It all happened so quickly. If you go back a month, none of us could have predicted the ensuing chaos that would soon unravel around the world, from borders closing to planes grounding to health care systems buckling under the stress to new terms like “social distancing” and “self-isolation” becoming ordinary phrases in everyday life. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed everything about our daily lives and has forced us all to reflect and look at the world differently.
It has also brought some heroes to the fore. While most of us stay at home, we watch many unsung heroes go to work daily on the frontlines, putting their lives on the line to save people in hospitals and care homes, or working in stressful conditions to get us our groceries or pharmaceuticals. We’re all in awe of the courage of these frontline workers who are keeping us safe and our society running. But within our own industry, there have also been silent heroes in the background, furiously working around the clock to ensure that people get back to their native lands safe and sound. These silent heroes are our travel agent partners and our own destination specialists at Goway.
I know we all work in travel because we love what we do. We wake up excited every day to come into work and make our mutual clients’ dreams a reality. But even at the best of times this job can be stressful. In the past, our destination specialists have always risen to the occasion in order to do what needs to be done. As COVID-19 started to spread in China, our destination specialists faced greater challenges than ever before. They also responded like champions and rose to even greater heights. Together with our travel partners, we have all worked tirelessly around the clock to start bringing our mutual clients home. Every day had a new story, with a new border closing to international travel and new planes being forced to cancel their schedules. We were suddenly in very unfamiliar territory.
At first, we compared this to the likes of SARS and Ebola—crises that we had managed to overcome—but when COVID-19 spread into Europe, we realized that we had never seen something like this before. Along with so many of our travel partners in this industry, we were swamped with work and facing all new challenges seemingly every second of every day. But even though our energy levels were low, we remained motivated to bring our clients home and ensure their safety.
The importance of a travel agent has never been more evident, as well as the essential need of working with a reliable expert to assist in ensuring a client’s safety. Quickly, we started to see people frazzled as OTAs and airlines were overwhelmed by phone calls. Wait times were peaking—and that was if you were lucky enough to get through and be able to talk to a real person on the other end. Actually getting through to someone was like winning the lottery. And it was this panic and stress that clarified just how important our destination team and travel agents are. They offer something that online booking sites and impersonal algorithms cannot—expertise, support, and compassion. It is in these uncertain times that we ride out the storm together and know that the reward on the other end will be worth it.
The hard work and compassion of our travel agents has not gone unnoticed. You need only look at some of the comments on our Goway Agent Facebook group to see appreciation for everyone’s hard work. Wendy Bunney writes, “Just want to give a big Thank You to both Kelly and Tracy who have been helping me with a cancelled file the past week. Emails have been so prompt and questions answered ASAP – in these crazy times – this means so much 🙂 Kudos to all at Goway!” She goes on to say that “Goway Agents Rock!! Smiles on the phone in the face of cancellations and major changes. The rules are different every time we look at them. Keep a positive attitude and we’ll all make it together. 🙂 Love my agents!” Suzy Davis was similarly appreciative of the hard work in these trying times: “Thank you dear Raewyn Reed for working tirelessly to protect our 5 groups! Goway always has our back over 2 decades.”
So as I sit here in my home office, self-isolating with my puppy at my feet, I’d like to send a shout out to all those heroes that don’t wear capes: our travel partners and the destination specialists at Goway that I’m so proud to call my colleagues. You’re truly making a difference in people’s lives and your exceptional service has not gone unnoticed. Thank you for everything you have done and everything you continue to do.
Remain #tourismstrong and we’ll all come out the other side of this storm together.