President of travel wholesaler itravel2000 of Mississauga, Ont.
BEAT THE POST-9/11 DOWNTURN
DOUBLE YOUR MARKETING BUDGET
"We've hit recessions over the past 16 years, but 9/11 was the first time that something we sold to consumers was used to kill people. We were confronted by an immediate downturn in business. The next day our business dropped by 50%.
"We responded with a national marketing campaign. We knew that print, TV and radio outlets were hurting, so we said, 'Listen, we want to book business with you, you want business, we're all suffering. Let's come together, shape the prices and make it work for everybody.' We increased our marketing budget by a minimum of 100%. Then we actually hired people. We increased our staff count because there were great, talented people out there who'd been laid off.
"We hired about 30 people, but we brought in protective measures. Executives took temporary salary cuts of 25%, management took 15% and regular staff took 7%. We ended the salary cuts on Jan. 1, 2002. That year, there was an average decline of about 30% in our industry, but itravel2000 grew by 47%, giving us command over the industry.
"In our business, we take customers away from their daily lives, and they envision themselves going onto a beach and looking like Brad Pitt or Bo Derek. People got to the stage where they'd had enough doom and gloom. So, when the market bounced back, our competitors couldn't process the business because they didn't have the manpower."