Surviving COVID-19

This post is NOT a discussion about the medical implications from the COVID-19 crisis. Hopefully wherever in the world you are reading this, you are practicing “social distancing” and taking this crisis seriously.

No doubt you have received hundreds of emails by now saying something like “we are monitoring the impacts of COVID-19”. It goes without saying that we are all monitoring this situation – probably more than is healthy for us emotionally. In this post I am sharing thoughts and ideas I have about how our businesses and the entire travel industry can survive this crisis. Hopefully these thoughts and ideas are useful to you. It may not be the right time, and in that case just file this away for later.

Regardless of what you get from this post I hope that you are healthy and know you are not alone. We are all dealing with this unprecedented crisis. It will be a while before we fully know what we are dealing with. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be thinking about our next steps, which is what I am discussing here. 

There are two assumptions that people are making right now. One, that what we learned from the 2008 financial crisis is relevant to this crisis. And two, unlike in 2008, this crisis is not caused by a flaw in our economic system, but an external shock – more akin to September 11th, 2001. When the cause of the shock is dealt with the recovery will begin. Let’s take them one by one. 

The economy prior to the 2008 economic collapse was built atop a weak foundation incapable of supporting what was being built upon it. There are similarities to today. While some of the rot that led to the meltdown in 2008 was shored up and fixed, some of it remained or crept back in. Once again, we are being told certain businesses need to be “bailed out”. These are the large corporations that employ 10s of thousands of people and are responsible for basic aspects of our society. In the travel industry these are airlines, cruise lines and large attractions. Tim Wu’s recent opinion piece in the New York Times (Don’t Feel Sorry for the Airlines) highlights that the need for these bailouts is due to negligent business practices by these multinational corporations – just like the banks were responsible for 2008. He says: 

American [Airlines] blew most of its cash on a stock buyback spree. From 2014 to 2020, in an attempt to increase its earnings per share, American spent more than $15 billion buying back its own stock. It managed, despite the risk of the proverbial rainy day, to shrink its cash reserves. At the same time it was blowing cash on buybacks, American also began to borrow heavily to finance the purchase of new planes and the retrofitting of old planes to pack in more seats. As early as 2017 analysts warned of a risk of default should the economy deteriorate, but American kept borrowing. It has now accumulated a debt of nearly $30 billion, nearly five times the company’s current market value.

Sadly, it appears what we learned in 2008 was forgotten (or ignored) by many companies our industry depends upon. And governments did not remain vigilant on regulating corporations to insure they can survive a major shock like this. Rather than address this problem like we did the financial crisis in 2008 by bailing out the multinationals, I suggest we instead rally our sector to advocate for initiatives that help small businesses and the workers least capable to weather this storm. Our focus should be placed on pushing policies that quickly gets cash into the hands of workers being laid off, loan payments being suspended without penalty, and healthcare available for free. For businesses, no or low interest loans need to be quickly approved to keep basic overhead covered and investments flowing so they can be ready to go when this crisis subsides. Which brings us to the second assumption.  

First, it should be noted, just like any shock to a system, while the onset may be rapid and seem out from nowhere, those who have been paying attention have been predicting it for years. Sure enough, in 2018 Bill Gates said

“[T]here is a significant probability that a large and lethal modern-day pandemic will occur in our lifetime… What the world needs is a coordinated global approach to pandemics that will work regardless of whether the next pandemic is a product of humans or of nature. Specifically, we need better tools, an early detection system, and a global response system.”

But suggesting your hotel should have had its fire detection and suppression system upgraded while it is burning down isn’t useful. Still, just as firefighters rushing in to save your hotel can be the difference between a complete loss or a building that can be salvaged, so too is how your response to COVID-19 will be for your business. The uncertainty around when this crisis will end is definitely unnerving and making it difficult to plan. But it is all but assured that it will end at some point. Again, the challenge is we don’t know when this will occur. We still need to plan to be ready for what will happen next. 

Pandion CEO Dan Moore with Ciclismo Classico Founder Lauren Hefferon hiking in Italy

There are three phases I recommend considering for weathering this crisis and coming out stronger on the other side. The first phase is to reinforce to your community – employees, customers and partners – that they can trust you and that you are there for them. Recently on a webinar offered by the Adventure Travel Trade Association (a great organization to support especially during times of crisis) I received two pieces of advice from Ciclismo Classico founder, Lauren Hefferon. Lauren said she is picking up the phone and calling all of her clients personally to check in with them and make sure they are doing okay. She said that everyone has appreciated that she called them herself. This shows compassion and gratitude for her customers and will go a long way when these people are ready to travel again. Also insightful, in past crises Lauren has taken note of her customers that are first to return – those who are more resilient. These are the clients she knows will be critical to getting trips back out the door when it is safe to travel again. So not only is she reaching out to all of her clients, she is paying special attention to those who will help her get back up and running again.

Another way to show you care about your community is to provide resources to them. Seattle based non-profit Terra-Forma Education knows that, with schools closed, parents and kids are going stir-crazy indoors. With no mention of promoting the 20 spaces left to fill for summer camp, Terra-Forma instead is passing along activities, compliant with social distancing, that parents can do with their kids in the backyard or nearby parks. It is still unknown what is going to happen to summer camps, but if we are lucky to have some resolve by summer, this act of genuine goodwill will help parents trust that Terra-Forma is an organization they can trust.

The second phase is to get creative on how you are going to survive economically in the medium term. This is the “making lemonade out of lemons” part of being a successful business. Hopefully you have access to savings or a loan to get you through the next couple months of complete lockdown. But at some point, you will need to tap into something, even if it isn’t the core service your business offers. Who will be the first ones to travel again? What will you need to do to minimize risks and assuage fears that prospective travelers will have? Assuming people will be more likely to book a last-minute trip not too far from home before they will be ready to get on a plane and fly long distances, are your services something local or regional travelers might be interested to book last minute? What modifications will you need to make to attract this audience? Can you design or communicate an experience that people will feel more comfortable partaking in despite COVID-19 fears? 

A local Seattle start-up I am working with realized just this. ROAM Beyond offers lodging in remote and scenic locations using sustainably crafted boutique trailers. Realizing the expected national and international visitor to Washington State is going to be much lower at best, ROAM realized their product will be perfect for locals who cancelled or postponed their summer holidays but still want to get away. The trailers offer a “Refuge in Nature”, much needed after several months of anxiety and being cooped up inside at home. Unlike a hotel where you are interacting with all the other visitors, each couple or family gets their own trailer. A perfect product as we transition out of lockdown but before the perceived risk is back to normal. 

ROAM Beyond’s new site in the Yakima Canyon

The third phase is to communicate your strategy – when the time is right – to your new target market. To be clear, phase one is communicating to your community and customer base that you are there for support and help. This phase is to communicate the ideas you came up with in phase two. How will you get the message out? This can be a challenge since you might be trying to reach a different audience than your usual audience. As with everything in the travel industry, remember you are not alone. Every other local business in your area is facing the same reality as you are. Your local DMO is well aware that it got tough very quickly and the future is uncertain. How can you work together? Can you team up with another business to share the burden? ROAM will be partnering with several local tour companies to comarket their “Stay-cation” ideas, such as Great Guides, First Nature Tours and Olympic Hiking Co. All businesses will benefit if the idea is successful. 

Saying it is a tough time for the travel industry is an understatement. It is unclear where we will all end up. First and foremost, in this crisis we must be there for each other. We need to advocate to make sure aid gets to those who need it most. Those of us whose businesses survive will not only be stronger, we will have a sense of solidarity with each other. I will always remember attending the Adventure Travel World Summit in Norway in October 2008. The economy had just collapsed and over half the delegates cancelled last minute. Those who showed up are still some of my closest friends in the industry and who I depend on most for advice and support. We need to have hope that there will be resolution to this crisis at some point. And when that point happens, be ready to continue to provide the life-changing experiences we are known for. This work will be more relevant than ever – when that time comes.

Please be safe and please keep in touch. We are in this together.

The author attending the Adventure Travel World Summit in 2008 (not 1976)

Starting an Adventure Travel Company: If I could go back in time, what would I do differently?


In 2008 I started full time helping to build and run the adventure company, Evergreen Escapes ( For the prior year I had been flirting with the idea of quitting my day job, a park ranger at a nature park in Seattle, USA, to come on board full time at Evergreen. May of 2008 I finally jumped off the cliff and made it happen. I learned a ton over the next 6 and a half years, and I am very fortunate for the experience I had. While there are no doubts that this was a great move, there are a handful of items I would recommend doing differently if I were to do it all over again. There are three major areas to be aware of: profitability, risk management, and authenticity.


The number one thing I think everyone needs to know about running an adventure company is that it is difficult to make a profit on the outfitting / supplier side. There are lots of costs, and especially if you are in a seasonal destination, it will be difficult to manage cash flow. Many people look at the price tag for a quality adventure experience and they assume someone is making a ton of money. The reality is, running this type of business is not cheap. First, you are paying quite a bit for insurance – not something you want to skimp on. Second, for you to be able to charge a high enough price to make a living, you have to make sure that every experience Isn’t just good, but amazing. Who is primarily responsible for the success of your trip? The guide! He / she is on the front line representing your company, and quality guides are not cheap. Second to the guide are the amenities on your trip. Food may seem like an afterthought, but if you read reviews from top adventure companies, no doubt you will read reviews that talk about incredible food. This is a basic need identified by the researcher Maslow. It is no doubt that spending some extra money getting high quality, and hopefully sustainable, food options will be rewarded. This costs money and requires a bit more logistics. So, to increase profitability it is important to have a clear and conservative budget, price your experiences high enough that you will be able to make money to get through slow periods, and have a product that is quality enough to ask for high prices.


The next recommendation is to be very aware of the risks that go into running an adventure travel company. Yes, people are signing up for your trip because they are excited to be pushed slightly out of their comfort zone, but the irony is they expect everything to be 110% safe and all variables accounted for. This paradox requires you to have your emergency procedures locked in. Evaluate every activity on your trip to determine what risks exist. What is the likelihood that one of those risks will become a reality? If the probability is high and / or the severity is high, then you likely need to come up with a treatment to reduce either the severity or the probability. Once you know what risks exist, you can then build out an Emergency Response Plan to prepare for what you will do when the probability is not in your favor. It is not just enough to have a plan; you need to practice the plan. At least once a year, simulate an emergency and allow your whole staff to go through all the steps they would take to deal with an emergency.


Despite all the preparation you might take to make sure that you never have an emergency, there is enough out of your hands that you will need to have appropriate insurance to cover your operation. Make sure your insurance actually covers the activities you are offering. This is a key mistake that can become a very costly mistake. Be sure to read the policy carefully. Is every activity you provide listed in your policy? Are you confident that there are no exemptions that apply to your operation? The best is to have a broker that is an expert in adventure travel to make sure that you have a professional set of eyes reading your policy.


As stated previously, your number one asset in the field is your guide. It is crucial to provide solid training of your guides and staff both for safety AND quality. From the recently released Adventure Travel Guide Qualifications & Performance Standard: “An Adventure Travel Guide is a guide with a general knowledge of a variety of skill competencies (i.e. interpretive, medical and sustainability) required to facilitate a group of clients through a range of terrains, environments and locales in a safe, manageable and respectable manner.” Making sure your guides have the proper training, and fully understand your companies value proposition is essential to fully harnessing their potential.


Another item to be aware of is to make sure you have addressed specific government requirements, and obtained permission to access the land where your trips will operate on. In the US this is sometimes not thought about until it is too late, and businesses find they are unable to obtain permits for public land. Other parts of the world might have company licenses that are required before you work with the public. These regulations are not always welcomed by our industry, but that doesn’t mean we don’t need to address them.


Finally, I want to encourage everyone involved in tourism to realize that we not only have an opportunity, we have a responsibility to do more than just create a “fun” experience for our guests. The impact of flying people around the globe and inserting them into our communities is not miniscule. What about traveling can change the world? How can we curate the experiences for our guests to create a net positive for our destinations? This is the question that we should face from the inception point of our companies.


I am confident that the adventure tourism industry will not shy away from these bigger picture issues. And I know there will be many passionate individuals that will want to dive in head first to start adventure companies. Let’s work together to make sure we create sustainable businesses that are benefitting the communities we live in, and the industry as a whole.


About Dan Moore:

Dan Moore has over 15 years experience as an entrepreneur, professional adventure guide, and educator. Dan is the CEO of Pandion Consulting & Facilitation, a travel industry consultancy and facilitation company based in Seattle, Washington (USA). Pandion’s mission is to raise the standards, quality, and sustainability of the travel industry. This is accomplished through facilitating community development workshops, designing and delivering industry training, and direct consulting with businesses and destinations. Pandion is respected worldwide for designing cutting edge tourism education products. The team’s vast operations knowledge, including guide training, permitting, sustainability, and staff management is what differentiates Pandion from other consultancies. Dan sits on several non-profit boards, and is a member of the faculty for Adventure EDU, the education and consulting arm of the Adventure Travel Trade Association. He also teaches Ecotourism, Adventure Travel, and Guide Training at Peninsula College in Washington State. Dan is the Chair of the International Adventure Travel Guide Standard.

Tour Operators, Guides and Outfitters Training in Central and Southern Oregon

Travel Oregon has invited Pandion back to Oregon!

Last February, Pandion designed and delivered a two day workshop in Portland for Oregon guides, outfitters, operators, packers, entrepreneurs and tourism businesses looking to develop or expand upon their outdoor recreation tour product. The workshops attracted 50 participants ranging in experience from about-to-launch to 30 year veterans.

This Fall we will bring the workshop to the adventure hotbeds of Central Oregon (Bend) and Southern Oregon (Ashland). Central Oregon, in the high desert, is well known for world class rock climbing at Smith Rock, Skiing at Mount Batchelor, and rafting the Deschutes River. Southern Oregon’s treasures include the mighty Rogue River, Crater Lake National Park, and the Oregon Redwoods. Existing businesses as well as those still in idea phase will benefit from the scope and breadth of the two day workshop.

These workshops spend time on the unique marketing needs of adventure travel and outdoor recreation businesses, and connect participants to the numerous resources from Travel Oregon. Land managers from BLM, US Forest Service, and National Parks will be on hand to give detailed descriptions of how to obtain commercial use permits and discuss best practices. And just as important is the opportunity to learn from, and network with, diverse businesses from throughout the region.

To learn more and to register click on this LINK. To bring Pandion to your community to conduct similar workshops email info [at]

October 28-29, 2015 in Bend, Oregon

November 18-19, 2015 in Ashland, Oregon


Is Consolidation Good or Bad for the Travel Industry?

We are often told by merging businesses and corporations that consolidation will bring better services to more customers and will lower prices. Even regulators, whose job it is to protect the consumer, will often say this. This goes against both the capitalist theory of competition and my personal instinct. Why would a more powerful company with less competition want to lower its price if it doesn’t have to? Consolidation of essential positions (HR, finance, etc) might lead to increased profit for the fewer people that own the now larger company. And the now larger company might have more power in the marketplace to insist on lower prices from suppliers. But one should not assume that this cost savings will be passed on to consumers. In the travel industry, both mainstream and niches like Adventure Travel, the trend has been moving towards consolidation. I have personally seen very good ground operators lose significant amounts of business due to a tour operator upstream being bought and the now larger business unifying the entire business around a different supplier. This might seem good for the other ground operator, but this means greater homogenization of the products offered, and a company that might not have been ready for such an increase of growth now responsible for a much larger share of the market.

I haven’t seen a ton of attention given to the potential pitfalls for businesses and consumers with consolidation in the travel industry. There are two recently published articles, that, especially seen side by side, outlines some of the negative sides of consolidation. The first is in Adventure Travel News and outlines the separation of a young mega company: Peak Adventure Travel Group, a strategic venture between TUI Group and Intrepid Travel. This is the merger that saw ripples in the supply chain internationally. In addition to the possible impacts on businesses and consumers, it appears that mega mergers can sometimes be hard on the two merging businesses themselves. TUI and Intrepid are still huge, but I think this separation is ultimately good for the industry.

TUI-group and Intrepid Travel to Part Ways – Adventure Travel News

The second article was in the New York Times on July 1st. It initially caught my attention because the lead is about price collusion between the four major airlines. As a frequent flyer I get concerned with lack of competition amongst airlines, leading to poorer service and higher prices. The article digs into the fact that consolidation in the airline industry has made it easier for collusion to occur even though “[executives] actually hate each other, truth be told. But with so few of them left, there’s almost a natural oligopoly.” Airlines have gone from near bankruptcy to record profits. One reason is the extremely low fuel prices. Yet, ticket prices have not dropped as you would expect with lower costs. Says Senator Chuck Schumer: “It’s hard to understand, with jet fuel prices dropping by 40 percent since last year, why ticket prices haven’t followed. We know that when airlines merge, there’s less price competition.” Senator Schumer has called for a Justice Department investigation.

Airlines Under Justice Department Investigation – New York Times

To maintain a vibrant and sustainable travel industry it is important to be skeptical of the promises made by merging companies. We need to hold regulators accountable to do their jobs and make sure they apply scrutiny when approving such mergers.


Pandion to Conduct Two Adventure Travel Workshops in Oregon: Feb 24-25

If you are based in Oregon, please consider attending one or both of the upcoming workshops we are conducting in Portland Oregon February 24th and 25th:

WHEN: February 24 & 25, 2015 | 9:00AM – 5:00 PM both days

WHERE: Jupiter Hotel Portland | 800 East Burnside St. Portland, Oregon 97214

RSVP: Here! Registration closes Feb. 20, 2015 and is limited to first 50 registrants

COST: $10 for 2 day registration

Connecting your business to the world: Understanding and attracting the international and high-value traveler

Key Takeaways:

  • Strategies to connect to global supply chain
  • Attracting media and PR
  • Product development for international travelers
  • High impact marketing methods

Navigating Permitting, and Setting up Successful Operations

Key Takeaways:

  • How to understand and obtain required permits and licenses
  • Designing and implementing an Emergency Response Plan (ERP)
  • Creating risk management protocol
  • Properly insuring your operation
  • Vehicle/equipment certification and maintenance best practices


Food & Drink:

  • Morning pastries and a catered lunch will be provided daily
  • Coffee, tea and water will be available throughout the workshops
  • Basecamp Brewing reception following each day

More information HERE.