As we go to press, a battle over transparency in airline fees continues to heat up. Consumer advocacy groups are supporting the Department of Transportation’s position that consumers have a right to know how much they will be charged for air travel. At the heart of this discussion, however, is a larger issue. As we slowly make our way out of the economic turmoil of the past year, I believe it’s time for all businesses in our industry to take a closer look at the customers, partners and employees that have remained loyal through hard times. By being open and transparent about our struggles, as well as our successes, business owners have an opportunity to further develop a bond with those they rely on day to day.
Recently, I attended Apple Vacations’ trade show where the featured speaker was Dr. Lalia Rach, a professor at New York University who is an expert on marketing trends. According to her, loyalty is going to be key to future business survival — not the appearance of loyalty, but a true commitment to engage with our customers and enhance their lives through customer service, value and honest communication.
Perhaps, there are some of you that think this notion is too simple to be effective. Read this issue’s cover story, “Family Ties” (page 14). When family-owned powerhouse Montrose Travel was faced with tough economic realities, they didn’t huddle behind closed doors, instead they brought the situation to their employees and, together, they developed a strategy that not only saved jobs, but led the company to have one their best years ever.
There’s little doubt that the consumer landscape has changed and that many of these changes are here to stay. All of us are going to analyze the companies we choose to work with more carefully and make tough decisions about who we want to do business with and who we can do without. I believe honesty, transparency and service will trump sneaky gimmickry every time.