Q&A With Jeremy Palmer, SVP Worldwide Operations; Brand Management & Strategic Planning, Tauck

Q&A With Jeremy Palmer, SVP Worldwide Operations; Brand Management & Strategic Planning, Tauck

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Founded in 1925, by Arthur Tauck, Sr., the Tauck brand is legendary. Over three generations Tauck has grown to include a diverse range of guided tours and river cruises designed to be transformative and re-energizing. Today Tauck offers more than 140 travel experiences.

FTA recently chatted with Tauck’s Senior Vice President of Worldwide Operations Jeremy Palmer about how 2020 impacted both Tauck and the travel industry and what the year ahead may bring.

FTA: How did the pandemic impact Tauck’s activities and offerings in 2020? Can you share a few specific examples?

JP: After March 2020, Tauck ceased all tour offerings. That was the first time since World War II that we have ever done that. But we are very fortunate to have guests who want to travel and love to travel, so the demand was still there. Even though we’ve ceased tour operations, we’re still a viable business.

Two things drove the decision to cease operations. The first was the logistical reality that you just couldn’t travel – either Americans were not allowed to visit a particular destination or there was a lot of volatility, which was off putting to our guests.

Secondly, we had to think about whether it was safe for guests to go to a destination. Would they be comfortable? And quite honestly, would they enjoy the experience they would have with Tauck? As we ran our tours through those filters and through the government controls, unfortunately the answer was no.

FTA. What are some of the ways Tauck has found to rebound or work around or perhaps within the new travel landscape?

In order to rebound, the first thing we needed to do was to give our guests hope and assurance. The demand for travel is there.

When COVID originated, we found that what people needed was optionality and flexibility. In other words, people still wanted to travel, it was just a question of when. So, we did a lot of work around more flexible cancellation and booking offerings, and the vast majority of guests rolled their tours into 2021 and 2022. We also implemented more global safety protocols, and increased our private departure offering. So, even though we didn’t operate in 2020, we put a lot of effort into making guests feel comfortable moving forward.

JP: What do you think 2021 will look like for your operations and travel in general?

If 2020 was the year of crisis, 2021 is the year of stabilization and the beginning of recovery. We absolutely know our guests want to travel. But even though it’s 2021, the majority of the world is still in lockdown and there are still not a lot of places where you can travel freely.

And the second thing we found is that the vaccine is the silver bullet. People say I will go…when I get vaccine. It’s hard to make specific prediction of when that will be though. I think the first half of 2021 will look a lot like 2020, we will be getting ready to travel, but until destinations begin to say “yes, you can come” – then the engine is going to be sputtering. We think it’s going to be summer into fall and then we will see the engine starting to fire with strong acceleration and momentum.

FTA: Any advice to offer others in the travel industry regarding how to thrive or succeed in 2021?

JP: First of all, keep the faith. It’ not a question of if guests are coming back, it’s when.

I promise you the passion has never been higher. Yes, there has been tremendous economic pain, but we are lucky the stock market is still strong. And when people do travel, suppliers and partners around the world are going to be so appreciative, that it’s going to be a fantastic experience.

We still don’t have a crystal ball. But I would say be ready and keep the faith – the turning point is coming!

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