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“It’s therapy to be able to talk about it”

The round table entitled “2 years of crisis: resilience and opportunities” will remain as one of the highlights of the congress of Travel Companies (EdV) in Punta Cana. A bit like a shrink, but without a couch, François-Xavier Izenic made three women talk about the acuteness of the crisis, on a human level.

Michelle Kunegel, president of LK Tours, went unfiltered. More than the economic impact, the leader was branded by the emotional impact of the “unnatural” decisions imposed by the pandemic. Understand layoffs. “It’s therapy to be able to talk about this decision to have to lay off. »

Survival instinct

LK Tours is a family business that has existed since 1934, made up of 10 transport companies and two agency networks. 700 employees with whom it was necessary to cross the Covid-19 tsunami. “I didn’t want to be the last link in a chain. When you bequeath a family business, you are bequeathing the family book,” says Michelle Kunegel. It was necessary to reduce the teams of the group created by his grandfather. “I lived in the depths of myself this decision to dismiss”, confides the leader, moved to tears. “Collaborators started crying over the announcements, I was crying too. (…) But I was in tune with myself. I explained what I was going to do with my emotion and my sensitivity. As a business leader but also a woman. All these decisions were very painful but I remember that I did it as I thought I had to. It was then that the 400 delegates, many of whom had experienced a similar trauma, applauded him. Long.

Climats du Monde, which celebrates its 30th anniversary next year, is also a family business. “I work with my mother Christine and my husband Charly,” recalled Olivia Calvin. Here too, radical decisions had to be taken to save the Asia specialist. Quickly, the TO reduced its team of around forty employees by 60%. A very difficult decision, so that “the company remains sustainable”, remembers Olivia Calvin. “We hunt costs, we reduce everything we can. Partial activity is taking place. »

A coach, to overcome the loneliness of the manager

François-Xavier Izenic questioned the “leader’s loneliness”. A very real loneliness for Olivia Calvin, despite her solid family background. Which led her, to hold on, to use a management coach for leaders in the Covid phase. The two women exchange one hour every 15 days. “It allowed me to take a step back and understand that there are things we don’t control. »

In times of adversity, women leaders valued the solidarity in the profession. The Travel Companies, the Association of Tourism Women and other professional bodies have been valuable allies.

A feeling also shared by the third witness of the round table, Valérie Sasset, General Manager France of BCD Travel. In the spring of 2020, the business travel specialist did not lay off. Unemployment has become the rule. Out of 230 employees, “only five are full-time”, says Valérie Sasset. Paradoxically, in order to compensate for a foreseeable drop in activity, the TMC recruits commercial profiles to find new customers.

When the reed raises its head

Climats du Monde has also found solutions to bounce back, opening up to Egypt, Southern Africa and Latin America. For her part, Michelle Kunegel is proud to have taken over three people who had been made redundant. This is also resilience. A reed resilience that bends in the storm, when the imposing oak uproots.

And now ? The market is picking up strongly, even in business travel. “Last week, at BCD, we were at 115% of 2019,” says Valérie Sasset. “We are having difficulty getting everyone back on board in our daily lives. The motivation had already dropped in the midst of a health crisis. “Over time, employees have changed their lives. We lost about 10% of our employees. These voluntary departures, all the actors of the trip testify to it. We must re-enchant the profession, they say. Because the profession is no longer a dream, jobs remain desperately vacant today.

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