As we count down the final hours of a whirlwind year, our team is preparing for a prosperous 2021. Taking into account the challenges we’ve all been through in 2020, I’m so optimistic for the year to come. Heck, it honestly wouldn’t take much to make this new year better than our previous. Just a quick recap, in addition to the global coronavirus outbreak, 2020 graced us with: swarms of locustsraging wildfires, a toilet paper shortagemurder hornets, a Kanye West presidential runTiger King, and the confirmation of UFOs (maybe).

As we take a final glance of 2020 in our rear view mirror and say goodbye to this trying year, here’s 5 things our team learned this year:

  1. The resiliency of our people
  2. Mom’s know best
  3. What travelers need
  4. What webex is good (and bad) for
  5. The unknown is the new known

1) The Resiliency of our People

At the beginning of the pandemic (which let’s pause for a second a realize how absurd it is that this is now a normal statement…) we sat down with business travel experts to get their perspectives on where we were at as an industry, greatly impacted by Covid-19. Makiko Barrett said she had “…been through a lot, including managing travel during the volcano in Iceland…” Sean Parham eloquently recalled his experiences during 9/11, and all of our business travel SMEs agreed that the challenges we were facing with Covid-19 were incomparable to anything they’ve ever experienced. The weeks that followed were so very bleak… Looking back today, I’m encouraged by the resiliency and fortitude I saw throughout our industry. In the midst of layoffs and struggling businesses, we discovered what really mattered – our people. Frank Morogiello reminded us that we’re in the hospitality business, and that “…people matter! If it doesn’t matter here, it doesn’t matter anywhere.” As many of our travel friends were displaced from life-long careers, we saw friends stepping up to help friends. From endorsing the skill-set and experience of our industry peers on LinkedIn and connecting them to new opportunities, to calling up our friends and starting our Webexs with a “How are you doing?” – our people stepped up in a beautiful way to embrace each other and connect on our collective struggles. Suppliers stepped up as well with innovate solutions to keep us safe, and began to lay the ground work to build confidence and prepare for the restart of business travel. Our industry is all about people. Our people stood up to support each other, and our people are the backbone of our industry. As our colleagues stood up to support each other, their resilience confirmed the resilience of our industry.

2) Moms Know Best

Our team was preparing for the next round of travel conferences, and we had just received our latest swag which we were sure would be a hit at our booths. On March 03, 2020 – just a few days before Concur Fusion was supposed to take place in Orlando – we received word that Fusion would be cancelled. Our travel plans were already made, and this was before the now normal protocol of waived cancellation fees, so our team decided to still make the trip and use this time for a Tripkicks Team strategy and planning meeting. We checked in to our big Airbnb (a common practice that allows us to hangout together, be productive in our down-time, and save some money on hotels) and took advantage of the now empty but still reserved conference rooms at the Orlando World Center Marriott to knock out some great work. The next few days, we discussed our product and ways we could innovate and leverage our technology to address the looming pandemic in front of us. It was the start of many months of work to develop our current solution. Our last night, we took an Uber to get dinner and drinks at the Disney Boardwalk, and found a cool patio bar. Sipping on Shiners and watching the Utah Jazz and Oklahoma Thunder game on a patio TV  as they prepared to tip-off, Jeff Berk (our CEO) got a text from his mom. “Where are you at?” she asked, and then before he could reply, she said “You need to get home.” A few minutes later, we watched as the Jazz game was delayed. Next, I received almost the exact same text from my mom, asking me where I was and telling me I needed to get home. Minutes later we watched as the NBA announced they were suspending the season. Looking back, I couldn’t come close to comprehending what we were about to go through… but our moms could. Moms know best.

3) What Travelers Need

As we set out to build our product, we thought so much about what travelers need. Not just what they would need in a post-pandemic world, but what data and insights they need in all times to travel better and achieve their goals. Travelers need information, and while the type of information they need will change based upon various factors, the fact that travelers rely upon information to make the best decisions and enhance their experience remains constant. Today, travelers need information around changing travel restrictions and information to keep them safe and empower them with confidence. As we work to defeat Covid-19 in 2021, the information that’s most important to travelers will change and be focused again around their preferences and priorities to help them travel better.

4) What Webex is good (and bad) for

Webex, Zoom, Teams, GoToMeeting, and Ring Central are just a few of the video meeting programs I can see in my Applications folder and use on a weekly basis. We’ve learned a lot with these tools! And while some of us still somehow can’t figure out when the mute button is enabled, we’ve successfully discovered how to stay connected and conduct business by staring into our webcams every day for the past nine months. And it’s great! Except when it’s not… and then it’s absolutely, mind-numbingly awful. I believe just as we’ve learned the scenarios where video conferencing works great, we’ve also learned the scenarios where it does not work great. Now more than ever, we understand the power of face to face. The REAL face to face, not camera to camera. There’s no question that we’ve rightfully embraced the power of remote/virtual connections in business today, and that leveraging these tools will be a part of how we work moving forward. But in building relationships, and solving complex problems, and developing trust, and creating community, and networking together – face to face is king. And now more than ever, I believe we’ve all experienced situations which prove this to be true.

5) The Unknown is the New Known

Finally, not to get too philosophical here, I think in 2020 we’ve learned to expect the “unknown” and handle the challenges which accompany this “unknown” in the best ways possible. As people and businesses and communities, we’ve always been far from perfection. And I don’t think that today we should be settling for mediocrity, or that we use any event or year as an excuse to stop striving to do big, great things. We shouldn’t take our foot off the gas, and we should continue to dream big and work tirelessly to achieve outcomes and advancements beyond our wildest imagination. But sh** happens. And there’s a lot outside of our control. If there’s one thing we can take from 2020 with us into 2021, it should be our adaptiveness and flexibility and understanding to the unknowns. Let’s resolve to be considerate, kind, and roll with whatever punches are thrown. We’re ready for ya, 2021.

Let’s get back to it.

Steve Newton is Head of Sales at Tripkicks

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