It was a much-needed message of unity, camaraderie, and strength as hundreds of operators worldwide tuned in to the National Limousine Association’s Facebook page on May 12 for the mammoth No Operator Left Behind (NOLB) Virtual Summit. The nearly five-hour session featured a half-dozen speakers and was moderated by NLA President Robert Alexander of RMA Worldwide and Bill Faeth of Limo University. At times sobering, often optimistic, but always enlightening, the NOLB Summit probed many aspects of travel and entertainment as operators attempt to safely navigate the next phases of the economy’s reopening. The event culminated with a message of hope and overall well-being—physical as well as mental—from two doctors who are on the frontlines of the COVID-19 crisis every day.
“The one thing I think everyone is lacking—because they’ve been in lockdown so long—is patience. We all want the business to be back tomorrow, and what tomorrow looks like is what we’re all trying to figure out,” said Alexander during the event. “A key takeaway? There’s optimism.” He also added that people are seeing an uptick in reservations, a positive sign that the public is feeling more confident to once again venture beyond their homes.
If there was one constant throughout the Summit, it’s that every corner of the economy has been touched by this pandemic, albeit it in varying degrees, and every business owner is grappling with how to protect their team and clients for the foreseeable future. The industry can learn from what vertical markets are doing to improve our own response to safety measures, especially from those businesses that didn’t have the unexpected “benefit” of a shutdown and had to put novel safety protocols in place on the fly.
Roger Dow of the U.S. Travel Association offered his snapshot of what’s happening to the vital travel sector at home. He prognosticated that our industry might actually have a leg up for a quicker recovery over other forms of transportation, including TNCs, because of the active and aggressive safety policies that operators are instituting. It was a sentiment that was echoed by Catherine Chaulet of Global DMC Partners and Angela Layton of the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy spoke about what the workplace might look like moving forward as more businesses see the benefit of employees working from home, as well as what would reassure their clients as they balance travel with their tolerance for risk—with clear communication from their travel partners. Alexander noted that the NLA is working on an SOP as a foundation for members to establish their own protocols.
Large-scale events in every state have been among the hardest hit, including sports and concerts, due to the restrictions on congregations. Stuart Ross of Red Light Management addressed how music events have been sidelined and what efforts the industry is taking to ramp up to a modified opening, although they have had some success with virtual events.
Sara McCall of Stunning and Brilliant Events, said that weddings are still happening, although many have been scaled down, offer different types of services (for example, plated dinners over a buffet), often include a virtual aspect, and new trends have been popular—yes, scented sanitizer stations are a thing. She sees the shift as an important but ultimately temporary measure until we are more comfortable where society is with the pandemic.
On a positive note, Jay Karen of the National Golf Course Owners Association, reported that golf courses had to pivot quickly to manage the crisis because many are open—and quite busy as more people are working from home and need an outlet. They’ve addressed everything from limiting the sizes of groups to spreading out tee times and even instituting touchless procedures wherever possible.
The final hour of the event was perhaps the most significant as Dr. James Doub of the University of Maryland and Dr. Lucy McBride of Foxhall Internists tackled the most immediate issues we are all facing with the pandemic: the fear of the unknown. Both addressed the imperative issues of staying physically healthy and protecting others from the spread of the virus, but also the tolls that it’s taken on mental health. They expressed confidence in the industry’s steps to operate safely by installing partitions, having the chauffeur and passenger wearing N95 masks (although less so on the use of gloves), liberally using hand sanitizer, and, of course, quarantining ill staff. Widespread testing and the possibility of a vaccine would be best.
A full recording of the NOLB Summit, complete with robust participation and real-time comments and questions from viewers, can be found on the NLA’s Facebook page.
Individual recordings can be found here:
Travel Industry Session featuring Roger Dow of the U.S. Travel Association
Meetings and Events Session featuring Catherine Chaulet of Global DMC Partners and Angela Layton of the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy
Recreation and Weddings Session featuring Jay Karen of the National Golf Course Owners Association and Sara McCall of Stunning and Brilliant Events
Live Entertainment Session featuring Stuart Ross of Red Light Management
Medical Industry Session featuring Dr. James Doub of the University of Maryland and Dr. Lucy McBride of Foxhall Internists
Visit the NLA’s COVID-19 response page for more information.