Lessons Learned, Roads Not Taken

By Brent Blake, President, Acendas Travel

Everyone has a story to tell about how Covid-19 has affected them.

Given the depth of the pandemic, it is a story which will no doubt continue to be refined for years to come. From the perspective of Acendas Travel, we are seeing positive signs early in the recovery. But how long will the momentum last? Will travel hold the same stature in our lives in the future as it did pre-pandemic?

I don’t know the answer to those questions,. However, I do believe we have put ourselves in a good position for future success. And given that the travel industry was negatively impacted as significantly as any, I share our story — with a sense of pride — so that others might benefit from knowing the path we took.

To be clear, from the early days of the pandemic, we knew our business recovery would not be a re-start — rather it would be a rebuild. There would be new processes, new technologies, new means of communication. That was no easy shift. We were coming off record revenues three years in a row. It was like the water was gushing out of the spigot and in an instance it slowed to a drip. The Acendas Team needed to flex its creative muscle and do so quickly.

While “change” has been the order of the day over the past 15 months, we believed it was vital that we stayed true to our focus, core values and foundational principles. I am a big fan of Jim Collins, so the thought of moving off our “hedgehog” was non-negotiable. We were going to remain laser focused on growing lasting relationships. We knew we had some partners that would be struggling like us, but we were going to do everything in our power to help them persevere. Likewise, we were going to lean on those business partners who shared a similar philosophy so that we could navigate the rough waters ourselves. Next, with the task of growing back our business, we knew technology would be a driver, so we doubled down on our investment in travel technology.

Through these actions, we were able to survive as a company and emerge poised to take advantage of strong demand for travel. We were able to service the marketplace, even when some of those services did not bring in revenue (rest assured, we have analyzed options moving forward in that regard). In short, we demonstrated stability in a time of instability. I believe that sent a positive message to our staff and clients that we were not going away and would be there to support them through the most difficult of circumstances. They appreciated that we were here to answer their questions and help them with their challenges.

I have to admit that I did not always look at stability in an ultra-positive light. Yes, it indicates a steady hand, but for the most part I thought it carried a negative connotation of being a bit of a stodgy or adverse to change. If the past 15 months have demonstrated anything to me, it is that stability is indeed a strength.

During that time, our stability has also been positively recognized in the marketplace. Even in this challenging environment, we have added clients and maintained an extremely high customer retention rate. The Kansas City Business Journal recognized us as a 2020 Champion of Business and Acendas Travel VP of Finance Shelly Guenther as a CFO of the Year honoree. The international luxury lifestyle publication LUXlife Magazine awarded Acendas Travel as the top travel technology company in the United States for 2021. 

As I look ahead, I feel better about where we are as a company. The executive leaders have been in place for several years. Our directors have a wealth of experience in weathering the strongest of storms.  Our business partners have demonstrated long and successful track records. And, our status as a majority-owned company of the financially-rock solid BCD Travel means we have the resources to serve customers and grow as a company.

To put it in travel terms, we are a safe harbor when the storm builds in the sea.