Finding our Purpose and Imagining Travel in a Post-Pandemic World
Photo: Silver Ballon
Our CEO reflects on the short-term challenges and long-term opportunities that are the result of Covid-19. Plus, we’ll soon be inviting travelers to experience the wonders of California in true SA Expeditions style.
For most regions of the Americas, from North to South, it’s been about a month since we’ve been under some form of social distancing and lockdown. Because of these efforts, many regions are beginning to see indications that the spread of COVID-19 is declining, which is helping to ease some of our worst fears and uncertainty. It will soon be time to start thinking about economic recovery and to begin to shift our collective energies to the future in a post-COVID world.
As a company, and as a group of humans, there are hardships abound. But it's critical that we take stock of our advantages and count our blessings on many levels. At SA Expeditions we have been an established virtual organization for many years, so we didn’t have to rework our daily operations flow when the pandemic hit. Our firm’s collective value lies in the expertise and experience of our team and the platforms on which we aggregate this knowledge to be able to plan and execute private tailor-made vacations affordably and efficiently.
A bright future for travel
The data that we are seeing – whether it be recent increases in travel-related keyword searches on Google or the massive shift towards online experiences while homebound – demonstrates that the human impulse for travel and physical experiences is as strong as ever. As a company, we don’t believe that the pandemic will significantly alter the long-term human yearning for travel that continues to connect our world. We do not see a future of doom and gloom. We think that humans living in a post-COVID world will value human connection and experiences even more – as soon as they are able to do so.
We see the global economy being pushed along to take more intelligent advantage of the technologies available to make our lives more efficient and freer of geographic limits. Across most sectors – from retail and entertainment through to health and travel – the organizations that have long been integrated into the digital cloud will be poised to grow even more.The world might just end up looking a bit more like our ragtag team of digital nomads who thrive on human experience.
We also hope that the pandemic puts a spotlight on the negative impacts of massive tourism and large group travel. Both tendencies not only breed over-tourism but go against the basic tenets of social distancing. Because of this, we expect increased demand for the more private, small-scale and sustainable type of travel that SA Expeditions focuses on. As an organization, we believe we're right where we need to be for this change in preferences.
Trying to help where we can
Yes, there will be pain and discomfort and our collaborators across our supply chain have been hit hard. To support them and help to reinforce the depth and quality of our network, we’ve allocated capital towards providing emergency income to our tour guides across all our main destinations, ensuring that they receive 75% of their expected incomes over these months. Our Destination Experts who have dedicatedly rescheduled hundreds of our immediate travelers to safer future dates with minimal to no cost and have done so without the promise of additional compensation which would come from booking new trips. Therefore, we’ve created an emergency assistance fund which provides our Destination Team with a base income that will allow them to make it through the quarantines with the basic resources they need for themselves and their families.
We’re moving forward with many of the projects that we had slated for development in 2020. This includes an upgrade to our company’s client management platform and continuing to pursue key certifications like becoming carbon neutral for all new trips (this milestone was achieved just last week). We’re also continuing to navigate the lengthy and stringent process to become certified as a B-Corporation, which – once attained – will legally bind us a company to live up to our claim that we balance profit with purpose.
Like many around the world, the pandemic as shifted our future in ways too. Our company, which is based in San Francisco, California, has always focused on South American destinations – hence the “SA” in our name. But we’ve now decided we’re going to expand a bit closer to home…Soon we will be launching a series of new itineraries and experiences in North America. We’ll be starting in California as it’s home to our company and much of our core team.
We believe it is not only our civic duty to support the economic rejuvenation of the United States, but also to give our clients from North America the chance to experience small scale, sustainable trips with SA Expeditions without having to cross an international border. We couldn’t be more excited about bringing travelers to our native home in the high touch and private style that we’re known for. For example, our new itineraries will give you the chance to explore iconic San Francisco neighborhoods with a local historian and/or venture into eastern California where the oldest trees on the planet (they’re nearly 5,000 years old), live atop a mountain range covered in white dolomite at 12,000 feet. We will be bringing clients to a California that few have ever seen and engaging them with locals that have unbelievable stories to tell.
We grieve for the lives lost and all those hurting because of this pandemic. Our team is hurting too, and we still have very challenging waters to navigate. That said, it's important that fear does not impede resilience, and we want to be sure to communicate our unique reality to our community during this time. The best role that our team can play in supporting the post-pandemic recovery is to take care of the people under our charge and to continue to participate in an economic revival that is more human centered and gentler on the planet.
It’s time to turn our thinking to a post-pandemic-world – even as we need to stay in our homes for safety now.
CEO & Chief Explorer of SA Expeditions