I would like to take you back to February 2020, when more than 400 people gathered for our annual Tauck Director seminar. The image shared above was the opening slide of my annual State of the Business address – it speaks to algorithms. An algorithm is a process or set of rules followed by calculations, done with amazing speed. Algorithms are becoming more and more involved in our daily lives. We may not even realize it. Algorithms have been impactful in the travel industry for decades as online travel and hospitality companies seek to target prospects and influence purchase decisions. And more recently, anticipation grows around new developments by ChatGBT and other AI technology. So, I shared this question, “How do you compete?” And the answer is so clear and is right in front of us. And fortunately, it fits Tauck’s DNA to a tee.
The answer is through the hearts and minds of our people. We are humans who care. We anticipate needs. We problem solve. We bring people closer together. We build relationships and an ecosystem of caring people who deliver the experiences you enjoy. Tauck has and will continue to leverage technology, but essential to our ability to thrive as we reach 100 years young in two years, is through our people and our relationships across our industry and around the globe.
I was reminded of this when I concluded a recent voyage along the Douro River in Portugal on March 30th aboard our newest riverboat, the exquisite ms Andorinha. Ironically, it was three years to the day when the ms Andorinha was originally scheduled to be christened. I left Portugal reflecting on how much had occurred during this time – yet also how much things felt the same. This made me smile for which I am grateful. Let me explain.
My wife Kiki and I, along with many members of our Tauck team, were hosting dozens of the largest travel advisors in the nation on this cruise. We all grew so close during this short time together. The spirit onboard was friendly and personal and everyone contributed to the experience, sharing their own lifetime experiences making for a richer, fuller experience for all. As impactful were the local citizens of Portugal we met along the way. The guide in Regua was so proud of his “home” and so knowledgeable and eager to share. A third-generation winemaker – still committed with his 90-year-old father, to the centuries old practice of stomping grapes with feet – yet was also modern in his aims and relevant; and proud to share that he received a rating of 95 from Robert Parker for a cabernet. There was an a cappella group of high school students from a local Jesuit school. Their smiles, their kinship and the hope one could feel for their future as you looked into their eyes and smiles, was energizing.
Our industry makes considerable investments in the “hardware” of the experience – and for this we are so grateful. But what has always been true, and always will be, is that people really bring the experience alive. Through stories, care and camaraderie, our thirst for more deepens because of the people we meet along the way. At its core, human connections are the most memorable elements of travel.
Central to our ecosystem, and often ranked the “#1 most important element contributing to your satisfaction” are our Tauck Directors (TDs). Hailing from literally all corners of the world – and from a myriad of backgrounds – all are energetically committed to serving you and enlivening your experience. There have been staffing shortages across the hospitality industry including tour directors and local guides for many companies. But not at Tauck. We were able to retain a large percentage of our team and we had many more applications for open positions than available spots. In February we held our annual TD seminar and 300 Tauckies gathered – from 41 countries and 52 languages spoken. It’s difficult to convey the energy when this many Tauck Directors gather. We wish we could “bottle” this energy and provide it to the world. We had many TDs celebrating 40 years in service and also hosted 65 new TDs. They left Morocco and traveled to literally all parts of the earth to serve our patrons with energy and knowing we stand behind them, always.
In 2022 we operated with breadth and depth around the world – including 61 countries and all 7 continents. In 2023 we will expand further, and operate in Japan, South Korea, Qatar and United Arab Emirates. Three-plus years out from the shutdown in March of 2020, we now have greater context and clarity – on that time and where we are today. I’m grateful to share in looking across our business through multiple lenses, Tauck has emerged perhaps stronger than ever. Conditions are still not perfect everywhere, by any stretch. Our industry continues to rebuild staffing, implement training and hone operating processes. I was glad to read a report by The World Travel and Tourism Council that travel industry employment is back to 95% of 2019 levels. We have renewed old supplier partnerships and created hundreds of new relationships. Our Worldwide Operations team is working “double time” across the globe to deepen connections and clarify expectations for our Tauck standards with our partners.
Through the “hearts and minds” of everyone across our ecosystem, we see long tenured Tauckies and new team members, as well as supplier partners, new and old, all share their commitment to help realize our purpose in serving you. We remain very optimistic about our future and so grateful for your continued trust.
Wishing you many wonderful new connections in your travels this year.
Daniel W. Mahar, CEO