A year in the life like no other for the travel sector - Rebecca Moore

In February 2020 I took up my first Board and C-Suite role at TravelNest – a milestone for any woman stepping up in a male-dominated industry. Doing this two weeks before Covid struck and the travel industry was turned inside out added an extra challenge for which there was no playbook. A year on, it feels like the right time to share my journey and the things I’ve learned along the way.

Rebecca Moore, Chief Operating Officer, TravelNest
Rebecca Moore, Chief Operating Officer, TravelNest

TravelNest provides software to help vacation rental owners get more bookings. When Covid hit in March 2020, the impact was clear. As COO, my first act was to switch everyone to home working, ahead of government advice. I’m glad I did, as soon the impact struck close to home. On our first working from home day, I came down with Covid symptoms and mercifully avoided spreading it to colleagues. I’ve never been more grateful for following my instincts. This was not the only place we felt the force of Covid. Our platform advertises holiday homes on sites like Airbnb and Booking.com. We’d previously enjoyed beating our own booking performance month after month, but when the first lockdown hit, bookings flatlined. The team was scared. The only thing we did was process cancellations.

Our first actions were to look after our customers, vacation rental owners, who were hit hard by Covid, and guests. We upped our game with customer communications, supporting owners by blocking calendars, rescheduling numerous bookings, processing cancellations and providing updates on the latest developments.

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Within days, we implemented sweeping changes that previously would have taken months. Our priority was to provide the best service to customers, preserve our team and protect the business. We had to cut costs. We requested a 20% voluntary salary reduction, for which we had 100% opt in. We furloughed as many people as possible to protect jobs and worked with suppliers to carve out savings. Many of our owners were in dire straits - their income simply vanished. The team had upset guests to deal with, all wondering if they’d get their money back. They did a wonderful job processing every refund.

Demand for holiday rentals is up again

Throughout, we never stopped strengthening our business for the future, improving product processes and relaunching our culture and values. It was nerve-wracking yet exhilarating to be building for the future. Rewarding work anchored me when other parts of my life were challenging.

As Covid came under control, we experienced an incredible booking surge in July 2020 when the entire UK tried to book a holiday! We closed two funding rounds, totalling £1.8M, from Silicon Valley Bank and Scottish Enterprise, with both institutions recognising the opportunity we had. Now, we’re seeing an even greater bookings surge as confidence in the vaccine grows.

One year on, have I made mistakes? Undoubtedly. Have I been challenged like never before? Absolutely. I’ve learned a huge amount about leadership and have redefined what it means to be a leader. Honesty matters. How I behave, matters. Tough decisions taken early matter. Shaking off set backs and facing the next challenge matters. What I’ve redefined for myself - my capability to do all this - is deeper than I imagined. It took a World War to show that women can perform in any role. It has taken a global pandemic to show our true capacity to lead.

Rebecca Moore, Chief Operating Officer, TravelNest

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