IF you approach anyone at all in the travel and tourism sector at the moment and ask how they are, you can almost be guaranteed that their first response will be “Busy!”. The industry’s collective sigh of relief as the COVID-19 pandemic fades has seen two years of stress and relative inactivity eclipsed with an absolute torrent of activity. It really appears to be like trying to drink from a firehose sometimes.
Clients are booking (fantastic!), flights are full (brilliant!), connections are being missed or rescheduled (ooh not so good), luggage lost (well of course), and on top of all that, travel brands, agencies, suppliers and other industry groups are hoping to capitalise on the resurgence of the sector as they jostle for market share, innovate, develop new offerings and make the most of the post-pandemic environment.
All the activity is of course good news. In previous years when looking at our own business amid the shifting landscape of travel industry distribution in Australia and New Zealand, the most accurate fundamental indicator of upcoming activity has always been those somewhat boring monthly Australian Bureau of Statistics figures for passenger arrivals and departures. With those numbers steadily increasing year-on-year prior to 2020, effectively the overall pie continued to grow, and as the saying goes, that rising tide lifted all boats.
The current situation is certainly unique in living memory. Looking at those traffic numbers now and comparing them to this time last year, the growth in the sector is utterly unprecedented – literally thousands of percentage points – and I do believe that despite the short term pain and pressure being put on the industry, particularly when it comes to staffing, in the end the market will settle and as those passenger numbers continue to rise, so will the sector’s overall prosperity.
Another key trend that has been apparent with the resumption of relative normality has been the astonishing return of travel industry events. Based on the stream of photos we regularly publish in Travel Daily and Cruise Weekly – not to mention all those social media posts from participants – it seems that travel brands, suppliers, destinations and industry organisations are reconnecting with their industry partners for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day and night of the week. It’s possibly not great for the waistline (or liver!) but such a welcome contrast to the doldrums of the pandemic.
Having said that, I’m definitely seeing all these events add to the “busy-ness” of life. Some travel advisors I’ve spoken to are so flat out that the thought of venturing away from their desk for a few hours is quite daunting, so it must be pretty tricky for some organisers of events to ensure that their prospective guests turn up. A few years ago there was even a bit of a trend towards applying a charge for “no-shows” but let’s hope we don’t have to return to those extremes. Of course it’s all about reconnecting (and figuring out who has ended up where) and after all, our industry is totally built on relationships so naturally face-to-face gatherings have come to the fore.
So what I would say is, amid all that busy-ness, don’t forget to take the time to breathe. It’s OK to have a bit of downtime, and if that can happen in an environment where you’re perhaps being updated, learning something new or simply reconnecting over a drink with an industry colleague, all the better.
We definitely don’t want the pendulum to swing the other way, and start to suffer from overwork while not enjoying some of the great things being in travel and tourism can offer – because just like those mozzies, that is also likely to come back and bite us.