I could not believe that day when I listened to the news and here was Italy going through a complete meltdown. What on earth was going on? Initially it felt that everyone had got the flu and everyone was over-reacting, under no circumstance did I really think the world was going to close down. No-one knew what to do, do we go on holiday, do we cancel our booking, do we postpone things, ask for a refund....All these questions and no one really had the answers, we as tour operators and of course our clients looking at us to give them the answers.
It was all about the client of course as that is how the system works, but what about if we had already paid our suppliers and our clients had been informed that the services were non-refundable? We worked really hard to help as much as we could based on the information we had received by all the governing bodies (who took a while to get their act together) but when it came to weddings and events it was all very different.
We got busy and worked really hard to speak to our suppliers to try and rectify the issues. Some came back with solutions while others stuck to the small print, it was unbelievable. How can you stick to a small print when the world is having to deal with an epidemic. How can you want to charge extra if the client wishes to postpone their trip to the following year. It did make sense as far as the supplier was concerned as they were also hit dramatially by the epidemic, there were staff costs, maintenance costs, a list of costs so of course any monies paid to them would help. That would have been OK as everyone was very understanding about the situation, but do not ask for more, you already have it all. Even here, the law in Italy was specific but as always it was open to interpretation and to really get “legal” you would need to spend money on getting yourself an Italian solicitor and that would take time and money that you needed to keep under control as there were costs to consider and no bookings.
Then came the airlines (no names mentioned). They were feeling the pain, but to recover funds for our clients we had to wait for over 8 months as every obstacle under the sun was dropped onto our lap. Fill this form, get the client to sign it, need their passport number, a utility bill. They were not trying to open up a bank account, they just wanted to get their money back. The fact remains that we as a tour operator had to refund the client and then try to get the money back from the “airline”. It took time, patience, more time and more patience, emailing, calling premium numbers, being kept on line for it seemed eternity… yes we are dealing with your request just wait for 7 days… and so it went on and on and on, until 6 months later we found the amounts in our account!
The phone did not ring, the world was quiet. We all tried to use our time wisely, updating web sites, reviewing new venues and places which we had visited pre-Covid but had not yet had the time to add it to our portfolio, paperwork....but the silence just seemed to get longer and longer and everywhere around us pain set in. It was the pain of listening to the news, following the many stories of bravery and dedication, sad moments of loneliness, the loss of a dear one, life just became so very sad. Then sadness turned to fear and what ifs, what will happen if things do not go back to normal, how will I pay staff, what about the rent, the electricity. What about if I catch the virus, how will I run the business. Going to bed at night was the worst bit as all these thoughts came flooding in, a mental tsunami.
And then, last week, I received an email from a past client who wanted to get away, her and her husband and what an adventurous trip. I started jumping for joy and really should have gone out and bought a bottle of champagne to celebrate, the feeling was exhilarating. It took a bit of time to get into the flow of things but when it all came together and I put that final dot on the “I”, I realised why I love doing what I do. It is the most rewarding feeling to be able to create the perfect holiday and wedding.