Although the pandemic disrupted our ability to connect in person at the annual ICRS, I believe the virtual setting of ICRS Experience in October was an effective forum to get the pulse on the industry. It was great to connect with many of our clients and industry partners during ICRS Experience. We had the privilege of presenting FPG’s take on the next steps to the travel recovery.
The views below are a few of my takes on what I am seeing in the travel, car rental, and hotel industries. I am writing this as a supplement to the session recording that you can view on demand.
Realities of Travel and Car Rental Landscapes
To illustrate the challenges we are facing in 2020 and may still face in 2021 we need to look in the mirror and address the harsh macro trends and COVID impact areas that happened. I’m sharing these stats not to further depress you but to add some context to your story when we climb out of the current situation that we find ourselves in.
These are the stats that everyone in your organization must be aware of. I share them because they also speak to the size of the travel world and its potential to come back because it is such a permanent fixture in the global economy.
- Car Rental – Fleets cut by 40%-70%, utilization by 50%-70%
- Hotels – Major brands are down by 65% vs 2019 highs
- Airlines – Global airline traffic down by 65%
- International inbound travelers missing = 79.6 M
- Travel industry directly accounts for 7.1% of America’s private employment
- 15.7 million American jobs were supported by travel in 2018
- $1 million in travel revenue directly produces eight jobs with the industry
- 1 in 10 jobs in the U.S. depend on the travel industry
- Global travel job loss estimated at 100 million, 8.2 million in North America
Why to Think Positive
There is always a light at the end of the tunnel and believe we are seeing some glimmers of hope. Regardless of what type of operation you run, here are some positive trends and views that are emerging:
- The market playing field has leveled
- Majority of reductions in staff took place
- New operating model and working teams in place
- Customers are evolving to accept new COVID measures
- Customer wants are similar in every travel sector – safety & convenience
- Customers are changing renting patterns and still need mobility providers
I believe the most positive aspect is that many operators already took the necessary precautions needed and made operational changes in staffing and fleet and that the hardest part is behind us. We are seeing many good operators looking at Dec. 31 as a time to reset and make the moves for an effective 2021 and beyond.
What This Means for Your Team
Your leadership and the positive sphere of influence that you have for your team matters. Frontline workers in any profession at this moment are stressed and look to their local leadership for inspiration.
In addition to worrying about their health and getting infected by COVID, many frontline associates are facing tough financial situations because of the pandemic. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 80% of hourly workers had less than $500 saved for emergencies, and 52% had $0 saved because of the pandemic. The financial concerns are only compounded when you add a childcare component into this equation.
Parents with children under 18 comprise almost one third of the U.S. workforce. I share these stats with you because in many cases the team you may be leading may have some heavy items going on at home. To be a positive influence on your team remember this:
- Your Team’s Emotions Are Running High
- Your Team’s Role Versatility Matters
- Now More Than Ever Rapport Matters
So where are we at when we come out of this and what will the labor situation be for your operation?
Here are some of the challenges we will all face when we come out of this: A new war for talent will always come around and it will be a challenge to find great associates; your new workforce will want flexibility; new forms of workforce recognition will be important, and as a hiring manager you will have to develop a compelling recruitment story of “I was there…” and "this is how we came out of it."
What to Ask Yourself
Now is the time to take a moment to reflect on how this year has impacted you and those around you personally and professionally. The following questions we left with the audience during our session. We invite you to listen to the link below and take the time to reflect on these.
- Your Team: “Your Sphere of Influence…” – Do I know them as their inner circle, friends and family knows me? What have I done for their sphere?
- Your Team: “Trip Advisor Yourself…” – What would I write about my last five rentals and the impression I make?
- Your Team: “Pick a Product…” - Which product do I know like an expert and can I message it in 10 seconds or less?”
- You: “Your Perspective…” – “Who has it better, who has it worse?”
- Talent: “I was there story…” – Develop your message of leadership lessons learned and how you weathered the storm with the industry.
When the Chaos Stops
I know this year has been tough. My thoughts are with any COVID-19 patients, people who live-in high-risk areas, people who have a higher risk of contraction, those who have lost loved ones and our frontline medical workers. We all have friends and family that are in this group.
This year I had the opportunity to reflect on other global events that occurred during my 20-year career at FPG. The thought that keeps coming up about previous like 9/11, SARs, the financial crisis of 2008-2009, and now this situation is this:
I don’t remember the exact details of where I was or how the event directly impacted me professionally or financially, what I remember is how my team members, managers and clients made me feel during the tough times.
After working with our clients regarding the wellbeing of their team, FPG’s team, and their business it makes me appreciate the great relationship we have with them.
How we make people feel during tough times is what really matters. In the coming week try to spend a few extra minutes to listen to their concerns, provide resources for them to be safe, send an extra email or text to check in on them, recognize someone for providing you a new perspective, or simply thank someone. Let’s do our best to embrace kindness and calm instead of panic.
Trust me when the chaos stops — and it will stop — people will remember how you made them feel. I hope you have the opportunity to watch the original presentation from ICRS Experience and reflect on what we shared with the ICRS audience.
Ken Stellon is a partner at Frontline Performance Group. FPG is a global leader in frontline salesforce enablement and customer experience management. FPG’s clients include Hilton, Marriott, Nissan, and many car rental firms.