Travel Agents

“It’s time to say I’m struggling”: Travel boss’ brilliantly honest message to the industry

With the travel industry still struggling to get back on its feet, those working within it have been reminded that it’s okay to not be okay, and are being encouraged to ask for help.

Andrew Buerckner, director of Australian-owned travel management company Platinum Travel Corporation, penned one helluva blog on LinkedIn last week, which documented his own recent struggles remaining positive despite the overly bleak outlook for the industry.

“Today was a bad day. I really am struggling. But I also know I’m doing remarkably well compared to many others in the industry – not to mention compared to those who’ve lost loved ones to this unforgiving virus. I think about them every day,” he wrote.

“But I also think about my travel colleagues around the world who are suffering in relative silence. Because no one who needs help is more or less deserving of it.”

“It took being on the other end of someone else finally breaking for me to admit that I was struggling, too. So, this is me doing the same for someone else.

“Here’s the thing. People will travel again. Travel agents and operators will not only rebound – they’ll flourish. But we’ll only be ready to ramp up again if we get there in the first place. And none of us will get there if we can’t ask for help.”

You can read Buerckner’s brilliantly honest piece in full below:

I’ve written a lot about mental health in the last few years. I’ve invested a lot in my own, and in the mental health programs and support we offer staff at Platinum. I’ve made every effort to be gentle with myself and with those around me in recent months, and to focus on, and articulate, the opportunities that COVID-19 has afforded us. Good mental health is important to me.

But I’m fresh out of positivity this week. I’m fresh out of positive spins, glasses half full and half-arsed silver linings. I’m really struggling.

I’m struggling to keep up the ‘positive guy’ routine in Zoom catch-ups and sales meetings. I’m struggling to accept that the modest rebound we’ve enjoyed in recent weeks has been stopped in its tracks again with Victoria’s lockdown. Some days, I’m struggling to drag myself out of bed; to find purpose in what I’m doing; to concentrate past midday.

Last week, I sat in on a meeting with some key players in the global travel industry. We never made it to our agenda, though, because one of our colleagues on the call broke down long before we could get there. And I understood exactly how they felt. The trouble is, I’m not sure how many people outside the travel industry really get it. There’s a level of naivety amongst even my closest family and friends about just how bad things really are (I’m realising as I’m writing this that maybe we’ve been so utterly overwhelmed by everything that we neglected to tell you). 

Around Australia and the world, travel agents and operators are pulling their kids out of schools they can no longer afford, and selling homes they thought they’d be passing on to their grandchildren. They’re selling cars and assets to manage cashflows, and to fast-track refunds for valued clients whose patience with airline refund delays has – understandably – run out. And many of them are doing all of this while being ripped to shreds by media outlets that have failed to investigate or understand the complex web of conditions, stakeholders and processes involved in undoing two years’ worth of work (for free) in a lot of cases. 

And before you start questioning why an event like COVID-19 wasn’t built into our long-term business plans, consider the scale of this crisis. Consider the lack of control travel and tourist organisations have had in the face of all this. Consider how Nike would be faring right about now if everyone’s feet had disappeared four months ago, and there was no timeline on when feet might return? Yes, I know that is a terrible example and yes, I know Nike sell more than shoes.

We in the global travel business have no timelines, no certainty, and – in Australia, at least – no tangible support past September. And you know what? Writing that out just now makes me realise how well we’ve actually done in the last six months. How responsive and committed to our core company values we’ve managed to remain. But morals and values only get you so far in the end.

Today was a bad day. I really am struggling. But I also know I’m doing remarkably well compared to many others in the industry – not to mention compared to those who’ve lost loved ones to this unforgiving virus. I think about them every day.  But I also think about my travel colleagues around the world who are suffering in relative silence. Because no one who needs help is more or less deserving of it.

What gives me hope is that the people on that call last week really looked after each other. They canned their agenda, they dropped their masks, and they swallowed their pride. And it’s about time I did the same. See, it took being on the other end of someone else finally breaking for me to admit that I was struggling, too. So, this is me doing the same for someone else.

Here’s the thing. People will travel again. Travel agents and operators will not only rebound – they’ll flourish. But we’ll only be ready to ramp up again if we get there in the first place. And none of us will get there if we can’t ask for help.


Featured image source: iStock/Nastasic

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