A Struggle To Put 2020 Accomplishments In Context
by Jeff Klee, on January 1, 2021
It wasn’t a typical New Year’s Eve, but 2020 is finally behind us. In a few days we’ll get back to work and there are newfound reasons to be hopeful. But after a sober night and a sobering year, it isn’t easy to just turn the page. We still have a pandemic that is raging, and our hearts still bleed for the families who have been most affected.
Amid all the loss and ugliness last year, there are people and stories that inspired me: the scientists who developed a vaccine in record time; the doctors and nurses who went state to state to stay on the front lines of the pandemic -- danger and exhaustion be damned; the teachers who kept teaching with courage and ingenuity; and all the essential workers who have risked their own health to keep our lights on, our networks connected, and our supply chains supplied. We still have heroes to look up to.
Back in April, I remember strapping on gloves and adjusting my mask in the supermarket parking lot feeling like I was going off to war. But in reality I was just getting sushi. The impact of the pandemic has been so uneven. What has turned the world upside down for some has been merely an inconvenience for others.
Putting things into context has been difficult. With so much sorrow around us, the AmTrav 2020 Agenda has seemed trivial at times. There were moments when we asked ourselves, is an easier way to make apples-to-apples flight comparisons really that important right now? But other times, the feelings of sadness, frustration and powerlessness created a nagging urge to channel those emotions into something really big and meaningful at work, where we at least had some degree of control.
Against that backdrop, our team spent the past 9 months working really hard to complete an ambitious agenda that pre-dated COVID. Although we didn’t quite get to everything (we never do), hours before the end of 2020 we released some major new updates to round out our achievements for the year. While I still struggle with how to appropriately compartmentalize all this, I am unbelievably proud of the way our team was able to work through distractions and challenges and accomplish some pretty big things.
In this mostly forgettable year:
We re-designed our booking tool with new navigation, styles and colors. We made it look and feel more fresh and modern, since these days even a two year old user interface looks like it’s from the stone age.
We overhauled our marketing site, with a new look and new messaging. Our new tag-line is “Business Travel is Always Personal” because we believe in-person human connections produce better business outcomes. We came up with that line before the pandemic, but it’s even more resonant now, as we’re all starving for face-to-face interactions.
We built the best flight search tool in the industry, adding lots of rich content, images, reviews, and details to make finding flights more easy and intuitive.
We made hotel shopping better by integrating sometimes lower “leisure rates” that you might find on sites like Expedia and reorganizing how we present them so you can more easily compare the different room types and all of their corresponding rates.
We built a new messaging platform from scratch, because we see a future where you will interact with us in a whole new way -- by telling us what you want verbally and then seeing options on your device visually.
We built tools and features to help you navigate the pandemic, like a COVID Resource Center, the integration of travel advisories and alerts, automatic application of unused ticket waivers, and COVID safety information within flight and hotel results. Many of these tools will pay dividends long past COVID.
We added productivity surveys which flow into your reports, since more than ever you want to make sure your trips are worth the cost. Our new reports let companies see at a glance how productive travelers felt their trips were and how satisfied they were with their suppliers and AmTrav.
We upgraded our flight status tool to include early predictions on the likelihood of a flight delay and information on the incoming aircraft.
And we opened our API’s so you can better integrate our data into your systems.
We didn’t change the world in 2020. We salute those heroes who spent the year doing much heavier lifting. Corporate travel has rightly not been top of mind for most but, for us, it's a job, and a passion. We know that when this is all over, people will want their lives back, including travel, and we’ll be ready.
Under difficult circumstances last year, our team rolled up its sleeves, donned extra hats, and got really creative. When Craig and I reluctantly asked them to take a salary cut during the most difficult 3 months of the year, they were willing and understanding. They rose to the challenge. They kept serving those of you who still needed help, while at the same time keeping an eye toward the future. I am so proud that, as everything changed, we adapted. We figured out how to still get stuff done. Like most of you, we had setbacks and distractions along the way. We didn’t end up exactly where we imagined we would, but we managed to move the ball forward. We’re as thrilled as everyone to have 2020 behind us but the scars -- and, yes, the accomplishments -- endure.