This time last year we were beginning to understand that the significant threat to physical health from the Coronavirus pandemic would not be the only danger ahead. There were two other key impacts to challenge us yet further.
Firstly, the devastating impact upon economic prosperity unfolded, with the travel industry and its associated employees amongst the hardest hit. It has been heart-breaking to see so many colleagues and friends affected in so many different ways. And secondly, a combination of enforced isolation, extended periods of uncertainty, and the aforementioned threat to jobs have contributed to an almost incalculable toll upon mental health.
At ITM we are proud of the way in which our business travel industry community has pulled together and tried to hold each other up as we faced an ever changing, but generally discouraging sequence of events and setbacks. Our recently launched ITM Community programme of initiatives, for example, includes substantial new educational resources to help members navigate their way through this crisis, as well as an offer of free membership for those who have been furloughed or made redundant.
Sadly of course, we have seen so many people displaced or leaving the industry to seek to secure their careers and families. Whilst ITM observed this most directly impacting supplier members through last spring and summer, the final quarter of 2020 saw a noticeable number of roles lost on the buyer side also.
Whilst there is optimism that the recovery will start over this summer and roles begin to return, we would caution strongly against further headcount reductions for travel managers and buyers. When business travel does begin to resume, even in small numbers, bookings will require far more attention and touch than usual owing to the new complexities arising from Brexit and Covid-related measures and processes, to name just two new dynamics. The extraordinary expertise and stakeholder engagement that travel buyers demonstrate routinely will be priceless for businesses who require their people to meet each other and other people (ie all companies).
The impact upon mental health is an almost invisible virus within the virus. The steady removal of stigma around this subject has been most welcome but, since it can manifest differently across individuals, we should never assume that we know how anyone is feeling. I think that anyone who hasn’t suffered mentally to some degree or other in the last year is either extremely fortunate or bluffing.
We should all take the time to help those whose careers have faltered through no fault of their own and we should categorically all contact someone today whom you may not have spoken to for a while. Let’s make 2021 the year of having each other’s backs. Are you in?
NB: first reference at: https://thebusinesstravelmag.com/reach-out/