Frankfurt am Main Airport on March 10, 2020 (just before most lockdowns in Europe)

Is It Time To Reset The Travel Industry?

Bonjour from the sunny, but solemn South of France and day six of the French mandated confinement in our homes (which I am 100% supportive of.)

Like many of you I am sure, I admit that I am struggling with the new reality of forced lockdowns, a steady stream of negative and fake news, and unbelievable stories from Italy- just across the closed border from where I am today. I’ve found myself dwelling on every new word or chart in my Facebook feed and imagining all of the worst case scenarios that could effect my family and friends. Since the lock down in France, my weekly screen time on my iPhone has sky rocketed upwards to an embarrassing level, yet it keeps sucking me back in, again, and again, even though I try to avoid it.

Today is Sunday, but I had to look at the calendar on my phone to know for sure what day it is. Days seem to be passing quickly, but they are somewhat of a blur since we started limiting our activity outside of our home, late last week. It’s hard to sleep in and I find myself struggling not to look at the latest coronavirus totals as soon as my eyes have opened. It seems our world is hyper focused now on almost nothing but numbers- numbers of new cases of the virus, numbers of new deaths, numbers on the stock market that are the lowest since 2008, etc- the list is endless, but none of them are positive-yet.

Sound familiar?

Frankfurt am Main Airport on March 10, 2020

For those of you who know me, you know I’ve worked in the travel industry for almost 20 years and am passionate about helping airlines improve their user experience while increasing airline direct revenue. Well, guess what? The travel industry doesn’t exist at the moment. This presents an enormous problem for me and countless others.

I will say it again: There is no travel industry right now. It doesn’t exist. No one is flying. No one is traveling. The travel industry as we knew it, is gone, and no one knows for sure when it is coming back. I’m sorry if that adds to your existing corona-funk, but it is the new reality that all of us in the travel industry are now living.

The bright spot during this week of confinement has been seeing my family all day, every day- which is something that doesn’t happen very often due to my frequently busy travel schedule meeting with airlines throughout the world. Between virtual meetings and video conferences I have constantly been reminded of the more precious things in life, such as our good health and spending quality time with my wife and kids. In fact, this week alone I’ve managed to play 40 games of ping pong with my eleven year old son, of which he has proudly won 21 of the matches. It’s highly likely that we haven’t played 40 games in the entire previous year and no matter what happens, I will never forget this time in my life.

A few days ago, I had a video conference with members of the IATA Think Tank. Our focus and collaboration for this year was originally to culminate in a vision for what the travel industry would look like in 2035 and what strategies airlines should be adopting now, to get there. In our recent February meetings in Abu Dhabi, we talked about every possible topic that could effect the future of travel- from the degradation of the environment to big brother tech initiatives, but never once did we consider a virus that in a few weeks time would disable the world and destroy many lives, companies, and careers.

Reflecting on my own situation quickly turned into thoughts about all of my friends and colleagues that work or did work until recently in the travel industry. After further thinking throughout the following days, it came to me- that maybe this is a time that we should all use to RESET. Reset our lives, reset with our families, reset how we work, and in this case reset how the travel industry works.

Assuming that we can survive this virus (there is a cure and/or a vaccine, etc) without historic casualties and assuming that governments will ease the financial burden that airlines currently face in the near term, what can we do today to help airlines and the travel industry?

Over the next few days and weeks, I am going to be exploring and sharing ways to positively help the travel industry in the short term with a focus on digital retailing and customer experience. I’ve already reached out to many amazingly smart travel industry veterans who have begun to share their own ideas and stories with me and I will begin sharing them soon.

I recently heard a great quote that came from the CEO of Etihad- “Never waste a good crisis!” Yes, the travel industry is in a crisis, so let’s not waste this opportunity to reset, redesign, and rethink the travel industry and be ready to rebound when we come out of this. If you have ideas, please feel free to comment below or message me directly. We all need to collaborate and connect to come up with the ideas that save this industry.

Please think about this at home. Don’t venture out of your home except for groceries, medical attention, or solo exercising. We can’t rebound in the travel industry until we stop this virus and this starts by staying home and away from other people. Use this time to think and send me your ideas.

Stay safe. Stay home. Stay healthy.

For those who want to help, please take a quick survey:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/airline_models

(updated March 24- new survey link)

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Travel industry Customer experience evangelist and advocate. Stealth Start-Up mode. Former: PROS, Travelaer, Amadeus, Vail Resorts, and Razorfish.

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Mike Slone

Mike Slone

Travel industry Customer experience evangelist and advocate. Stealth Start-Up mode. Former: PROS, Travelaer, Amadeus, Vail Resorts, and Razorfish.

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