AS THE publisher of Travel Daily, Cruise Weekly and travelBulletin I was privileged to be able to address the 1,200 attendees at last Saturday’s National Travel Industry awards. It was early in the night, and so the crowd wasn’t particularly lubricated yet and there was also still plenty of anticipation of the upcoming winner announcements – but nevertheless I was still surprised at how quiet the room became as I recalled some of the darkest moments of the last two years.
It’s definitely been tough and we’re not out of the woods yet. As AFTA CEO Dean Long noted in his speech, the industry is incredibly busy, working long hours and dealing with ongoing crises of high fares, disruptions, cancellations amid severe workforce shortages – but “it’s a lot better than going broke”. I also loved how Dean’s presentation highlighted the individual actions that collectively saw politicians lobbied and consumers informed of the crisis our industry was in – but also its incredible pre-COVID vitality. There’s no doubt that our governments and the wider community are now much more aware of the important role that the travel supply and distribution sector plays in public life, the economy and employment within Australia.
The AFTA team deserves huge congratulations for pulling together the event. Like the rest of us they are being stretched extremely thin, and the fact that NTIA 2022 happened in such style is a major tribute to their efforts, tenacity and patience. We’re a disparate lot, and bringing suppliers, travel sellers of all ilks together with other industry stakeholders is no mean feat. I can’t wait to see what they have planned for NTIA2023.
I’ve had lots of feedback on my speech from Saturday night, so by popular demand we’re reprinting it in full below in the hope it will continue to highlight just how far we’ve all come since March 2020.
Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests
As we come together to celebrate NTIA once again, it’s almost surreal to think of what our beloved industry has been through over the last two years. I can remember that “Black Friday” the 13th of March 2020 – my wife Jenny and I had just wrapped up a business meeting and heard the news as we jumped in the car – Prime Minister Scott Morrison had raised the alert level for every international destination to level 3, ‘reconsider your need to travel’. This was such big news at the time that we dashed home and produced a special issue of Travel Daily – and we even introduced a special offer providing free subscriptions for two months – because that’s how long we thought this crisis would last. How wrong we were. We also produced the first of our COVID-19 videos.
It’s said that necessity is the mother of invention, and through the ensuing months and then years we scrambled to fill our pages with something more than the terrible news we were reporting each day. Remember Jenny’s Around the World with Mince and Meatballs? The Travel Daily Cocktail Compendium? The manic video where I gave myself a COVID-19 buzz cut (watch all the way to the end)? And even my special secret sausage recipes? Not to mention those puzzle pages (more than 300 of them), which our shrinking team spent hours putting together every week just so there wasn’t negative stuff on every page. My phone didn’t stop ringing with heartfelt stories of businesses being destroyed and jobs lost.
Like everyone else in the industry we pivoted and innovated. We continued publishing Cruise Weekly every single day. We created the Travel Daily Training Academy, our Travel Daily News on the Fly podcast, the Travel & Cruise Weekly Keep Dreaming magazine for you to inspire your clients, and more recently the reimagined TravelBulletin, because printing and posting a hard copy publication became impossible without any advertising to support it. And don’t forget the Still Standing Celebration – which we’re running again this December under the creative name of the STILL Still Standing Celebration. It’s perhaps cold comfort, but none of these ventures would have come into being without the pandemic – and I’m sure everyone here has similar stories of survival.
Ultimately those two-plus years of struggle have brought us all to where we are today – somewhat battered, a little bruised, but shaking off the distress as we emerge a little older and certainly wiser into the future. I truly believe that hard times like we’ve been through reveal the true character of people – and character really matters. It’s been inspirational to see how some in the industry stepped up – and continue to step up – to support others, without a thought for their own bottom line or personal survival.
For our part, we just want to thank you. Some of the suppliers and networks in the room tonight – you know who you are – did not stop supporting the industry, including promoting initiatives via our publications, all the way through the pandemic. In recent months, as we have started meeting people in person again at industry events, our team has been overwhelmed at the expressions of thanks from you, our loyal readers, who in those dark days it appears clung onto every word we published. We are only here today thanks to your loyal support, and we very much appreciate your appreciation.
In conclusion I just want to also thank the Travel Daily team. We’re a family business, and the strength and inspiration provided by Jenny and my three wonderful kids Sarah, Anna and Ben, has always been a foundation of our group. Jenny’s leadership and optimism throughout has sustained and refreshed me through times of deep despair, and she deserves every credit for our business’s success.
To the nominees and finalists tonight – congratulations. Whoever takes home the trophy in each category, in the end we are all winners just by being here. Thanks again and have a great night.