The travel and hospitality industries have been among the hardest hit in the US and worldwide during the Covid-19 pandemic. Hotels, restaurants and travel agencies are closing. Tourist attractions around the world remain shuttered and empty.
With 7.7 million jobs lost and 47 percent of hospitality professionals out of work, the travel industry remains hopeful for the vaccinated future but grounded in the reality of furloughs and layoffs. American Airlines, for instance, recently announced that new furloughs were on the horizon.
Faced with this crisis, travel professionals Melisssa DelBuono and Kingsley Egbuchunam, formerly in hotel sales and marketing positions, founded Project Save Hospitality, a networking support group whose goal it is to foster professional development, which includes resume-writing assistance, job coaching, and the execution of a virtual career fair, in conjunction with Brazen, an event hosting company. The pair were joined by Danny Harpaz, who signed on as Director of Marketing after he was furloughed from his position in public relations and marketing.
“When the lay-offs started happening last year, Kingsley and I knew it was going to be fight or flight…so we decided to fight,” says DelBuono.
“I was building hotels when the pandemic hit,” she remembers. “The construction got frozen. I was working in a huge, open We Work office. That same day we had a case and we had to quarantine. People started getting laid off. All our sales coordinators were gone. Then I got the call that I was being furloughed. I watched my hospitality family fall apart. I knew I had to do something to help myself and that family. I thought, ‘We survived 9/11 and we’re going to survive this.’”
Egbuchunam was furloughed in March 2020. “The impact was very rapid,” he says. You know it’s going to happen, you have to get prepared. But nothing prepared us for the tsunami that occured. My entire team was furloughed,” he says.
Although both professionals want to stay in the hospitality industry, they know that the ground has shifted under their feet.
“It’s a drastically new world,” says Egbuchunam.
Project Save Hospitality is gearing up for the first of its job fairs, happening on February 10. More may follow.
The founders of the group say that they have already encountered businesses like Capital One, eager to find new talent from the hospitality pool.
DelBuono says, “We are people-connected people. It’s the very nature of what we do that attracts employers. There is no more ‘service’ industry than hospitality and the lessons we’ve learned there are applicable across the board in many other industries and businesses.”
Along with Capital One, other businesses that have signed on to the fair include Reef Technologies Charles Schwab and Hillstone Restaurants.
The goal is to forge partnerships between attendees, who bring all the useful skills and experience from the travel industry, and leaders in other industries who can utilize the qualities of travel industry professionals.
The usefulness and flexibility of the skills learned in the travel industry are applicable to a wide range of businesses, some not even directly related to travel.
Another company working with travel industry professionals, during these troubling times is lisnic.com. LISNIC is a platform that enables job-seeking clients to find a business mentor or mind coach as a means to fast track their business goals. Mentees can post a job, and mentors and mind coaches can bid on these jobs. The entire process can be done from one’s home or office.
The process is simple, and sensitive to the need to follow all safety guidelines. All sessions will be run through LISNIC’s secure video platform, so the collaboration can be performed in ideal comfort – pjs acceptable.
LISNIC was created by Australian digital entrepreneurs, Nick Bell and Lisa Teh. Bell is a self-made entrepreneur, one of those success stories of turning a small investment into a $274 million business. He partnered with Teh, a digital agency owner, author and founder of beauty brand 101 Lifestyle, to create the global mentorship company.
The formula, a mix of mentors and mind coaches, helps offer displaced hospitality workers and other people looking for new opportunities in a post-pandemic world the tools and strategies needed for success. While the mentors bring to the table experience and business panache, mind coaches specialize in areas which include public speaking, managing stress and anxiety, controlling anger management and coping with depression.
“Mentors are one of the best investments you can make in business,” says Bell. According to Teh, “Nick and I have always been passionate about supporting the business community.” The site’s growing business audience and its creation of a two-sided marketplace is positioning it to join other companies, such as Airbnb and Uber, who utilize mentorship for success.
As the well-known book title suggests, it takes a village. In order to overcome the tumult in the travel industry caused by the coronavirus, many people will need to come together as a community with a helping hand through networking events and mentorship.