Determination and Resilience, the foundation for success among Skål International travel advisors

Mark W. Costa

Skål International Seattle Vice President

Princess Cruises & Cunard, Business Development Manager – Pacific Northwest

For many of us, the global Covid-19 pandemic has caused significant disruption to our professional lives.

This has never been more true than with the men and women who faithfully and professionally serve the cruise industry as Travel Advisors.

Over the past 14 months, new cruise booking inquiries have slowed to a trickle in most cases. Only now are advisor phones finally beginning to ring, once again by eager cruisers heartily anticipating their return to the sea.

As three-decade tourism, hospitality, and cruise industry executive, I'm compassionate to this undeniable challenge and recognize how travel advisors worldwide are doing their absolute best to weather this unprecedented economic storm. To my fellow travel advisor, Skålleagues worldwide, I'd like to commend you for your determination and resilience. When thinking about the pandemic and the challenges it has caused our great industry this year, two words come to mind: undeterminable and incalculable.

It's practically impossible to ignore this crisis and the nonstop commentary that goes with it - especially in today's 24-hour news cycle. Much of the media, including many travel agency customers, friends including our very own families, continue to focus on a prolonged economic recovery. Although vaccines are here, it will undoubtedly take months, potentially years, for the global population to become vaccinated and fully ready to cruise once again. Given this unique situation, reducing your exposure to constant negatives is essential. Easier said than done, I understand.

Sales are never easy. That said, I have found some success throughout my career by sticking with the fundamentals, constantly staying in motion but always understanding and reviewing my strengths and options. Of course, always maintain contact with your customers and do your best to identify and help those in greatest need. Beyond that, given the uncertain outlook through Q1 2022, rethink your own goals and adapt. 

Beyond all else, be agile and flexible. The world came to a stop, but industry minds and leaders took this time to rethink how best to use existing resources and collaborate for a seamless continuation of the business. At first, it took a moment to absorb the enormity of Covid-19; then, it meant making some painful decisions, not knowing what's at the end of this pandemic. Yet, we are all standing, explaining the present circumstances and being responsive to our clients' concerns. Perhaps the cruise industry will evolve into something different, but we'll undoubtedly better and stronger together. Usually, if you don't change rapidly, as they say, you miss the boat… But during this occasion, we have the luxury of time and can be more reflective and flexible to evolve our business plans and determine how best to execute them and "right the ship" for mutually beneficial results. 

One of my all-time favorites’ quotes: "If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome". As a cruise line business development manager and former travel agency owner myself, I completely recognize how difficult this pandemic has been. In my mind, to be successful long-term, given the current challenges of the day, we all must collectively take effective steps to move forward to maintain the sustainability and growth of our businesses.

I still believe that pent-up demand from clients is real, and now is the time to reflect on some common thoughts and changes for continued success. The world has changed, our business practices are in flux, and yet, with determination and vigilance, we'll get through this pandemic.

If we adapt and incorporate a new approach, this strength will collectively afford us the ability to move forward, allowing us to continue to serve an industry that we love. The cruise industry will prevail.