Partners Travel

10 things I’ve learned after one year in the travel industry

To preface this post, I claim to be no expert in the travel industry. My experience in travel and tourism comes from a passion to explore and learn, coupled with the last 18 months owning a startup company that builds tours for self-guided adventures. When my partners and I started planning our division of responsibilities, it made the most sense for me to take care of the business end of things. The amount of work for my husband as the technology developer could be considered a job for ten people while our other partner and friend, Andrew, is a creative force behind all that we do. I’m organized, I generally like people, and I am a fervent seeker of new information.
My naivete about the travel industry introduced me to my first lesson that became clear right away. Since the arrival of COVID-19, we all see the truth in this one, but I had no idea about the impact of the industry until joining in.
#1: Travel and tourism is BIG business.
Often overlooked because of its reach, tourism is huge. Globally, it is one of the top ten industries, right up there alongside automobile manufacturing, real estate, oil, gas, and insurance.
#2: The travel industry is bought and sold.
#3: Changes to the industry are a double-edged sword.
As an Airbnb host since 2015, I thought the idea of inviting people from all over the world into your home was exactly what travelers needed. I had previously ridden the wave starting in 2009 and I often joked that couchsurfing could have been at the status of Airbnb if only they had thought to charge money! The cost factor involved in Airbnb required just a bit more class and upgrades to my home but the payoff was substantial and we have built a community of lifetime friends through hosting and traveling.
Upon entering the travel and tourism world, I learned that not everyone was as in love with the platform as I have been. The lack of occupancy taxation on these properties were a point of contention with destination marketing organizations that survive through collecting this tax from their local municipalities. The lack of regulation and the “wild west” feel of sharing companies like Airbnb, Uber, and Lyft have changed the way people interact. Suddenly people were staying off the beaten path, finding new things to experience out of the things that had been bought and sold to them before through hotel concierges and travel companies.
Travelers seeking to live like a local could now rent a villa in the middle of wine country, visit the local market and interact with neighbors instead of tourists. They could book Airbnb experiences from local citizens instead of using a guide company that had existed for years, honing in on their knowledge and offerings of a specific area.
#4: Global travel is a relatively new idea.
#5: Travel agents still exist.
#6: Travel writers are not journalists.
#7: Networking and partnerships rule the industry.
It’s hard to be the new kid in town. If you enter the tourism community as a restaurant owner, everyone knows what food is. You get connected with people who need food or need a good place to send people to get food. If you own a winery, you get connected with guides, wine communities, and partner with DMOs to draw notice to your winery, establishing a getaway for the traveler coming through. When you own a hotel or
#8: The impact of travel and tourism to the climate is huge.
#9: It’s going to take a LONG time to recover.
We all agree, we are in unprecedented times. Never before did I think I would ever pass on a $300 round trip ticket for the chance to go to Bali but I just can’t do it. Nothing is predictable anymore. That doesn’t mean that people don’t try to predict what will happen. Based up the 22% decline in international tourism between January and March 2020, the United Nations World Tourism Organization estimates that the total decline for 2020 will be 60-80%.
#10: Travel needed a new normal.
We also likely agree, we have been destroying our planet AND destroying places by overtourism. The ease of international travel had connected our world in ways we had never dreamed. And today, we are all connected virtually, with the beautiful yet complicated global world of the internet. We are seeking out things to do closer to home, we are looking for day trips instead of month-long excursions. Most people are looking for ways to connect more to their local communities instead of finding the farthest place to get away from it all.
When we decided to embark upon our business idea of creating tours, we did this with a dream of connecting people to the place they encounter. We decided to start at home, because isn’t that worth connecting to the most? Most people don’t really even know much about the place they live, let alone all the places available within a days drive. I wonder, how many opportunities to connect to places in nature and to connect to the stories of those places can you find?
While things may likely never be the same, hopefully we all take this opportunity to pay more attention, to be more mindful and less wasteful. Maybe we take in a deeper breath, stare at the mountains just a bit longer, dive a little more into connecting to a place. Perhaps, the new normal we learn from this is really connection after all. How about a new M.O… to slow?

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