Looking at the more than 20 new programs already done and all the items in the pipeline from initiatives to conservation to product, a friend commented that we certainly didn’t waste time during this crisis. I thought about that for a bit and realized it was a not compliment as much as it was the sound advice. It reminded me of the real meaning of travel – inspiration through exploration.

I was glad to see my native country, Kenya, open its borders to North American travelers and doing it the right way with clear communications and by setting accurate expectations of the experience. This was followed by the CDC ending it’s mandatory 14-day quarantine order for returning Americans.

That same friend then asked what the motivation was for not resting. I replied that it wasn’t a what, but rather a why. As a child growing up in New York, I watched my parents struggle with nothing and still provide. I grew up with a sense of responsibility to help those in need without a desire for anything in return. Through college and in prior a career, I kept searching for ways to serve that responsibility and I never seemed to find a fit. Everything seemed to feel like a job, until I returned to travel.

It came full circle last November when I met one of my childhood heroes, Ian Craig, head of the Northern Rangelands Trust in northern Kenya. When I told him that we were delivering digital equipment to anti-poaching units as part of a Virtuoso educational, he asked if we were heading to Sera Conservancy. When I explained that was exactly where we were going, his eyes lit up. This is what the travel industry really does.

Kenya and neighboring Tanzania and Rwanda have opened with official processes in place, which means the responsibility to help those in need resumes. We are presently taking stock of the Ereto school outside Arusha that many of you have helped us support to find out what they need as the school year resumes later this year. This school’s students come from several different Maasai communities and the school represents the true essence of collaboration. Luxe Travel and Direct Travel helped us with the concrete foundation, Ensemble Travel Canada with the roof, Cadence Travel with the windows and roof truss, and Largay Travel with the doors, painted by the ever-talented Courtney Klimak, and books. We stand ready to assist as it is our overriding responsibility.

Africa is calling again and I cannot wait to get back. I met my first best friend, Sunil Shah, when we were three in Nairobi, and we will be getting together again – this time with our kids and wives meeting for the first time.

With all the new initiatives out there, now is the time to introduce our new tag line for a post Covid world.

“While the World has been Changing, Big Five Has Been Exploring.”

Karibuni Africa, na safai njema bwanas

Each month brings new answers and new questions. For many of us, the shift is beginning, albeit slowly, from a defensive posture with an onslaught of cancellations, to an offensive one with inquiries and bookings beginning to return slowly.

It’s great to see all the announcements from Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Ecuador, Galapagos, Costa Rica, Egypt, Jordan, Zambia, and others reopening their borders to international travelers, including North Americans. Even more encouraging is the progression towards opening from countries such as South Africa, Botswana, Indonesia, Uruguay, Peru and others as they restart stages of domestic tourism in preparation for the return of international tourism. Add to this the US dropping their level 4 global travel ban, and slowly adding countries back to their safe travel list. While that list is short, the change is rapid. Even airlines, battered as they are, have been retiring old equipment with as many new aircraft as they can, including widespread use of the new Airbus A350 to connect US and Africa, and the return of the redesigned Boeing 737MAX, with enhanced air filtration and cleaning procedures. While these systems both in countries and in the air are still in progress, they have made huge strides in innovation.

To see all the new product we have been working on during this pandemic, click here. The world is transforming, and the style of travel that is evolving towards is where Big Five has been for 15 years, eagerly awaiting your arrival.

There are also invisible headwinds that face us, and that is where I am proud of our advisor partners and honored to help them, as a fellow business owner and trade partner. When I left the finance world in 2002, I wondered how the knowledge gained from that experience and that of my university classmates, some of whom still work at the largest investment banks, would translate to travel.

Big Five began by hedging our currency in house through forward contracts to ensure our clients aren’t subject to wild fluctuations that affect the final price of a journey. It carried on with creating our key economic indicators to try and track movement of an industry that doesn’t fit into one segment. Travel isn’t tracked accurately by any of the major economists because it doesn’t fit comfortably into a segment. Nor does it always follow a typical economic cycle when external factors impede travel. Then add a pandemic, an upcoming election, a polarizing debate of economics versus public safety, and it makes your head start spinning.

We developed a multi-part series on the economics of a recovery to help remove the noise from the math so our advisor partners and fellow business owners can separate spin from reality. Delivered every month, each segment helps track the way down and, more importantly, the way back up.

Not every bit of news is rosy, and some of it may be difficult to hear, however, in a world where the only things you have control over is action and attitude, entering each phase with both eyes open is paramount. Parts 1 through 3 can be found here and you can see Part 4 by clicking on image above. I know that economics books put many people to sleep, so these segments are designed to break down the important indicators to show you what you need to know in a manner that can be absorbed, and more importantly, applied.

As I wrote this blog, I thought a lot about Plato and his book The Republic, and more specifically, his allegory of the cave. These sessions are about getting you to turn around and look at the fire and face it head on. The shadow of the fire doesn’t make it burn any cooler, the power to turn around and face this fire head on has been inside each of you all along.

No Gimmicks isn’t a policy, it’s our way of doing business.

Greetings from Virtuoso Travel Week! I am normally an early riser, up at around 4:30 every morning. The first thing I notice now, and this may be the result of my compilation of injuries over the years, is that my bones are a bit stiffer these days. And, I have to remind myself to walk more slowly before I start to run. Every morning when I get up, like most of you I’m sure, I have an agenda in mind for the day – whether it’s driven by a written list or by practiced routine. It’s my purpose for the day.

The travel industry is no different. Last week, the U.S. Department of State dropped the Level 4 global travel ban, returning to ranking each country individually. While most of us recognized this as a small step of little consequence, I believe the larger message was missed. This was our industry waking up in the morning after suffering a series of body blows that needs to heal. We need to ensure that we have our purpose set for the day, the week, the month, the year, the decade. Does this mean rewriting your business plan? Well, maybe.

As your business begins to wake up, you need to make sure that you have a clear purpose of what you intend to achieve. You need to have controls in place to ensure that you never violate them for the sake of a transaction. You would never do something in a day that goes against the moral fiber you woke up with, so why would your travel business.

So as a collective industry, we need to look at the move by the state department as an alarm clock going off in the morning. Let’s not try running a 10K straight out of bed. You walk first, letting your stiff body warm up. Make sure the moral fiber of your business, your higher purpose, is amplified, not muted.  It’s one of the many things that makes me proud of our team. With over 25 new programs, four new collections, a whole new virtual system, and countless more new initiatives, our moral fiber remains intact. Begin exploring what’s new at Big Five here.

And, by the way, how do take your Peruvian coffee?


P.S. Watch the video to the very end. The bloopers are totally not approved!

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