Before the COVID-19 pandemic struck a year ago, the cruise industry was the fastest-growing element of the tourism sector, with many of the world’s leading cruise lines announcing plans to launch new mega-ships within the coming years, and Virgin Atlantic’s Richard Branson also got in on the act with his Virgin Voyages line.
Then it all ran aground, leaving many workers stranded at sea as well as on land, such as those working for the ancillary services associated with the industry.
One such person in Barbados was Neesa Williams, who was a sales administrator with the island’s leading cruise ship agency for ten years. She told COVID Weekly, “The pandemic eradicated life as we knew it in a matter of weeks. I was made redundant owing to the nature of my job, and even though it was understandable given the worldwide circumstances, it was still a hard pill to swallow. I don’t have any children, but many of my friends were shattered when COVID-19 came. It left them not knowing their next move or where to turn; their lives were turned upside down with not much time to prepare for such an unprecedented event.”
However, in the midst of it all, Neesa found the strength to “dust herself off” and start fresh. “I realised that I had gathered an enormous amount of skill sets in my last job, so I quickly assessed my options and possible direction following my redundancy. I found I had to dissect myself fully, to be totally honest about the life I still had outside of the pandemic. That meant understanding my strengths and weaknesses and creating a path that could capitalise on both. Funny enough, finding my passion for a new direction was easy, but it is the “follow-through” that takes courage and determination.”
Neesa eventually got into a business venture of her own, and while yet again COVID-19 has had an adverse effect on it, she remains optimistic in the face of it all. “It’s a very challenging time for most of us, but I am hopeful for some improvement as time goes on because there are some new developments worldwide that can change the parameters of this pandemic in our favour.
“The current lockdown is an extension to an already fragile economy. Although it’s been deemed necessary, its fallout will have a spiral of ripple effects on most businesses. How they bounce back should be their primary focus going forward, and all efforts made to sustain them.”
Finally, she offered some counsel to Barbadians who have found themselves in a similar predicament, encouraging them to put faith over fear as they go forward.
“It’s easy to get distracted by the negativity and uncertainty we hear about daily on the various media. It can also be terrifying “thinking outside the box” and even more scary to consider investing in your dreams if you have mouths to feed; in fact, it might even seem selfish to put your vision above all else because society may frown upon it.
“Nevertheless, ask yourself: What if it works? What if you make it out the other side a proud and successful business owner? There is no better time to face your fears than when you are at your lowest when there is nothing left to lose and you have what it takes to succeed. Just remember, every accomplished business owner in today’s world started somewhere, and at times, with just the clothes on their backs and a heart filled with passion and purpose. Seek your purpose and make money doing it!”
This article appears in the March 1 edition of COVID Weekly. Read the full publication here.