David J. Danto
Business travel thoughts in my own, personal opinion
NOT Traveling Blog, 4th Week Of September
In 2014 I was voted by USA Today readers as one of the top ten business travel bloggers in the USA. Now mind you, I turned out to be number ten on the list of ten, but I did make it on (with my thanks to all those who voted.) Now that we’re all stuck at home and not traveling, I had to think about what to do with my blogs. I could stop writing them entirely – waiting till we all get through the current COVID19 pandemic / crisis. I could wax nostalgic and/or complain about past trips. Or, I could focus all of my efforts on my day job – growing the use of collaboration technologies – especially in light of how many people are now forced to use those tools for the first time. In reflecting upon those choices, what I decided to do is compile an ongoing list of observations during the crisis. Some of these may amuse, some may inform, some may sadden and others may help. My goal will be for you to have seen something in a different light than you did before you stopped to read the blog. I was going to apologize for how disjointed these thoughts may seem when put together, but then it dawned on me that feeling disjointed is our new normal – at least for a little while.
There were some interesting announcements in the last couple of weeks that you may have missed. I usually attend many of the larger technology/business conferences throughout a normal year – so I keep track of their schedules. As you know however, 2020 has not been a normal year. Sadly, it now looks like 2021 may be lost as well. Weeks ago, the largest conference in the US – the CES Show (formerly the Consumer Electronics Show) cancelled their in-person Las Vegas event in January and is going “all digital.” That is quite a hit to the Las Vegas economy, as CES is very lucrative for the tourism industry there. (Remember, I’ve documented the price gouging there for this event in the past.) Add to that, in the past week we’ve learned that Enterprise Connect (usually in Orlando in March) is already showing that their conference will be moved to fall 2021. (They haven’t made an announcement, but their website shows “Fall 2021” in the header.) Then in addition, the National Association of Broadcasters announced their usually April show in Las Vegas will be moved to October 2021. Both of these leapfrogged the ISE Show’s February event in Barcelona, which finally saw the writing on the wall and announced that their event would be “postponed” as well. (“Postponed” is a euphemism that’s getting a lot of use lately from organizations that can’t bring themselves to telling the truth about cancelling their in-person events.) When one steps back and looks at these announcements together, it becomes obvious that we will not have “normal” business travel again for at least EIGHT MORE MONTHS, and that only takes the currently cancelled or postponed events into consideration. I’d have to conclude that having these kind of events return even in mid-2021 is pretty optimistic at this point.
What does eight more months of life like it is now mean to each of us? Let’s speculate just a bit to explore that question:
· Tourism based economies will probably completely fall apart. Airlines, hotels, live theaters, movie theaters, restaurants, etc. – it’s potentially a huge list. I don’t think most people are prepared for how devastating these failures will be. As Joe Brancatelli already reported, the New York hotels The Hilton Times Square, The Marriott East Side and The Courtyard Herald Square have already announced permanent closures. “Paradise” destinations like Hawaii whose entire economies are based on tourism are suffering through devastation that was once inconceivable. These are all only the tip of the iceberg.
· Firms that make their living on the large business conferences which aren’t happening are in significant trouble. As the pandemic cancellations approach March 2021 there are events that will need to be cancelled/postponed for a second year in a row. It’s doubtful that all of the organizations (both for profit and non-profit) that put on these events can survive a second year with little or no income. The truth is, sadly, that some of these events are probably never coming back.
· Many people are afraid to go shopping. This has been a huge benefit to on-line vendors, but a death blow to many brick and mortar retailers. Lord & Taylor – the first department store in the US – is closing all its stores. New York’s Century 21 chain is doing the same. Many other chains are shrinking and closing stores. Business Insider reports that firms worth a record 46 billion dollars have already filed for bankruptcy. All of this represents a double whammy. Yes, we’ve lost or are losing these companies to patronize, but as they wind-down, everyone employed there will be out of work. Every supplier that these firms purchased-from will be losing a customer, and these secondary firms may not be able to survive that loss either. If you think things are bad now, be prepared for everything to get much, much worse very soon.
As for knowledge workers like myself, be prepared to be in the current Hybrid Working / Working From Home mode for a heck of a lot longer. Clearly there are eight more months of this as I’ve described above, but again, I believe that is actually an optimistic prediction. Some organizations are re-opening their offices with appropriate precautions and distancing, but going into them will probably be the exception for most knowledge workers doing individual work. If you haven’t set up a home office / workstation that’s a whole lot better than your “temporary, emergency” earbuds and a PC or tablet with a built-in camera then you’d better get moving – possibly literally. People are moving out of cramped urban apartments that used to be near their offices and heading for suburban and rural residences – ones where they have the room to set-up a home office and/or spot where their children can participate in on-line learning. These home offices should be making use of bigger displays, higher-quality external cameras, noise-cancelling headsets or speaker/mic devices, and face lighting to look one’s best. If your supervisors, co-workers, clients and potential clients are only seeing you over Zoom or some other video services, you had better make sure you look and sound your best for the long haul. (Some employers are actually providing gear and/or funding to accomplish this – so be sure to check into that.) If this is something you haven’t done yet you’d better hurry up. Suburban and rural real estate costs are going through the roof, and high-quality collaboration products are temporarily still in short supply.
Did this blog’s pessimism get you down? Well, me too. I apologize for being more honest and blunt here than most organizations are seemingly doing nowadays, but sugar-coating the truth doesn’t help people be prepared. My hope is that you’ll be one of the people that gets appropriately prepared to survive and thrive during this insanity.
As always, please feel free to write to me with comments or items I should add to a future Not Traveling blog (or if you just need someone to write to.) Stay safe, be well, hug those you’re sheltering with (but no one else) and do your best to stay positive. We’re going to be in this for a long while.
This article was written by David Danto and contains solely his own, personal opinions.
All image and links provided above as reference under prevailing fair use statutes.