Hit the button, punch in where y’coming from, where y’going, and you’ll get a list of what you can and can’t do and where you can and can’t go. Australia? Screwed. US? You got some travel options.
For anyone in the travel game, airline, travel agent, maker of limp pastries tossed at passengers in coach, biz didn’t just slide in March 2020, it plummeted off a cliff.
Billions of dollars worth of plane tickets, hotel bookings, boat trips, whatever, all rendered void.
Planes were grounded and sent off to the desert in California, the airlines’ flight attendants sent off to eek an existence as playthings on OnlyFans. Contracts with travel agency employees were terminated, offices cleared out, them pretty Herm Miller chairs thrown onto Craigslist, the whole industry all dead in the water.
German surfer, skier Tim Heising, whose surf, snow, travel business LUEX.com had been running on an upward trajectory since he kicked it off in 2008, explains what it’s like to be booted in the teeth.
“It started real subtle. We didn’t worry about it too much until sales literally dropped to zero from one week to another,” he says. “We’ve had so many affected trips, we couldn’t keep up processing date changes, refunds and credit vouchers. It was like a bomb exploded, and there was no stopping in sight.”
First thing he did was cut costs and draw up the ol worst-case scenario plan.
“By the time we implemented some changes, the situation went from bad to worse. We had no other option but to (temporarily) lay off most of our staff and move out of our cushy office and into our homes.”
Heising didn’t feel great about icing his employees but, worse, was the spectre of losing his own shirt and almost a decade-and-a-half of work.
“Some days, I didn’t know how and for how long I was going to be able to feed my family. It was such an emotional rollercoaster, and for a long time, we had no idea how and if we’re going to pull through.”
“Fear of bankruptcy because we didn’t know what was going on with the trips that were already paid in full and people were requesting refunds for,” he says.
Heising wasn’t gonna let his biz slip away, howevs. He cut some deals with suppliers, got a piece of the government aid pie and focussed on getting surfers to the Maldives, which remained accessible during the pandemic and where the waves were, still are, gloriously empty.
And, now that the world is getting a handle on the virus, surf destinations are opening up, slowly. But if you wanna travel you’re going to hit plenty of logistical speed bumps.
There ain’t two countries alike when it comes to COVID protocols, requirements etc.
So Heising and his LUEX gang came up with a “COVID-19 tool”. Hit the button, punch in where y’coming from, where y’going, and you’ll get a list of what you can and can’t do and where you can and can’t go.
Australia, our pretty hermit kingdom? Screwed, pretty much.
The US, a whole lot better.
“Our intention with the tool isn’t to promote traveling per se but to ensure that people playing with the idea of going on a surf trip have access to accurate, up-to-date and relevant information to keep everyone involved safe,” says Heising.
“We also get many people asking us for information on what traveling might look like in the future, and just like everyone, we can only speculate. A lot of countries will adopt more lenient protocols for vaccinated people – similar to what the Seychelles, Belize and Barbados are already doing. But how exactly this will look like, and if we’re required to carry a vaccine passport with us once we embark into the ‘new normal’ remains to be seen.”
Darkest days over, silver linings in clouds, Heising is getting the gang back together.
Business is good, not booming, but it’s good.
Birds are in the sky.
Boards are being shoved into bags.
Ain’t never gonna be a time like this, again, at least not until the next time the world shutters.
There’s a window into empty lineups.