by David DiFranco
Travel involves taking people to different places. But not merely that. If getting people from one place to another was the crux of it, we would be talking about transportation, not travel. Travel is about going to different places for the express purpose of experiencing things. This is the essence of what we as travel-providers are focused on. Yes, we want our products to cost less. We want them to be devoid of delays or interruptions. But above all, we want them to be exhilarating, memorable and life-changing. As our mission statement here at Corporate Travel captures well, the collective purpose for which we are engaged is to enhance lives, promote culture, and to open the world to our clients.
So how is that done?
In second grade we are taught what nouns are. Nouns are words that represent people, places and things. And in our sector of the travel industry where we focus on experiential travel, all three of those feature prominently in our products. The people we introduce our clients to, the hidden places that fill all their senses, and the profound, tangible things our guests are able to contemplate first-hand are the building blocks of any experiential travel encounter. We connect our guests with the exotic, historic, and sacred places of the world in ways that could never be done without our help. But what makes these places and things worth experiencing? Why do people invest so much of their financial and emotional resources to visit and interact physically with other objects and foreign locations across our planet? The answer is because someone, somewhere, at some previous point in time suffered some strife, exerted some inspired influence, or achieved some profound accomplishment to give those locations and those things extraordinary value.
The clients we serve take millions of photos every year to prove they have encountered certain places and things. They plaster their evidence across Instagram and Facebook as if to proclaim, “Look! Here is the moment I did something that changed my life!” Here I am standing next to Michelangelo’s David, strolling atop the Great Wall of China, or marveling among the stones of Machu Picchu! Here I stood overwhelmed on the hallowed shores of Normandy where men bled for our freedom. Here I sang with my fellow choristers on the revered stage of Carnegie Hall. Here I trod the streets of Jerusalem where Jesus Christ himself walked, ate, cured, and died for humanity. In the end, they are just places and things. But they are very special places and things. And they were made special, by people.
What unknown craft or lost technology did the ancients employ to heave the megaliths of Stonehenge into place? How is Gettysburg more than a mere field in the middle of farm country, save for the epic battle that ensued there over a century ago? Is the Burj Khalifa captivating just because it’s tall, or is it the fact that its unfathomable height is made possible only by the unbridled imagination and engineering of humankind? Is St. Peter’s in Rome relevant because of the basilica that is there, or is the basilica there because St. Peter’s was first made relevant by the martyrdom of St. Peter himself on that very spot? People are behind the significant places on Earth.
Of course, in some instances, nature provides the marvels. Majestic mountains, calving glaciers, and tropical beaches offer magnificent experiences without the influence of man. And the scenic wonders of our gorgeous planet will always supply exhilarating and recuperative options for travelers. But while nature provides beauty, man provides significance. And it is significance that draws the greatest number of guests in our organization. It is significance that makes the USS Arizona Memorial more than just a sunken vessel, the Camino de Santiago worth the rigorous hike, and a night in Mackinac’s Grand Hotel more than just a place to sleep. Yes, experiential travel occurs when we give people access to interact fully with the places and things that are significant to them. And the contributions of humankind are what made those places and things significant.
Which leads me to ourselves. This year our world, our nation, and specifically here at Corporate Travel, our company has weathered withering trials. The litany of threats, challenges, and assaults to our company has been continuous, destructive, and overwhelming. But as people in ages past have used creativity, persistence, and sacrifice to overcome the challenges and achievements of their day, so too have the people in our company tendered relevance to the struggles of this day. Presently, our team celebrates the arrival of promising vaccines. We anticipate with great joy the return of our peers who are sacrificing through an unavoidable but temporary furlough. We also welcome calls from loyal and supportive friends and clients who are now wisely capturing the opportunity to plan new travel experiences in a world that is about to emerge from its own confinement. As I consider all our team has and continues to endure and how we are prevailing, my mind goes to the amazing people in our midst who have fought, sacrificed, and wept to achieve something amazing in the face of this year’s adversity. I offer this article to them. I marvel at the incredible people who have lent relevance to what they have created and defended in this daunting time. Our organization is merely a thing. Our office is just a place. But they are made significant by the people who have worked here.
It’s always about the people.