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Hang On

editorial
Two years is a long time. You may be thinking enough is enough, you just can’t see when this all ends, and your travel business can recover (or fully take flight for the first time). At first glance, I wouldn’t blame you. Two years of the actual pandemic has only been surpassed by pandemic levels of media coverage. An endless news cycle of case counts, hospitalizations, death, travel restrictions, social distancing, mask guidance, new variants, anti-virals, vaccines, cruise cancellations, flight and labor disruptions, and a seemingly constant public debate about the causes, effects, and solutions of each. 

But, hang on.  

There is something decidedly different about this moment in time compared to any point during the past two years. Increasingly, you are hearing the word endemic

Unfortunately, endemic doesn’t mean the end of COVID. Endemic means that a disease is always present in a population, in some variation, and at some level. The human race navigates numerous endemic diseases each year, including the flu, malaria, HIV, syphilis, and more. None pleasant to be sure, but we hang on. 

Here’s what I see today. 

The spread of the Omicron variant is, so far, playing out as a best-case scenario. Highly contagious, but not delivering the severity of previous variants. It is estimated that half of the Omicron hospitalizations are actually patients admitted for other reasons, only to test positive as part of the hospital intake process.  

The case counts, while massive, are actually grossly under-reported. Pharmacies cannot keep at-home tests in stock and many people, like me, found that they tested positive with an at-home antigen test. I’m willing to bet you know someone who recently tested positive if not five or 10.  The sheer number of patients is overwhelming certain hospital systems, but in the end, this is good news for your travel business.  

There is a massive, massive population of people with fresh antibodies. Combined with rounds of vaccine and new antivirals hitting the market as we speak, we may well be on the precipice of beginning the transition from pandemic to endemic. 

So, hang on. 

I don’t get political, but numerous countries are beginning to adopt an endemic strategy. It is true some countries are still embracing the notion of a lockdown, but many more are publicly stating that COVID is something we will need to learn to live with, especially in the face of reduced severity and increased prevention and treatment techniques. Some of President Biden’s advisors are publicly floating this notion here in the United States. I do not believe these are rogue comments, rather I suspect they are coordinated talking points to begin to change the public narrative. 

The changeover from pandemic to endemic will be gradual. Politicians do not like to publicly admit defeat (who can blame them), and when they do, it almost always comes in the form of a gradual withdrawal, not waving the white flag of surrender. While the World Health Organization, the CDC, and others may make a single point in time proclamation, the effective difference will be felt over time.  

As this conversion from pandemic to endemic occurs, it solidifies a market opportunity for every single travel advisor on the planet. So, unless you believe that human beings will simply stop traveling (which the data suggests, even in the pandemic, that we most definitely want to travel), hang on. 

Next week I’m going to explore what this market opportunity is and share some strategies for leveraging it in your business. You can win, even in this environment.   

Best success (and hang on)! 

Jason 

Jason Block

CEO, Travel Quest Network/WorldVia

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