the word hospitality is related to the word for hospital. A hospital takes care of our bodies and hospitality addresses the soul. Both are essential in the act of rebuilding
Traditionally, one of the joys and difficulties of the travel/tourism professional has been that he/she spent a lot of time on the road or away from the office. To work in the world of travel is to be ready to travel. Tourism professionals at some point will need to travel frequently again, not only to attend meetings and meet clients, but most importantly travel is the hands-on form of job training that travel professionals need. In this age of pandemics travel professionals will need to lead by example if the industry is to recover properly.
Frequent travel, however, presents the travel professional, just like any other business professional, with a myriad of challenges. First and foremost is the issue of travel and health. Business travel presents other challenges: from lost time at the office to dealing with family problems while away. To help the travel professional travel better, and to make him/her more sensitive to the problems of other business travelers: here are some ideas to consider after travel resumes.
* Remember that travel professionals are first and foremost human beings. This fact means that travel professionals cannot cut corners when it comes to matters of health. Set an example for everyone on your staff and for your guests. Eat correctly, get plenty of rest, wash your hands often and smile rather than shaking hands. If it looks bad, then do not do it! Be an example of what to do and avoid the arrogance of this cannot happen to me!
* Check with your physician or health care provider before beginning a journey in this new age of pandemics. It is important that travel professionals set a good example by traveling again, but not at a risk to your life. Speak with your health care provider, find out what medicines you might need while traveling and have the name of a health care provider in the locations to which you will be traveling.
Know your own body and body clock. Know how you will have to pace yourself. Arrange meetings in a way that you do not become overly exhausted. If you have trouble with jet-lag arrive a day early, if you are a person who needs to unwind after getting off a plane, arrive in the morning for an afternoon meeting. Try also to schedule your trips so that you visit multiple places that are in the same time zone.
* Take care of yourself. Travel can be hard on the body. Speak to your doctor about what vitamins and extra foods you may need. Make sure that you drink plenty of water especially when traveling. Exercise in moderation and get the name of a twenty-four hour health center in the cities in which you will find yourself. If you have a hobby, try to practice it while on the road.
* Get organized. As soon as you finish a report, put it in your briefcase, send email attachments ahead and then, prior to leaving home, check to make sure that they have arrived and can be printed out. Will you need extra medications or hand-sanitizers?
* Have back-up plans ready to go. Try to have back-up alternatives to computer presentations; wear clothing that can be used in case your suitcase does not arrive; leave at home and keep in a place other than your suitcase photocopies of your credit cards, passport, and driver license with someone whom you can contact in case of emergency.
* Make sure that people back home know how to find you. Leave telephone, fax, and email addresses for the places where you will be. Leave an itinerary with dates, lodging information, and travel plans with office-mates and family members.
* If traveling across borders make sure that you know what restrictions might still be in place. Remember that travel restrictions can change almost instantaneously. If you become stranded in a locale make sure that you have adequate financial cash resources and a way to communicate with your loved ones and business associates
* Do a professional recap into a small computer or tape recorder at the end of the day. This is the best way not to lose ideas and information. Make sure to enter names, addresses and emails of new people whom you have met, and things that you have promised to do.
* When restaurants are open again be creative while eating out. Assuming that restaurants will once again be reopening try to avoid room service, but instead experiment with new types of food or creative dinning. Do for yourself what you recommend to your guests. Make sure that you ask for the local restaurant guide and travel guide. On the other hand, if restaurants are not yet open make sure that you know all of the alternatives.
* Never go to a place without seeing at least one tourism attraction. In tased difficult times tourist and travel professionals owe it not only to themselves but also to their clients to play tourist from time to time. By going to other attractions we get to see what they do better and worse, remember the more you like travel the better you will be as a professional or scholar of tourism.
* Make every business trip a research trip. Keep records of what you liked and disliked about your business trip and then share your thoughts with your staff. Compare your problems with those of a business traveler to your community. At staff meetings, discuss if someone traveling to your community would have had similar problems? Try to determine how your tourism agency might solve these problems.
The Year 2020 will be the most challenging in the history of tourism.
In these trying times, the travel and tourism industry will need to be both creative and innovative not only to survive but also to thrive.