Fortunately in the midst of the darkest whirlpool, you came to us with a warm hand holding out to give us a lift and cheer us up. You came with a hint of breeze and sunshine, and brought us hope and kindness.
And now, it seems like everything is back to normal again. An important mission that is awaiting us next is to slowly restore all the things that we have lost these past two years.
I understand that the big environment now is no longer the same as it used to be, and it is therefore not easy for us to talk about those good old days when everything was perfectly beautiful.
That being said, we all know that putting food on table is no longer a major problem, at least for the time being, because almost every industry is looking for people while everyone is looking for a new job best suited to them that will satisfy their salary expectations. In short, unless you are dead lazy, you won’t be out of job!
Anyway, because of the disastrous pandemic, we all have learned to look at things differently. Most people now only want a job that will allow them to lead a normal family life, with a dream for a better tomorrow. Many will get instantly content with just a simple life every day.
As a matter of fact, life is akin to a long winding journey that will take us over the mountains and across the seas. In our continuous quest for a better life, we invariably experience ups and downs, good things and bad, and it’s all this that has remarkably spiced up our lives.
Most importantly, even as we can get content with all that we possess now, or can choose not to accept the reality that unfurls before our eyes, we must nevertheless have a heart of gratitude.
Each and every one of us has our own unique stories that are dotted with tears and laughter, but one thing we must not forget is the people whom we have met along the way, people who have motivated us and ignited our fighting spirit such that we have recovered our courage to go on with life.
During the early days of the pandemic, travel industry operators were the most severely hit. They had to curl up at a wall corner and lick their wounds in total darkness, struggling to stay alive. They were overwhelmed by total bewilderment, and the invisible stress was almost smothering them to death.
Despite the moral support from other fellow industry players, they had to face the reality of their fast-dwindling bank accounts.
When their determination to stay alive was almost drying up, they not only lost their resistance to mounting pressure, but also immunity against the virus. They were asking in desperation: why is the travel industry so vulnerable?
As a matter of fact, compared to the damage wrought by the four-month SARS outbreak, the severity of coronavirus was many, many times over.
Since governments across the world found themselves powerless in defeating the microscopic enemy, how could frail and helpless earthlings like us be able to survive the calamity? And who would come to our rescue?
Perhaps my team and I belong to that category of people called “warriors.” We believed all the hardships we were going through would eventually leave us one day, no matter how bad they were. We believed we could find our way around the disaster.
As such, we courageously took up the challenge to cling on to our positions even though the other travel agencies in the country began to fall one by one and we were left with only a couple of surviving fighters in the very end.
But we were also well aware of the fact that without any income, the company would still need to dig into its resources to pay staff salaries, rents and other fixed expenses. We were literally burning cash in a gamble that might very well empty our coffers!
We nevertheless forged ahead against the odds, and fortunately in the midst of the darkest whirlpool, you came to us with a warm hand holding out to give us a lift and cheer us up. You came with a hint of breeze and sunshine, and brought us hope and kindness.
To be honest, we were very, very lucky to have you with us during those painful days of pandemic, giving us the much-needed energy to gradually step out of our pit of hopelessness. Your encouragement made us see that we could be down but not out!
Today, records show that more than 623 million people across the planet have been infected with the virus, resulting in over 6.56 million deaths.
Meanwhile, some 650,000 people are still being infected on a daily basis, although the virus has been rendered far less dangerous and threatening now, thanks to the powerful vaccines we have in the market.
Right now in our company we still keep the two big refrigerators which used to be fully packed with imported fruits, a freezer that used to be filled with beef, scallops and other frozen foods, as well as several cabinets that we used to store dried foods, Shiroi Koibito pastries, Ichiran ramen, Calbee Three Brothers potato chips and other goodies.
As if that’s not enough, we also have that Marketo office where we once shared plenty of heart-warming memories…
But what we miss most is your lengthy orders: one bunch of Japanese grapes, one box of strawberries, one carton of Aomori apples, Korean crystal pears, wagyu, Taiwanese vermicelli, and 200 boxes of Japanese Sakura Mikam oranges…
You even issued us a cheque for 18 months of rent to help us with the LED advertising fees outside our office building.
We are also deeply indebted to thousands of faithful travel buddies who pre-booked our Travel Recovery Campaign (TRC) packages which even we ourselves could not tell when exactly we would set off. Your trust has helped us through the darkest hours of the pandemic.
Because of you, we have been able to persist and stand strong until this day. You have made us a beacon of light in the dark sky in the travel industry so that we can lead the way for our fellow travel operators!
My dearest travel buddies, we couldn’t possibly thank you enough. And we love you so much. Today, we have emerged stronger in this trade because of you.
Life goes on unceasingly, and along the way we have never lacked all the beautiful and touching moments we have shared together.
This is a new beginning for us to come together once again as we continue to explore and experience the many wonderful things of this world!
P/S: After an ultra-long 937-day wait, our primary outbound destinations Japan and Taiwan have now unconditionally opened their borders to international travellers, marking a perfect end to the dilemma of the travel industry as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Once again, let’s conquer the world together!
(Lee San is Founder and Group Executive Chairman of Apple Vacations. He has travelled to 132 countries, six continents, and enjoys sharing his travel stories and insights. He has also authored five books.)