It goes without saying that 2020 has been a year unlike any other. We have all experienced some version of challenge and change, both personal and professional, big and small. Many of us have endured significant hardship and loss. The difficult moments may not yet be behind us, but there is reason for optimism, and I know I am not alone in my eagerness to turn the page and look ahead.
I remember the moment when news first broke that a COVID-19 case had been detected in Italy. It was February 21st, a Friday evening. I had just returned from the office, ready to settle into the weekend and certainly not ready for the alert that abruptly popped up on my phone. Whatever trepidation I felt at that moment – and I did not take that initial announcement lightly – I could not fathom the magnitude of what lay ahead for our business and for the world, how our travel industry would be turned completely upside down, just as we were preparing for the season to kick into gear.
At that time in late February, it was not yet an American problem. Sure, there was cause for concern in the States, but it still felt like something foreign to most, and the messages of worry that I began to receive were all about whether all the people on the Ciao Andiamo team and across our network in Italy were OK, and what this was going to mean for upcoming travel and for our business.
Of course, we all know too well how the story evolved in the weeks ahead, and how COVID-19 has come to impact individuals, households, and businesses across the world, too often with devastating consequences.
For all of you who have faced these difficulties, who have struggled and suffered, we at Ciao Andiamo send you our love and heartfelt wishes for a better tomorrow.
And with an earnest respect and understanding of what many of you may be going through personally, my feeling today is not one of pessimism but of hope. I am hopeful as we look ahead, as we set our sights forward and begin to glimpse the light that is finally peeking its way through at the end of what once seemed an interminable tunnel.
I am ready to leave in my rear view mirror the uncertainty and worry that enveloped our small business, as our team worked tirelessly to sustain a boutique travel company through a global pandemic. But I also appreciate that, amidst the adversity, there was perspective gained, invaluable lessons learned, and a tremendous solidarity and higher sense of purpose across our team.
I am in awe of the courage, passion, flexibility, and trust of the individuals who are part of this incredible Ciao Andiamo team. It is because of each of them, along with our partners, clients and supporters – our “Ciao famiglia” – that I write this letter not as a business that has been forced to close its doors, but as one that has withstood its greatest of tests, and has positioned itself to come out stronger and more adept than before, ready for the moment that international travel to Italy resumes.
It hasn’t been easy, but we have survived, and we will soon again thrive. And we’ll do so, as always, with a meticulous focus on our guests, and a promise of carefully curated, immersive experiences that transform and elevate travel, with the highest level of personal attention and care. More than ever we will have an eye towards collective safety, individual comfort, and the greatest degree of flexibility we can offer our travelers.
So as we close the year, and look ahead to the next – during which we will celebrate ten years in business – what I feel in this moment is profound gratitude. Gratitude for my amazing business partners and co-owners Max and Cristiana, for our remarkable team members in New York and Italy, who have stood by us and trusted us through every twist and turn, and to you who have supported us in myriad ways during this difficult moment in our company’s journey, from personal notes and heartfelt wishes, to participation as we launched our virtual classroom, to expectantly planning distant Italian adventures, all along the way believing in us.
On behalf of everyone at Ciao Andiamo, I wish you a happy holiday season. May the new year bring peace, health, prosperity, and hope, for you and all those you hold dear.
Buone feste e felice anno nuovo,
– Jon Pollock, Founder