Many years ago, in my very first Receptionist job, a Manager explained to me that I was not being as productive as I could be since I couldn’t identify what the most important thing was.
He used an example of standing behind the reception desk and a guest walking in the door as the phone rang, while someone is calling you on the radio. He asked me what the most important thing was.
I don’t recall my answer and it took me a long time to understand that there is no right answer. If the guy on the radio was shouting that the storeroom was on fire, THAT was the most important thing. If the guest walking in was clearly upset or urgently needed assistance THAT was the most important thing. If the person on the phone was lost and had been looking for directions when he got cut off THAT is the most important thing.
Over the 20 odd years I’ve spent in the Tourism Industry, I’ve used that example many times while training all manner of staff. It was my way of explaining to newbies that you needed to constantly think as things change quickly when you deal with people and circumstances. Problems and solutions are not in isolation, they form part of a bigger picture.
Like many others I’ve spent the first few months of lockdown nailed to my computer. First to help get guests out of the country then to deal with the fall out of the bookings being cancelled and postponed, trying to get hold of suppliers, dealing with tricky and time sensitive queries from clients and finally, if you were lucky enough to receive the refunds from the suppliers, the double edged sword of repaying refunds to clients.
As things dragged out it felt like time was coming to a standstill. The feeling of shock and panic changed into a feeling of cautious hope while numbers in South Africa were low and then, when lockdown was extended and with the shattered hope of opening up before 2021 for international travellers, disintegrated into a sense of despondency and helplessness. This is especially difficult for people in the Tourism Industry who make their living from facilitating other people’s holiday dreams. As Tourism Folks, we need to be forward thinking and awake, often pre-empting snags before they happen and ensure that any issues and challenges are sorted out efficiently and promptly so we can stay on top of our game. For us, this hopelessness and sense of not being in control of our own destiny feels like the end of the world.
During lockdown I saw this quote from Jonathan Leeming: “Lockdown is not about putting your life on hold, it’s about dealing with the change”
This deeply resonated with me.
“Dealing with change” to me has not only meant in my business but also for me as a person. While it took some time to understand the impact COVID would have on my own Tourism Consulting Business, I realised that I would need to take a step back. I needed to reconnect with myself to find out what is important and where exactly I stand on certain things. Things that I’ve let slip as I didn’t have the time and energy to fight another battle.
This time has now been forced on us and I needed to make the most of it.
This has been part of my lockdown journey. My Consulting business was not doing well even before COVID and I’ve needed this time to understand why. Bizarrely I had actually been going through this exercise a few months ago and had decided to use my Tour Operating experience to pivot the consulting into Tour Operating. For the first time in a few years I had bookings, deposits had been paid and I would be able to survive on my own.
Then COVID hit. Consulting gigs vanished, bookings cancelled, and it all went up in smoke. Now was definitely NOT the time to work on a fledgling Tour Operating Business. My instincts where telling me that it would be probably be months, possibly years, before there would be any possibility of a start-up Tour Operator being viable again.
So, time to re-evaluate again. To, this time, learn about myself and my reason for doing things. For the first time in my life I was being forced to find my WHY. To try and discover what I really wanted to do, not just because I’m able to pull it off. I can, in all honestly say that it has been a tough education!
In the last few years I’ve, time and again, found myself in situations where I’m dealing with people just starting to learn about Tourism. People, who have a passionate desire to make a difference in their own lives, those of their families and in their communities. People, who were running into snags or sometimes brick walls that block them from going forward. People, who don’t know where to look for help or don’t get that help from those who are mandated to give it to them. Suddenly I was giving advice and coaching both young and old from all walks of life, who had never been in the Tourism Industry but had the vision and passion to understand that here was a very real opportunity.
Unexpectedly I found myself an ambassador for the Tourism Industry and its Value Chain, giving guidance of what Tourism means and where, if one is innovative and willing to work hard, one might be able to find your own WHY. And while processing through these experiences I have found my own WHY…
I’ve learnt that I want to see people be successful. I want to see them kick butt and prove the neigh-sayers wrong. I want to see that someone can have a dream and make it happen and ultimately, I want to help make that happen. I don’t really want to be the one in the limelight or on the stage, but I want to know that I was there with help and understanding and when needed, asking the tough and uncomfortable questions to help that person find his or her own way to shine.
And after years of writing things in my head, not having the guts to put it on paper, this journey has led me here. I don’t have money and I don’t know rich people with lots of funding, but I do know that we are each the master of our own destiny and the change has to start with yourself.
So when I now look around and I ask myself: “what is the most important thing right now?” I believe that each of us are, knowing yourself, understanding our own why.
How I did this is told in How to kickstart yourself in these COVID times.