the year that wasnt

The year that wasn’t

“Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment, until it becomes a memory.”

— Dr. Seuss


That Dr. Seuss quote really resonated for me this year. As most of you have learned, some of my fondest memories of my father, and newfound respect for him, had not really hit me until I was able to reflect on my memories of him. I believe 2020 will fall into the same category for all of us. I understand if you are as confused as I am in accepting that there could be any value gained from what took place in 2020…but there is value, even if we do not recognize or understand it now.

I find myself somewhat at a loss for words, and ironically, “loss” seems to be the one word that captures the feeling we can all relate to and it describes what we have experienced and endured in 2020….and I am not confident that this will not carry forward to next year. As you have learned about me, our team, and our company through this year, we are a group with deep history, loyalty, compassion, insight, experience, and most important, transparency with what we think and feel, with what we do, and why we do what we do, and this last email of 2020 will be no different.

This year for me, and I am sure for you too, has been rife with heartbreak, heartache, sadness, anger, fear, anxiety, hopes squashed, frustration, and confusion—just the gamut of emotions that have taken over our mind, body, and soul as we try to navigate ourselves through this utter nightmare. 2020 saw hundreds of thousands of lives lost, not just those whom we knew, but also knew of, and quite frankly, this will affect us and our loved ones well beyond our lifetime. Add to this the devastation of businesses, (new and those that have been around for generations), industries such as airlines, cruising, hotels, entertainment venues, youth and professional sports, amusement parks, movie theaters, restaurants and of course travel. These have all been taken away from us and all were foundational and vital for nurturing our souls.

I think what has impacted us the most without quite grasping the depth of it yet, is the depletion of experiencing the emotional rewards we all reap in looking forward and planning for tomorrow. This natural human need that we all possess has suddenly been stripped from us, and to be honest, has left me often feeling empty and sad, and quite frankly very concerned with what tomorrow will be—not just for me, but for my children. We are natural planners and protectors, with a historic and cultural need of always looking towards tomorrow, and our souls thrive on building experiences that create memories not just for ourselves, but for those we serve, those we work with, and most important, those we love. While some might say I am talking about the Travel Advisor at large, the truth is, this is who we are as human beings, and to take away from us the ability to plan for tomorrow, in my opinion, has been the silent emotional killer for hundreds of millions around the world.

Many years ago, Sears ran a campaign to sell drill bits, and in one campaign focused their message on the hole it made, versus the bit, and sold more than 1 million of them in a very short period of time. What they recognized early on in their success was the difference between marketing “features” versus “benefits” and changed the focus of their campaigns with messages emphasizing what purchases did for you, versus what you were paying for, much like travel. Sure, 2020 has been a year of losing money, or not making any money, but the real losses we suffered are the deep-rooted emotional benefits we normally receive from having a purpose and being able to act upon it, and our faith in feeling we will find it again.

As we stumble into 2021, I am concerned with continuing to set myself, our company, our team, and our partners up for more disappointment. I believe that to stop this rollercoaster of emotions, we must pause and be realistic about when and how we do business. I cannot help but feel that over the past several weeks and months, we have been trying to squeeze this square peg into a round hole, and as I mentioned in my last newsletter, we must mourn the industry we knew of the past so we can begin to define what it is tomorrow. But I do not believe that 2021 is a year that is going to see enough progress to warrant putting in all our efforts until there are some international protocols established to put this behind us. 2021 for IWorld will be a year of keeping a low profile, ensuring our team is mentally and emotionally strong while preparing for 2022. Yes, that is another year away, and it’s alarming to see that in writing, but I think it would be irresponsible for any of us to make any projections or have any realistic expectations for our industry in 2021, when we see how the world, and specifically the USA, is still fighting this pandemic. While the vaccine is fantastic news, the reality is that most Americans will not be vaccinated till the 4th quarter of 2021, nor be able to travel to other countries without it. If we have learned anything from this past year, it is that we did not know what we did not know, and there is still quite a bit we need to know.

Even if we were able to get most Americans vaccinated by summer, we must also consider the devastation that has taken place around the world at our most popular destinations, and what travel would look like for those who could travel abroad. The landscape of our international destinations has changed, the level of options is restrictive, experiences are limited, and as I shared earlier, the closure of businesses that we have all come to enjoy will take years to get back to what we remember. Getting away for the sake of getting away is not the answer, and rushing to the finish line in my opinion, would be irresponsible. Thus, we as a company are going to take the important step to operate minimally in 2021, not just because we feel it is smart for our team and emotional wellbeing, but also so we can focus on putting our efforts into our 2022 plan and have the chance to reflect on the memory of yesterday. Our hope in taking this approach is that it will provide us the time to also understand the value of what we went through so we can have faith in our purpose for tomorrow. If we don’t take the time to learn from yesterday, we are just destined to continue to make the same mistakes and be let down.

For IWorld and our team, 2021 will be a year to ensure that we sustain ourselves so we can be in the strongest position possible to support our programs for 2022…Luxury Small Group Departures throughout the world…and launch our new partnership with three Kosher River Cruises in June, July and August. In addition to this, we are finalizing the establishment of our European office in Croatia, so we can have more control of the experience from wheels down to wheels up across the pond. We will continue our Leadership Webinar Series to provide continuing education and insights with our Tourism Board partners, all while keeping our finger on the pulse of protocols and procedures as international travel begins to open up. While we are still open for business, we will do it by taking a more pragmatic and responsible approach.

For those of you who have been reading my newsletters this year, we hope they provided some level of comfort and inspiration that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. However, as we end this year, I think we have to be realistic and accept that the light we are seeing now is not on 2021, but rather 2022. My wish for you is that one day you too will tell the story of how you overcame what you went through, and your story will become someone else’s survival guide.

And finally, I want to share one personal memory from 2020 that I will hold near and dear to my heart. My wife was able to surprise me with the celebration of my 60th birthday, only because I was so distracted with what was going on in our world. Not only did she arrange for all my best friends to attend, but all my children (with the exception of my oldest son Connor) and my sister and niece, who are in the picture below.

And here is the most touching video that I could have ever imagined, and it meant even more to me because of what was going on in our world. If you have any shining moments from 2020, I would love to hear about them too.

Happy New Year my friends!


Michael Gelber


IWorld of Travel
An Ady Gelber Legacy Company.
P: 212.507.9204 M:916.835.6499

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