To resist, reorganize and think about the post crisis is the important thing to do now

Monday April 27, 2020

Interview with Claudia Terrade, CEO of Quimbaya Latin America

Present in 11 countries of Latin America, Quimbaya Latin America is facing the crisis linked to Covid-19 pandemic. After the repatriations, our teams manage the rescheduling and cancellations by negotiating when necessary on a case-by-case basis with the partners. – What is the impact of the coronavirus epidemic crisis for Quimbaya Latin America?

Claudia Terrade: As with all travel agents, our activity has been completely disrupted since the start of the crisis.
It started in January with the Chinese market, where we have been present for several years with very good results. The season had just started, and it came to an abrupt end.
Then it was the turn of the Italian market which is our second market after the French market, then all the other markets followed.
In a few days, as the borders closed and all the countries ordered compulsory containment, we saw our turnover drop by 35% for the year 2020, and we know that this is not going to stop there.
We are preparing for difficult times, but above all we want to make this crisis a source of inspiration and change to adapt to the tourism of the future.

“We have to rely everywhere, on our own means and our own ideas” – How was your company organized (short-time working, home office, etc.) on the different destinations, knowing that not all governments offer the same type of aid?
Claudia Terrade: Indeed, of our 11 destinations, there are not 2 that have the same rules and the same laws, but there are still some common points: all our teams in all countries have been working from home since mid-March and above all, we must rely everywhere, on our own means and our own ideas to deal with the crisis.
We have therefore organized ourselves, country by country and on a case-by-case basis, using the tools that each country makes available to businesses. – How did you manage the repatriations and now how do you manage the postponements or cancellations? Have you implemented commercial flexibility?
Claudia Terrade: Between January and mid-March, we received approximately 6,500 passengers across all of our destinations. Aside from a few complicated cases in Peru and Costa Rica, all of our passengers have returned home safely.
Our teams worked day and night in close collaboration with our clients to modify the routes and return flights.
Again, we worked on a case-by-case basis to find the right solutions for everyone. The repatriations followed the management of cancellations and rescheduling.
It is delicate work because not all of our suppliers have the same vision or the same means. They are going through the same difficulties as all of us, but we always manage to get the best solutions by adapting to each person’s needs.
We have to negotiate constantly in order to find the best deals, our teams are used to it.

“We have become, in a way, banks” – What do you think of the prepayment orders?
Claudia Terrade: It is a good solution for the European traveler; however, it is difficult to have it applied in all countries and by all suppliers in a consistent manner. Each country and each company defines its own policy and works according to its interests and possibilities.
Negotiation is part of our DNA. We do our best to find common ground between the needs of our clients and those of our suppliers. It’s complicated to manage, but we hope it will work. – How is your relationship with the agencies and Tour Operators in some markets, are you awaiting payments? What about cash? Several tourism professionals call for a review of the financial model and flows, what do you think?

Claudia Terrade: In general, we ask our customers to pay our invoices before the arrival of passengers at destination, but credit at 7, 10, 15, and up to 45 days after the departure of travelers is a condition for working with some.
In normal times, with a large volume of purchases and provided that the payment dates are respected, it can work but this system has already shown its shortcomings.
Many of us were victims of the bankruptcy of Thomas Cook last year. Payments are slow to arrive at this time.
It is unfair and it penalizes us enormously. We have become, in a way, banks, and that even lends itself to abuse. After this crisis, this model should no longer work.
It is not a healthy operating system and it often hides serious management problems. To guarantee our sustainability, we will have to be even more strict and rigorous in the management of our cash.

“The future of tourism will undoubtedly have to be different” – When and how do you see the end of this crisis?
Claudia Terrade: It is impossible to predict when and how we will emerge from this crisis. We also don’t know when international travel will resume.
Whether the crisis comes out in a few months or a year, what is important for the moment is to resist, reorganize and think about the post-crisis. – Will there be a before and after a coronavirus?
Claudia Terrade: Yes, I think so and I hope so. Each business experiences this crisis differently depending on many factors, but it is so difficult to live with that the “survivors” will no longer be able to do exactly as “before”. – How do you see tourism and client expectations evolving in the future?
Claudia Terrade: Even if to date the rescheduling of canceled trips are the same, there will be changes. We will have to adapt to the legislation and measures that countries are putting in place.
Client expectations will also change and we must be ready to meet these new expectations.
The safety and health of our passengers will become a priority and to guarantee them, we will more than ever have to respect the environment and only select suppliers who have the same concern.
The future of tourism will undoubtedly have to be different.