Welcome 2021 and farewell 2020. It’s been… interesting.
I know that I am no different to many others in that the end of 2020 has brought about a period of reflection on the difficult circumstances of Covid-19, and plans for how things will be different in 2021. I am focusing on the positives of the past year, and would like to share these with you, along with what we can do in the coming year to make Llama Travel a better company, regardless of general circumstances.
Improving Llama Travel’s Holidays
Although it has surprised me quite how much time and effort it takes not to send people on holiday (!), we have been able to use the past months to review many aspects of the business, from internal processes and systems, to presentation of information. We have also reviewed all our holidays to see how to improve these. Our customers love the flexibility we offer, allowing them to mix and match the options they are most interested in, so we have made sure that we have maintained this. We’ve now added a number of fabulous active options, from kayaking on Lake Titicaca, to horse riding in Patagonia and white-water rafting in Costa Rica. So, for those who want to try something more active when on holiday, this is possible. But for those who prefer a more relaxed pace, that’s also possible. It’s your choice.
We have also looked at how to improve visits to cities in particular, focusing more on walking tours and getting a flavour of the local culture, rather than just focusing on historic sites. So whether that’s learning how to make an authentic Pisco Sour in Lima’s oldest hotel, a visit to Mexico City’s Lucha Libre masked wrestlers, or a walk round Cartagena trying local snacks, we think our customers can get more out of their holidays.
We will send you more information on these improvements in the coming weeks, but you can see these options now on our website.
We have also spent time looking at new destinations which we think our customers will love. We’re not quite ready to launch these yet, but watch this space…
A Difficult Financial Situation
It’s hard to be positive about what has quite frankly been a dreadful situation, with no income for nine months and counting. Nevertheless, I take great heart that our cautious approach in past years, putting money aside in the good years, has stood us in good stead in these times. As Warren Buffett said:
"Only when the tide goes out do you discover who’s been swimming naked."
At least our swimming costume is firmly tied on!
This has meant that we have been able to focus on the future of our business, and what we can do to improve it, rather than chase every penny. It has also enabled us to concentrate on looking after our customers, offering refunds even where we have not received money back from airlines, for example. And it means that we can afford to continue to do the right thing going forward. We have sufficient reserves to see us through this crisis, and when we start operating again, I know we will be an even better company than before. It was encouraging to see that our efforts in refunding customers were recognised, along with other tour operators who did the right thing, by numerous newspapers including The Guardian, Which? and The Telegraph.
A Big Thank You To Our Customers
One of the most uplifting outcomes of Covid for us has been to see how our customers have been so warm and positive about Llama Travel. We have always received excellent feedback about our service and our holidays, which is one of the main reasons why we love what we do. But it has been even more heart-warming to receive fantastic feedback from our customers who were overseas when travel restrictions were imposed in March, and from those who have not been able to travel since. We have always strived to look after our customers no matter what, and I hope that the way we made sure all our passengers were able to return to the UK as painlessly as possible, despite the vast global disruption, reflects this.
We have also tried to do the right thing for everyone whose holidays we could no longer operate due to travel restrictions. From the outset of the pandemic, we offered all customers who could not travel the option of rebooking or a full refund if they preferred, and it’s been encouraging that so many people were able to defer their holidays. The comments from those who chose to get a refund have been so positive, and we are delighted that many are planning on rebooking as soon as they are able.
With our focus on improving our holidays, we are sure that once our customers are able to travel again, the feedback will be even better! If you would like to give us a review, please visit our TrustPilot page.
Behind The Scenes At Llama Travel HQ
It’s been an incredibly difficult time for all of us at Llama Travel, from staying in the office until 4am to make sure our customers could return to the UK safely back in March, to the technical difficulties and ongoing mental struggles of working from home, as millions of people across the world can now relate to.
Our resilient team have had to adjust how they work, effectively changing their focus from planning people’s holidays, to looking after those who are unable to travel as well as lending a hand in other departments. With the collaborative help of our staff in sales, marketing, product and admin, we've all been working hard on improving our holidays and planning brand new destinations. Everyone has more than risen to the challenge, as the fabulous feedback from our customers shows, and their continuing flexibility with ongoing changes in work has been very reassuring.
Our Partners Across The World
One of my big concerns at the start of the pandemic was what impact this would have on our partners overseas. However, they have all been fantastic, offering flexibility to our customers who cannot travel and giving us constant updates about the situation on the ground in all our destinations. They have adjusted their businesses to cope with the current circumstances, and they are all ready to welcome Llama Travel customers once the situation allows. Their reaction in the face of such difficult circumstances shows me that we have the right partners in all our destinations.
A couple of months ago we hosted our first ever webinar, together with our partners in Peru. If you'd like to learn about ancient Inca traditions and mix your very own authentic Pisco Sour cocktail, you can watch a recording of the webinar here. We hope to do more of these in the coming months, to inspire and entertain our customers while we cannot send you on holiday. Make sure you've signed up to our newsletter to receive the next webinar invitation, and if you'd like to learn more about a specific destination, let us know so that we can plan something with our partners.
Lots To Look Forward To In 2021!
It’s easy to be led by the day’s headlines and feel incredibly optimistic one day (the vaccine is here!) and pessimistic the next (Covid cases are at an all-time high). Although the current situation is far from over, there are positive indications that we will get beyond this in the not too distant future.
The next few months are likely to be tough, and I don’t think travel is sensible in the current environment. But as the vaccine is rolled out in the UK, Europe and beyond, there is the likelihood that Covid will be brought under control sooner rather than later. The world is still out there waiting to be discovered, and nature has been given a chance to flourish on its own...
When will ‘normal’ travel be possible again? We don’t know, but we are looking forward to sharing all the fantastic places we offer once the situation allows. We feel that a cautious approach makes the most sense at the moment, and we will only send customers away again when we know that they will have a fantastic holiday. Whilst this means that Llama Travel’s business will continue to be impacted for quite some time, it also means that we can plan to come back even better when travel is possible again.