By Marianne Windham
Windham Travel and Leisure
I will call this article “An Interview with Myself.” This is my truth. In the past 10 months, droves of people have asked me so many questions, out of complete bewilderment and genuine concern. I want to touch on these, and hopefully give you a much more positive and enlightening follow up just a few months from now.
“So what happened?” January 2020. For Windham Travel & Leisure, it was a very exciting beginning to our fifteenth year in business. It was a beautiful new year; full of amazing possibilities and wonderful “trip of a lifetime” vacations SO many of our clients were looking forward to…
and then Covid-19 . . . .
Our first cancellations began on March 9. On that day, there is no way that we could’ve possibly imagined that this shutdown of our industry—and my livelihood for more than fifteen years—would come to a complete standstill, and extend all the way to December. For lack of a better term for it, anyone in or related to the travel industry during this Coronavirus pandemic of 2020 was at “ground zero.” We all took an enormous hit from the beginning; and before many others felt it. Of course, this is excluding our heroes and first responders, lifesavers and life sustainers in the medical field – all who have been warriors from day one. The financial loss has been devastating, but no more so than any of my small business colleagues, who either had to temporarily let staff go, or close their doors forever. Nor any individuals whose positions could not be retained, those furloughed, and the many who lost their jobs permanently. How many times have you heard “Never in my lifetime . . . ?” The vast majority of US travel agencies – about 98% – are small businesses. Over two thirds of them are owned and operated by women. This is who I am. And more questions:
“So how are you?” I want you all to know that Windham Travel & Leisure is still here, AND growing and determined to be stronger than ever! In spite of 2020, we’ve grown from two full-time and one part-time staff to a total of five Travel Advisors!
“So what happens now?” We know firsthand that travelers need experienced Travel Advisors now more than ever! As a Travel Advisor, I am on the Inside. We have different phone numbers than you do. Did you know that? For those who perhaps have never worked with a Travel Advisor-You’ll have a lot better understanding of what this means if you had a trip during 2020 – and booked on your own or online – and maybe it did not go so well, trying to cancel or to get answers or being on hold for hours and hours, only to be disconnected. We, as Travel Advisors are Advocates for our clients. We are the ones in the trenches making the calls and advocating for our clients, to get them relief, redirecting, rebooking, getting refunds, and future travel vouchers, etc. We are watching everything that’s going on. We’re tracking flights. We’re staying up late, getting up early, or not sleeping at all, so that we can do everything in our power to make sure that our clients are taken care of. You and your travel experiences matter to us.
“So where did your clients go in 2020?” Our clients mostly enjoyed the good ole US of A. Top destinations? Cozy Florida, snow skiing in Montana, Colorado and Utah, wine-tastings in California and exploring Hawaii. But pre-pandemic (and during) we had clients in the Caribbean, Mexico, South America, Europe, et cetera.
So where did you go in 2020? A Disney Western Caribbean Cruise, Orange Beach, South Alabama, the Smoky Mountains, Atlanta, New Orleans and Las Vegas.
So what travel are you booking for 2021? So far, Alaska, Mexico, Costa Rica, the Caribbean, Ireland, UK, Greece and European River cruises.
So where are YOU going in 2021? So far, my personal travel list includes Sedona and revisiting the Grand Canyon and the nostalgic throw back Route 66 that I have such fond memories of back in the early 70s with my family. Also planned – A late Spring Transatlantic Crossing on Cunard’s Queen Mary2 from Southampton, England to NYC, Aruba in September and a family gathering in Gatlinburg in October. I’m sure this list will grow.
We are ALL connected in this world. We always have been; but even more so now with ALL that we have been through – TOGETHER. Each one of us is forever changed by 2020. And though we were all called to stay close to home, this too shall pass. Travel brings people together. It helps people understand other cultures and customs. What we think we know about other places is completely thrown out the window, once we land on their soil, and they welcome us with open arms, like one of their own. Wherever we go becomes a part of us somehow.
Wishing you all a refreshed and blessed New Year of Peace, Health, Happiness, Grace, Gratitude and Keeping YOUR Travel Dreams Alive.
“I am not the same, having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world.” – Mary Anne Radmacher.
With Joy & Hope & Gratitude, Marianne Windham