2020 Vision: Looking back to move forward
As we navigate the uncharted waters of the COVID-19 pandemic, each day seems to bring news and challenges we couldn’t even imagine a few weeks ago. My heart is heavy as our team continues to work to keep our clients safe and informed. And, each time a client has canceled a long-planned trip, I feel their disappointment as I wonder what’s to come in the weeks and months ahead.
This year, Cruise Dreams is celebrating our 23rd company anniversary. Over the years, the travel industry – and the world – have experienced a remarkable amount of change. Through it all, we’ve ridden the waves to adapt and thrive, even reinventing the way we do business along the way. What we’re seeing now is truly unprecedented in my 32 years in the industry, and in my lifetime.
While going through these rough seas, one thing that helps me is to look back on all the obstacles our agency has worked through and overcome – big and small – over the past 22 years. While this one is the most daunting, reflecting on where we’ve been gives me the perspective and confidence, we will need to reinvent ourselves once again.
I thought the following timeline of events through the lens of Cruise Dreams’ history was worth sharing as we all face the days ahead and look to come out on the other side of this different, but stronger.
Goodbye paper tickets: American Airlines became the first airline to offer electronic ticketing in all 44 countries it serves.
New century? No problem: The feared Y2K bug failed to shut down computer software.
Economic upswing: Unemployment was low, and the stock market set records as the “dotcom” boom came to a close.
9/11: We all remember where we were the morning of September 11, 2001. The day after, I had 69 cancellations. As a self-employed business owner, it felt like my world was crashing down. Within six weeks, however, bookings were increasing once again, and business was steady, although travel as we knew it changed overnight with heightened security measures, including no more goodbyes at the gate, full-body scanners, and passports required for U.S. travelers to Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean.
The airline transformation: In the wake of 9/11, airlines struggled, kicking off a wave of mergers, bankruptcies, and liquidations in the years ahead. As a result, there are fewer flights, fuller planes, and smaller seats.
Going to war: Along with the ongoing war on terrorism, the U.S. went to war with Iraq, with the conflict continuing for the next decade.
Deadly tsunami: A major earthquake followed by a massive tsunami on December 26 devastated parts of Indonesia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, and India.
London bombings: A series of terrorist bombings in London were the worst attacks suffered by Britain since WW II.
London on top: Despite the terrorist acts in 2005, London was the number one destination for international travelers in 2006.
The iPhone is born: Smartphones put the internet at everyone’s fingertips, taking the digital evolution of the travel industry to the next level. Apps now help travelers track flights, navigate unfamiliar places, and instantly share photos. Cruise Dreams adapted with our own travel app for group clients, providing convenient access to their travel details. But we also learned that smartphones would never take the place of the knowledge and service upon which we’ve built Cruise Dreams’ reputation.
The Great Recession: The worst worldwide economic downturn since the Great Depression began in December 2007 and lasted 18 months. It was time for more reinvention for the Cruise Dreams’ business model, with Group and Corporate incentive travel becoming 75 percent of our revenue, as more employers designed travel programs for their customers to help drive increased sales.
Few bags fly free: Most major airlines began charging a fee for checked bags.
Volcanic disruption: A volcano eruption in Iceland sent volcanic ash into the atmosphere over Europe. Air travel was disrupted worldwide, stranding travelers for several days.
A Greek bail-out: Spiraling debt and bail-out negotiations, known as the “Euro Crisis,” caused unrest in Greece, as well as other debt-ridden countries, including Ireland, Italy, and Portugal.
Tourism milestone: For the first time, annual international tourism reached the 1 billion travelers mark, with all regions seeing upticks in tourist arrivals, with Asia and the Pacific region leading the way. At Cruise Dreams, we experienced amazing growth in both individual and group travel.
Bill of rights: The Cruise Passengers Bill of Rights was enacted, helping to ensure passengers are informed of mechanical difficulties affecting cruises and receive appropriate refunds for canceled or shortened cruises due to mechanical failures.
Hotels go high-tech (finally): Major hotel chains began offering free Wi-Fi, mobile check-in, and keyless entry via smartphones.
Zika outbreak: South America experienced an outbreak of the Zika virus, prompting health warnings for travelers, especially pregnant women. As of March 2019, no countries were reporting current Zika outbreaks.
A look at Cuba: Longstanding travel restrictions between the U.S. and Cuba loosened, enabling U.S. tourists to visit Cuba more freely via cruises and direct flights. Cruise Dreams sailed to Cuba in 2017 and 2018, visiting this amazing island that feels like it’s straight from a 1950’s movie. However, restrictions tightened again in 2019, with passenger vessels including cruise ships and yachts no longer allowed access, causing the cancellation of our 2019 group trip.
Devastating hurricanes: Hurricane Harvey flooded Houston, Irma damaged the Florida Keys and Caribbean, and Maria decimated Puerto Rico. The costliest storm season on record had a $1 billion impact on tourism in the region. However, in my 22 years in business, the only disruption my cruise clients have experienced because of a hurricane is a change of itinerary, as cruise lines have plenty of advanced warning and can simply choose to sail to blue skies, avoiding rough waters and ensuring an enjoyable vacation.
The economy soared. Cruise Dreams had a record-breaking year.
Cruising to a record: More than 30 million passengers took a cruise in 2019 – a new record. Almost 12 million were Americans. And, Cruise Dreams experienced another record-breaking year.
The coronavirus: It’s too early to know the full impact of this global crisis, and the changes that will result. What we know for certain is that it will affect every corner of the world and every industry. And we will all continue to feel the ripples long after the rough seas subside.
Cruise Dreams has always been a niche agency with a diversified clientele all over the world, but we’ve never faced anything like this. As of today, we’ve had 390 cancellations as we help our clients navigate the evolving situation. To be honest, it’s difficult not to allow the stress and fear of the unknown to get to me. But when this happens, I turn to my faith and know that GOD is in control and will help us once again weather the storm…TOGETHER!
I love my clients. Travel is my passion. And designing trips that allow others to experience the world brings me JOY! Thank you for your loyalty to Cruise Dreams over the years and all your referrals. I greatly appreciate your confidence in continuing to refer your friends and family and allowing us to assist them with their travels.
I know we’ll get through this. And, although travel will change as it did after 9/11, we will once again be here to assist our clients in designing their next unique adventure, getaway, and TRIP OF A LIFETIME. In the meantime, may we all count our blessings even in the storms of life and always remember to find joy in the journey each and every day!