Rick Steves announced plans Friday that he will keep his entire staff of about 100 employed, but will require pay cuts due to “very difficult math” if the coronavirus pandemic continues through the summer and winter.
Steves’ Edmonds-based travel business will reduce hours for employees by 20% on July 1, then another 20% on Jan. 1. That will allow Rick Steves’ Europe to retain its employees up to two years with healthcare, should travel to the continent not return. (This does not apply to Steves’ European tour guides because they are independent contractors and he will be able to provide them with work only after tourism restarts.)
“My goal is to emerge from this crisis with our organization intact and prepared to fill the buses once Americans can travel to Europe again,” Steves said in a statement. “But as the global situation becomes increasingly dire, it’s becoming clear that we may need to fund our company for two years or longer with no revenue. This is not possible without cutting our payroll dramatically.”
Steves said his company’s budget is about $15 million a year. While portions of the economy are slowly reopening, it still appears that the tourism industry is a long way from reaching pre-virus levels of business. Cruise ship companies, for instance, canceled the Alaska cruise season this month and have begun to lay off thousands of employees.
Steves, who was not available for an interview, said earlier this year he felt it would take longer for organized tourism to recover than business generated by independent travelers. He began canceling 24,000 summer tours two months ago in a year predicted to be the company’s best yet.
“We believe that we will emerge from this crisis stronger as a company and united as a team,” Steves said. “And then, we will celebrate our victory together, when we will once again be taking our happy busloads of travelers through Europe as only we can.”