‘If you’d known this time last year what was coming your way, would you have been tempted to walk away?’, asks Hays Travel’s Washington branch manager Colin Burns.

I was asked the other day: “If this time last year, someone had said that in a year’s time you’ll still be working from home and unsure of what’s coming your way, would you have been tempted to walk away?”

Thinking back to those awful first few days of lockdown 2020, and the loss of control that is so important for us to do our jobs properly, I have to admit I would have been very tempted.

The idea of going through a whole year of uncertainty, of feeling that my professionalism would be challenged every single day, would have been unthinkable. But I know that if I had walked away, within half an hour I’d have been back, thinking ‘what if I didn’t do it?’

“Partly through conscience, partly through loyalty and a sense of duty – but mainly because it was clearly the right thing to do – here I am, a whole year later.”

What would have happened to my team? Who would be there to support them? What would happen to my customers? Where would it leave them if I wasn’t around when they really needed help? And what would the future hold for Hays Travel without staff staying loyal when the chips were down?

So, partly through conscience, partly through loyalty and a sense of duty – but mainly because it was clearly the right thing to do – here I am, a whole year later, still doing my best and hoping for positive news that lasts longer than a week.

I won’t be the only one who has felt like this. I’d bet hundreds of teams, line managers, directors and business owners have at some point thought about giving up – but for one or more reasons have carried on, determined to see this through.

Managing expectations

Much of the past year has been spent managing customer expectations. Will they get away? What will happen while they are away? How long will their refund take? Now, I think I may need some time to manage my team’s expectations about returning to work.

Speaking to them, they are all champing at the bit to get back in the shop and start doing what we all love – booking holidays! And, by the time you read this, the government will hopefully have given “a bit” of detail about the resumption of international travel.

We may have a better idea of what is to come, but I don’t see a repeat of last July with an all-out opening of every shop and everyone back to work overnight. This return will have to be more measured, with robust plans B, C and D in place. The optimism this time around is much more cautious.

“The resilience we travel professionals have is mirrored in our customers’ determination to get away as soon as it is safe.”

That said, I really do have a good feeling. The vaccine programme rolls on, and so many are hopeful this will help in their quest to get away on holiday. More and more overseas authorities are saying they’re ready to welcome holidaymakers at some point this year, and the resilience we travel professionals have is mirrored in our customers’ determination to get away as soon as it is safe.

So, while I’m not going to get carried away this time, we can head into the summer armed with the lessons we’ve learnt and knowing that, because we had the determination to go on, we are still here and ready to provide whatever our customers are allowed to have.

And who knows, this time next year we might just be in a hotel bar having a laugh about that time we nearly gave up.


SHUTTERSTOCK-harbour

‘What would we do without you?’

I regularly book twin sisters in their 80s to San Antonio, Ibiza, every May and October, and have done for as long as I can remember. Of course, they haven’t been able to go since October 2019, and they called me to amend their May trip this year to October. Having checked to get the best deal, out of the blue they asked me how old I was. I thought they were going to make one of their usual ‘Oh, young man!’ type of flirtatious remarks.

But, when I told them, they said: “Ah well, we hope you don’t die before us – we don‘t know what we’d do without you.” Is that a compliment? I like to think so! It’s another of the reasons I have to carry on!