Only a few short years ago, global relocation and moving was exploding in the best ways possible for both corporate and private clients.
“The supply chain and pipeline were very strong,” says Tim Hall, Vice President of Business Development for Atlas® World Group International. “It was an exciting time.” But then the industry came to a screeching halt.
Atlas® saw signs of shutdowns earlier than most because of their global trading partners, and Hall remembers his team monitoring coronavirus news closely as it spread from Asia, to Europe, and eventually to North America.
“I remember the day when that first case was announced in Seattle. That’s when we realized this was going to affect the whole world,” Hall says. “We saw an immediate stoppage to our business. I didn’t know what to expect in terms of the longevity of this thing. Who did?”
Nearly two years later, there are still ever-changing obstacles, but Hall and his team have gotten stronger at maneuvering around them.
“A lot of challenges remain in our industry,” Hall says, “from ship line carriers’ availability to what they can take in. We’re a small part of a large group that needs space, so we have to be very creative in making sure we’re getting the shipments to port, onto the ship, and then to the final destination. That’s still an issue, but we’ve become very nimble in order to achieve our goals.”
More pressing is the availability of wooden lift vans, which has become a prolonged struggle for everyone in the industry. Toss in the added stressors of raised costs and scarcity of labor and materials needed to construct the lift vans, and you have the perfect recipe for delays at every level of operation.
Another unexpected moment? Ever Given wedging itself sideways in the Suez Canal
in March 2021 and obstructing one of the world’s busiest trade routes for nearly a week—causing a ripple effect of delays and billions of dollars in economic damage. “It was definitely something we didn’t need this year,” says Hall.
But while the situation has been a tough one, Hall says he doesn’t want to be pessimistic. “I’ve been amazed and impressed how resilient our Agents and partners have been. They’re a testament to the commitment we have to serving our customers worldwide.”
As for signs of renewal, Hall is hopeful about what he’s seeing.
“One of the yardsticks we look at daily is consumer confidence.
Thankfully, we’ve seen over the past several months that the consumer does have a greater confidence
overall in moving internationally,” says Hall, adding, “We’re also seeing signs of corporations starting to release some relocations, so we’re optimistic about that.”
Speaking on this reminds Hall of a recent story. “Inlate 2019, a couple contacted us to help them with a move. They wanted to get married and start their new life in Asia. Then 2020 hit and everything stopped. They were extremely disappointed that they weren’t able to go through with their plans, but we stayed in touch and created a wonderful friendship with that family. Then, this summer, they were able to go forward and make that relocation happen. Since then, we’ve received a few emails and photos of them waving from the porch of their new home thanking us for staying invested in their move. We got to watch on a personal level how this affected lives and put peoples’ lives on hold. So, to finally be able to make that happen for them was a great moment for all of us.”
Moving forward, Hall says he is taking the unexpected opportunities the pandemic has offered to rethink strategies and best practices for the future.
“We have to take the lessons we’ve learned about operations and serving customers to discover a better way to do it. This has given us the ability to identify the areas we can change and improve both internally and for our customers.
“Every day I wake up and feel like this is the first day we are going to serve our first customer and go into that day with that level of passion. But, never stepping too far away from what we’ve done and the good work we’ve accomplished over the past many, many years.”
To learn more about Atlas World Group International, visit www.atlasvanlines.com/international.