The scourge of the travel industry – the no-show

After having worked for over 20 years in the travel industry, I sometimes ask myself the question: Is it still fun to work in this industry?

Well, indeed there are industries that have a much lesser appeal than travel and leisure. Lots of trips, energizing, varied, one deals with a ‘product’ that many many citizens all over the world are looking forward to one or more times a year – their holiday.

In the 23 years that I have earned my living in the holiday industry, much has changed. In 1980 my return ticket Amsterdam-London cost me an arm and a leg: 800 Dutch guilders (just under 400 euro). Oops. Long live the introduction of low-cost carriers that have broken the monopoly of long-established flag carriers. And whether you are working in the travel industry or not, we all know that with the arrival of the worldwide web travel agencies as the traditional sales outlet for holiday bookings are now facing serious competition from the Internet.

Indeed. Fascinating changes and developments which are of course here to stay. Change is the only constant factor in our lives and society. But a change that is hardly touched upon in travel trade magazines or online titles is that of our changing mentality.

It is not only the hardware that has seen changes, the mentality of people working in the travel industry has also been on the move… And not always in the right direction. Our mentality is on the decline. I am baffled by how many telephone calls remain unanswered, how seldom we are getting a reply to business proposals, how many emails remain unanswered, how often promises are not kept, the amazing jealousy and envy permeating in our business, I cannot help feeling that the word ‘favour’ hardly exists in the dictionary of the travel industry. In short, our mentality is deteriorating.

Another example. As a PR agency we often have to pitch – to produce a comprehensive PR plan to a potential customer which can take as much as an entire week to complete. Then we often get a response from the organization in the form of an e-mail (they do not dare to call us personally) of two lines: “Thanks but no thanks … ‘. Or what has happened as well – we do not hear anything at all anymore. Honestly. Or we are being approached and simultaneously cheated because the organization requires 5 or more tenders in order to make a choice but the choice was already fixed beforehand. It happens. Really. Without shame.

As a PR agency in the travel industry we often organize events and meetings ourselves and we of course visit events of third parties. The ease with which one – whether they be journalists, travel agents, product managers or bosses – sign up for the event but on the day itself are not showing up is beginning to take on distressing proportions. The average no-show rate now hovers between 15 and 25% percent and maybe I’m still on the cautious side here. This behaviour has become a textbook example of the decline in common business courtesy standards in our industry – and the tourism industry is my reference.

Any idea how much time and money the organizers are spending and paying to realize their events. Only to find 35 unclaimed name badges on the registration table. What goes against my grain is the impoliteness of not taking the small effort to excuse yourself. Send a text message, whatsapp, email or make a call, this takes less than a minute to do. But no, the no-show guy or girl just thinks nobody will miss them. But the problem is, the 34 others think the same thing.

For the record; of course I understand that something can happen between the time of the enrollment and the day of the meeting. Not in the mood, feeling indisposed, mother is sick, a nice press trip, a sudden assignment. But okay, just have the politeness to inform the inviting party that something else has come up. An additional dilemma. When you have paid 350 euros for a meeting, the no-show rate is alsmost zero. But most of the meetings in the travel industry are free. Which adds to the problem.

I once sent all no-shows for an event we organized an email and told them in no uncertain terms what I thought of their attitude. Lo and behold: nine out of ten fully agreed with my stance. Working in the travel industry across the board is definitely fun. But it would be even more fun when we all become a little more courteous to each other. Friendliness does not cost a penny.

Anyone who has experienced the no-show phenomenon is irritated by it. But the most remarkable aspect of this all is maybe the fact that we all allow this attitude to continue. Perhaps this is the biggest degradation of all. That we no longer dare to oppose it.