An interview with our local partners in Panama
9th August 2021
Never in my life have I wanted to be a day older as much as I did on New Year's Eve 2020. Before we bury the previous year completely, and project our hopes onto the next one, I wanted to share some reflections on 2020 from our perspective.
Covid has been the toughest challenge ever faced by the travel industry, as many of you will know. Like almost every other travel company we were affected, but also fortunate that we were in a strong position to come through in good shape. We have used that good fortune to expand what we do, ready for when demand returns. See our full list of up to date destinations (and make a note of the imminent arrival of Scandinavia, Portugal, Maldives, the Faroe Islands and Egypt).
Getting through the pandemic has been made easier by the visible “pulling together” that happened, early on.
Our “key workers” - our network of local experts around the world, alongside our customer team here in the UK - worked long hours, sometimes through the night, to repatriate travellers in danger of being stranded abroad. They knew they were facing a perfect economic storm, but also knew what they had to do (morally, not commercially) to ensure everyone’s safety.
Most of you postponed your trips (for which we and our local partners around the world are very grateful). Those decisions have helped preserve livelihoods in some very far flung places. You are guaranteed a very warm welcome when you do finally go.
I should also thank, personally, some specific customers (not an exhaustive list!) that said the right things at just the right time (supportive, helpful, understanding). To Sally and Tony, Julian and Lesley, Sean and Lisa, Gary and Kimberley, Marzenna, Andrzej and Matilda, Dot and Nicola, Thom and Chris and the many others who got in touch in this way - thank you.
Lastly I must thank our team here at TravelLocal HQ. It has been the strangest, toughest year anyone can remember. But we got through it together, morale intact, ready for the “Great Recovery” (signs of that already). 2020 was the “Year of Zoom”. I hope 2021 will be the “Year of People”!
Travel was due a change - perhaps it had to be a shock to the system like Covid that forced it. TravelLocal was created in part to ensure that more money from travel went into the local economies of each destination, boosting employment and prosperity. We have pushed this message consistently for many years, but it took a global pandemic for the point to become an international cause célèbre. Suddenly it was obvious - in plain view - the positive impact that the right kind of holidays can have. Rather than having to contact the newspapers, they came to us.
Our hope is that when travel truly recovers this obvious link between where we go, how we spend our money, and who benefits, becomes a part of every trip, everywhere.
On top of that existing ethos we have used the quieter time of the pandemic to bring in carbon off-setting for every trip booked by any customer, travelling from any country, to any destination. We are working with Climate Care (based in Oxford) to ensure this is rigorously done. In the New Year I will be in touch with more detail about exactly how that works. However for now the important principle is that we are doing as much as we can to mitigate the carbon emissions of all our trips.
As the travel market returns the most important commodity is trust. Every travel company wants to convey it, and every traveller needs to feel it - acutely. We were very pleased to be featured by the well known consumer organisation “Which?” as a travel company that you can trust. We also have our online reviews collected by Reviews.io - which we cannot edit, or modify in any way.
We also know that, with regard to Covid, we are not out of the woods just yet, and that booking travel and going on trips feels risky. Alongside our local partners around the world we have created our “Peace of Mind Guarantee”, that continues through until the end of March 2021, in an effort to make the whole process as risk-free as possible. It is all backed, as usual, by our ABTA bond and ATOL license (if you’re outside the UK, these are the “gold standard” forms of financial protection that a travel company can have in the UK).
If you spend too much time on Twitter you may have concluded that the Human Race is gradually tearing itself apart, accelerated by Covid. Looked at another way the pandemic has actually brought out the best in many people, and is a model of international cooperation and understanding. The main vaccines being rolled out were developed in Germany, the USA, the UK and France, tested in South Africa, Kenya and Brazil and manufactured in India. I don’t see division and rancour in that - only cooperation and the sure knowledge that we are all in this together.
It doesn’t matter how much we suppress it - humans are sociable animals. We can hold that trait back to quell a pandemic, but when those vaccines have played their crucial part and Covid is in the rear-view mirror, the connections we need to make - at a species level - will happen again, and rapidly, all around the world.
When that moment comes for you, we and our local partners are ready and waiting.
Happy New Year from all of us - here’s to a much better 2021!