Seeing Past a Crisis and Emerge Better Than Before

Sometimes crises emerge which seem so overwhelming, it can be difficult to think about much else.

Seeing Through Crisis

This crisis will recede, as all crises do. The travel industry has been here before. It has always rebounded, and emerged better than before.

Sometimes crises emerge which seem so overwhelming, it can be difficult to think about much else.

I remember 2008 very clearly. Travel demand had been slowing that year, but then suddenly in the 4th quarter the bottom fell out. The Wall Street collapse, triggered by the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy in September, turned the slowdown into a full-blown financial crisis overnight. It quickly spread like a contagion, affecting financial markets, business outlook and travel worldwide.

Airline Traffic Annual Change 2008-09

By early 2009, the travel industry was in free fall, declining at twice the rate of U.S. GDP. A quarter of a million people in the U.S. travel industry would lose their jobs. At the company where I worked at the time, my colleagues and I were understandably anxious.

The CEO called an all-company meeting. Every employee was there, all of our remote employees dialed in.

But there was no panic. He didn’t show much emotion. He didn’t hold anything back. 

“We are in the depth of a recession, and travel is being hit hard. Our pipeline is weak, and our forecasts don’t look good,” he said. “So I am asking all of you for ideas. What are things we can do to grow revenue and manage expenses to see all of us through this?”

We then spent the better part of an hour discussing how things were looking and what we could do. I still remember how I felt coming away from that meeting, and three things I learned:

  1. I learned about the power of confronting a challenge without emotion.
  2. I learned about the impact transparency and authenticity can have on a team and motivation.
  3. I learned about confronting the uncertainty ahead with the certainties we had.

Rather than come away nervous and full of worry about our own jobs, we came away charged up, ready to do what we could. 

Corona Recession?

As concern over coronavirus accelerated over the past week, as conferences and events were cancelling around the world, I thought more and more about that meeting 11 years ago.

The impact coronavirus is having across our industry has been sudden, and already quite deep. We are hearing from too many tour, activity and attraction operators and distributors who are seeing significant cancellations and ominous signs for future bookings. The underlying economic fundamentals of the global economy do not seem dire as they did in 2009, but the near-term risk to travel and tourism could be as great—or even greater.

It’s already wreaking havoc on the meetings and conferences industry. Events are cancelling or postponing in Europe, Asia and the U.S. This causes enormous hardship on event organizers and all of their vendors, not to mention the disruption and impact on attendees and sponsors. 

Like this? register for our Newsletter to continue the conversation

Sign Up

In Arival’s case, we were left with no choice but to cancel. Just one-and-half days before our event was scheduled to kick off, the German Federal Ministry of Health issued guidelines for large events and gatherings, including screening all attendees and coordinating directly with local health authorities, among other guidelines. With nearly 700 registered attendees from 50 countries, including those with elevated risk, we knew we could not comply.

Not long after we communicated to our attendees, ITB, the world’s largest travel trade event, announced the same difficult decision. The Berlin Travel Festival, whose team reported contact with an individual infected with the disease associated with coronavirus, soon followed.

Our sympathies go out to the organizers of ITB and the Berlin Travel Festival, and to the many event organizers who have made the same difficult decision, or who are facing it now. We wish them only a fast recovery and future success. 

What Comes Next (You’re Not Alone)

Back in 2009, as our team walked out of that meeting, the recession and uncertainty about the future was all still there. But we came out of that meeting a little different. How we thought about the uncertainty was a little different. We didn’t implement  a single, simple solution. Instead it was 100 small things, done by 25 or so employees, that we did each day, to stay focused and see us through the hardship.

The recession ended. Travel returned (as it always does), growth returned and the business flourished. And by the way, that CEO was Philip Wolf, the founder of Phocuswright.  

Whether you are a tour or activity operator, an attraction, an online travel agency or technology provider, whatever your role in our industry, if your business is now under stress, know that you are not alone. The team at Arival, and many thousands of operators and organizations in our industry are with you, going through what you are going through. 

As difficult as it may seem to see beyond the current crisis, especially now as it appears to be accelerating, remember that this crisis will recede, as all crises do. The travel industry has been here before. It has always rebounded, and emerged better than before. 

The Best Part of Travel will emerge from this too, and it will emerge better than ever. We’ll be right there with you, just as we are now. 

We’re working away to reschedule Arival Berlin, and we will announce dates once we are confident the risks posed by coronavirus have lessened. 

We’ll see you soon.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


already a member?

Lost your password?


Become an Arival Insider

Included in Free Membership

Included in Arival Pro Membership

The Arival on-demand video library archive
Access to the entire library of over 150 video sessions and webinars

Short, digestible research & trends reports delivering insights into our industry, such as The Tour Operator Outlook for 2021. articles
Topical articles about marketing, tech, operator business and operator stories in all areas of tours, activities & attractions & experiences

Job board access
Find a job from our regular listings, post a resume to the talent network and learn strategies from the job resources articles

New webinars
Helpful, instructional sessions covering subjects such as Mastering Facebook Ads, Grow Your Business and How To Work With OTAs — topics to help advance your business.

Discounts on all Arival in-person events
20% Discount on all Arival in-person events (save up to $300)* based on business type

Arival ProShield – Insurance program
Access to tailored insurance solutions by Granite Insurance is available exclusively for Arival Insider Pro Access Members. Insider Pro Access Members also have access to a suite of resources from Granite Insurance including templates, forms and other informative documents.

Insiders Pro Access member exclusive webinars
Paid membership-only webinars to deepen your understanding of important industry topics.

Job postings & talent directory
Post jobs & connect with candidates most applicable to your business.

Private roundtables to connect, learn and engage
Small, focused and intimate discussions exclusive to Arival Insider Pro Access members.

Full access to Arival’s library of in-depth reports
Up to date, deep analysis of tourism topics ranging from Self-guided Tours to Sales & Distribution Trends and Outlooks, based on the data that defines the industry.

The latest on-demand videos
Over 350+ on-demand videos featuring hot topics in tours, activities & attractions

Insider discounts in digital marketing, tech, e-learning, and more
Save money on additional tools, services and learnings you need to run your business. Exclusive to paid members.

Membership Overview

At Arival, we believe travel can make the world a better place. Our mission is to establish and inspire a diverse community of individuals and companies in the In-destination Industry by providing opportunities to gain insight, share knowledge and build connections. To make it possible for true collaboration, creativity, innovation, and idea exchange to thrive, we are committed to facilitating a welcoming and respectful community for all. This Conference Code of Conduct shares our community expectations and applies to all attendees, employees, exhibitors, speakers, sponsors, volunteers, and other participants at Arival- produced and sponsored events. We empower all participants in our community to actively engage in creating a friendly, inclusive and safe environment for all.

Arival’s core values include the following, and create an expectation for conduct at our events and in online community spaces:

We demonstrate a deep respect for human beings inside and outside our company and for the communities in which they live.
We value integrity and strive to consistently interact with others in ways that are authentic, ethical, and fair.
We are dedicated to transparency, committing to clear, open and honest communication.
We actively pursue and advocate for inclusion, diversity and representation of varying cultural backgrounds, perspectives and ideas

Arival welcomes people from all cultural backgrounds, and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, creed, gender (including pregnancy, perceived pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, or related medical conditions), gender identity, religion (including religious dress and grooming), marital status, domestic partner status, genetic information, age, national origin or ancestry, military or veteran status, sexual orientation, physical or mental disability, or any other basis protected by federal, state, or local laws.

Accordingly, participants must refrain from displaying any demeaning, harassing, aggressive, or intimidating behavior or materials that would interfere with others’ experience and participation in our community.

If you witness or are subjected to inappropriate or disruptive behavior or have any other concerns, notify an Arival staff member as soon as possible.

Inappropriate or disruptive behavior will not be tolerated. Arival reserves the right to refuse entry to or remove any party from any event or community space at any time when participation or behavior create a disruption or hinder the event or enjoyment of the event by other participants. All determinations are at the sole discretion of Arival, and the decision of the Arival team will be final. Severe breaches of this Conference Code of Conduct may result in disqualification from participating in future events. Individuals expelled due to violating this Conference Code of Conduct will not be eligible for a refund or other consolation.

If you have questions regarding this Conference Code of Conduct or its implementation, please contact us at [email protected].