June 18, 2020
To an indefinite and ongoing extent, COVID-19 has had lasting detrimental global impacts. Like people, no industry is immune to its threat, but no sector has more to overcome than the travel industry.
As interns in FINN Partners’ Travel + Lifestyle division, our day-to-day projects have changed dramatically since the onset of the pandemic – subsequently, our professional growth has accelerated at an exponential rate – proving this an invaluable and unforgettable career start.
We are the last college graduates who will have professional experience in both ordinary and extraordinary times. In a world forever changed, this contrast has opened our eyes to key learnings in the travel communications profession.
Everything Is Interconnected
As travel PR interns of the pre-pandemic era, we quickly observed interconnected relationships between media, consumers and travel brands. The deep nature of these interdependencies has been highlighted and exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis. With the virus wreaking havoc across healthcare networks and worldwide economies, it has become clear that no industry exists or operates in isolation.
We are seeing the presence and power of interconnections not just across industries, but also between the agency practice groups. Developing crisis and recovery plans has forced strategic thinking in more interdisciplinary ways than ever before. As COVID-19 has shaped communication and cooperation, we have started to more deeply consider how specialty practice groups within FINN – such as health and technology – may impact and influence travel clients. This experience has made us see FINN’s diverse practice areas as much less siloed. Amidst today’s threats and complexities, we have learned the invaluable importance of drawing upon shared, multi-specialty expertise to face new client challenges.
Threads of interconnection extend to media as well. In the past, flicking through glossy pages and romancing headlines of travel magazines offered an idyllic escape from hard news. No longer a quick reality reprieve, today travel journalism is seen from the scope of wider lens. Travel media coverage is being shaped by pandemic impacts across international public health, social, economic and political spheres. Travel journalists are covering trends set by the pandemic – including public policies and political debates. By tracking these trends and staying current on international news, we are learning to observe (and perhaps even begin to predict) the ways travel media respond to broader social circumstances – which in turn shape their narratives.
An Experience-Driven Perspective
Being at FINN Partners during the coronavirus pandemic has widened our eyes and minds – giving us an experience-driven perspective to understand that, while the world is undergoing a pivotal period in history, it's still a pivotal point in our careers. With that comes challenges, but far more opportunities.
At the helm of the COVID-19 crisis, we’ve been able to navigate uncharted territory alongside leadership. Being a part of Zoom ideation sessions – generating a concept, that grew into a client campaign – is first nature to us. We’ve learned first-hand that travel PR isn’t just about showing off destinations, but rather the importance of creating consumer connections, generating emotion and inspiring travel.
Strategic Communicators and Valued Teammates
A core learning from this unique experience has been its hardening on the importance of being professionally interdisciplinary and socially open, a perspective no physical internship could have ever offered.
While physical connection has halted, the circumstances have allowed us to showcase our value as agile and adaptive team members. We stand in an advantageous position to apply our intuitive digital prowess. Further, this new normal has ironically led to more meaningful collaborations with team members in FINN offices around the world from New York, Florida, Georgia and London. People who were once just names, still headshots and a LinkedIn profile are now familiar Zoom faces and voices. Suddenly, fluid virtual communication is vital, and we’re positioned as a conduit to its success.
Stay Vigilant, Be Adaptative and Look Ahead
Charles Darwin was long believed to have said: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent... It is the one that is most adaptable to change.” While proven to have been a misquotation, the crux of this sentiment certainly holds true for modern-day travel communications professionals.
Whereas we used to see travel as fundamentally driven by physical presence and in-person experience – through digital activations, online interactive tours and virtual experiences – we have been part of a catalyst in finding and capturing the spirit of travel.
With this principle in mind, we are stepping forward, ready and able to serve our clients, leaders in travel traditions both old and new. No matter how long it takes for the new normal to emerge, we will constantly adapt and be ready to fulfill the spirit of travel as we begin to build the future together.
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