What has become known as the Serenity Prayer – “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference ” – approaching his 90th birthday.
But it never seemed more relevant.
Written by theologian Reinhold Niebuhr and embraced by Alcoholics Anonymous, poster printers and internet meme makers, it seems especially relevant to the travel industry in 2022.
More than at any time I can remember, travel advisors and suppliers are navigating a mix of dynamics that seem beyond their control. Flight delays and cancellations are numerous and unpredictable. Past experience with specific hotels is no longer a reliable indicator of current conditions.
Is this one of the “things I can’t change”? Can accepting them bring serenity? Not likely. Our industry is a service industry; our implicit promise to people who book through travel advisors, buy a package, or sign up for a tour or cruise is that they will enjoy more benefits than those who plan and travel independently.
The courage shown by some airlines and hotels to “change the things I can” seems more focused on raising prices than on customer experience. This, indeed, takes cojones! Many airlines seem poised to jeopardize long-term relationships, customer loyalty and, if reputation is indeed tied to customer retention, future profits.
But maybe they’re looking at a different clause of the prayer. Perhaps their view is that because the public perception is that their collective issues are tied to the Great Resignation, they may view their current operational difficulties as part of the “things I can’t change.” The test of the validity of this point of view is quite simple: does it lead to serenity? Maybe, in the short term, for their shareholders, but for their frontline employees, passengers, guests and industry partners, not so much.
Any sympathy industry partners and consumers may have had for the issues facing aviation and hospitality during the pandemic is quickly fading. Although travel advisors are unable to assure customers that Flight A will depart on time (or depart at all) or that meals ordered through room service will appear promptly and hot, they are not not powerless to add value to a trip.
In fact, the tools that travel advisors have always had at their disposal still add value. In the current situation, perhaps the most valuable tool of all is deployed before the journey even begins: setting expectations. Ironically, this is especially important when advising seasoned travelers who expect their previous travel habits and experiences to repeat themselves. While it may seem counterintuitive for a sales process to focus on what can go wrong, in today’s environment, it’s a good place to start.
Setting expectations for existing conditions prepares travelers to understand why an advisor would recommend, for example, taking a more expensive direct flight rather than connecting and doubling the risk of a missed or delayed departure. He explains why buying travel insurance and baggage tracking services is essential. This reinforces the value of having an attorney on their side if something goes wrong at their hotel. And if they’re traveling on a day when air traffic plummets, it’s a huge benefit to be able to contact a travel advisor with access to a GDS rather than waiting for hours.
Where once the role of an advisor was to ensure a smooth journey, today it is all about minimizing the risk of disruption and dissatisfaction. And the advisers, who have dealt for months with multiple clients in the current environment, have gained invaluable experience in crisis management.
And even when things look really broken, travel advisors aren’t helpless to undertake repair work.
One of the biggest frustrations facing advisors today is the loss of contacts in destinations. Relationships with incoming tour operators, hotel general managers, concierges and butlers may be gone, but their (likely stressed) replacements are likely to welcome calls that aim to build a relationship rather only to hear another complaint. I’ve always found that relationships formed soon after taking on a new job can be lasting, trusting, and deep. While losing an old contact is frustrating, meeting a new contact is often an opportunity.
I have great respect for the author of the prayer and understand that there are times when you have to “accept the things that I cannot change”. (I believe the contemporary expression of this sentiment is: “It is what it is.”)
The key idea of the prayer is the importance of having the “wisdom to know the difference” between what can and cannot be changed. It is perfectly true, for example, that the loss of important overseas contacts and airline operational collapses are, for travel advisors, “things that cannot be changed”. But this is not a call for inaction. Serenity comes from both accepting change and having the courage to move on from there.
#lost #luggage #Travel #Weekly