Travel insights from Jennifer Dugan, chief family officer for Dugan’s Travels


The old saying, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” is often affirmed during difficult times, but is it true? For some of us, it is true. We do not know what we are capable of handling until we must handle it. For some, we think we will handle things that are thrown our way better than others will. We are all unique in handling stress and trauma.

For those who have spent their energy building their travel businesses up in the years past, Covid-19 was a traumatic blow. We did not see it coming.

For those who made it through September 11, this unexpected attack on us and everyone we care about can re-open an old wound. In my life, I have survived losing a child. It is a loss that is like no other loss. When you become a parent and you even think of such a loss, you cannot imagine surviving it. However, every day a parent loses a child. It could be due to many reasons and happen at any age, but it does not change the pain. I would have never thought I would be capable of getting over such loss.

So many people right now are losing loved ones due to Covid-19. Grief changes you in many ways. I do believe it can also make you stronger than you ever thought you were.

Loss changes people. This is a loss to many of us. We have lost the sense of control over our lives. We realize how little we know about what can take a life. We realize there are no guarantees we will be safe. We realize how small we are in the big picture.

This can change how we do business also. We may have realized our current business model had flaws. We may have the desire to throw in the towel because we do not feel we can go through such an event again.

I myself have said that if I was to experience a loss like losing my daughter, I would not recover. Then two years ago, I lost my oldest sister to ovarian cancer. That loss was very hard on me, and in many ways, it ripped off a band-aid on my heart I had from losing my daughter. I felt the loss very deep and grieved longer than I imagined after losing my daughter. I felt that maybe nothing could hurt like that again. The loss of my sister was compounded by my previous grief.

For some in this business, this loss is also compounded by other life events. Their experience may be more complex or distressing than just the loss of a business.

Right now, more than ever, we need to be gracious with ourselves as well as our colleagues. We need to give everyone the time they need to recover. We will recover. Some agents might need longer than others to regain their footing. Some of our clients might need longer to feel comfortable enough to travel again.

Instead of pushing on others our own feelings of whether it is safe, “time to get back on the horse,” or whatever phrase we might use, we must remember that people have their own timeline for feeling comfortable again.

Be patient. Give our customers whatever time we need to give them.

You may be handling closer to home vacations for a while. You may be booking what makes your clients feel comfortable rather than what makes us the most commission. If we can give our customers and colleagues the time they need, we will all be better off in the long run.

We need to remember that we do not know what each of us has experienced. We need to realize that our opinion of how quickly things need to get back to “normal” is not necessarily someone else’s opinion.

Together with our customers guiding us at their own pace, we can move the travel industry back to a safe and happy place again.

Each of us has our own set of luggage to carry and we need to realize that some might be heavier than others.

About the Author

Jennifer Dugan

Jennifer Dugan founded Dugan’s Travels in 1997 with the goal to have a career while being at home with her growing family. Since that time, Jennifer and her team have created a family-friendly host agency where hundreds of agents work to realize the dream of owning a successful home-based travel business. Dugan’s Travels, now a recognized top host agency in the United States, offers comprehensive education and development programs to help agents gain knowledge, establish industry relationships, and build the confidence needed to succeed. When not working tirelessly to put her agents first, Jennifer enjoys spending time in the mountains with her husband and seven children.

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