In the midst of all the uncertainty we are all feeling now, and the confusion in the travel industry at the moment, one thing I learned while researching this story is that travel advisors are a resilient bunch. While the travel industry is dealing with one closing after the other, travel advisors are gearing up to make the second half of 2020 a successful one.
Though things are extremely hectic now, travel advisors have grand plans for this unexpected “downtime” they’ll be facing in the next few weeks.
We rounded up advice from advisors across all segments—from family travel to luxury to weddings and honeymoons to give you tips on what to do while the bookings are on pause. One thing is for sure, you are all an inspiring bunch, and we hope that these tips can inspire other advisors during this time. Now more than ever, consumers will know the value of a travel advisor during times of crisis, so prep for more calls once the madness settles.
Get ready to gear up, work on those marketing plans, take a few webinars, get certified in something you’re passionate about, and of course, reach out to your clients, even when they’re not booking. This is the time to sit back, let your creative juices flow and prep for something new.
- Staying in Touch with Clients
This was obviously at the top of all advisors’ list. As Suzanne Smith, owner of Champagne Vacations, says, she “will send a personalized email to each of my clients just dropping a note to check on them and also let them know I am still going to be here when we return to normalcy.”
- Learn, Learn, Learn!
Webinars and certifications are popular option among advisors. “I plan to expand and re-energize my knowledge,” says Jenny Reed, a travel advisor with the Cruise Planners franchise. “This is an evolving situation and although we don’t know how long it will take to get back to ‘normal,’ we know travel is resilient. I’ll also be tuning into LIVE Cruise Planner’s webinars with cruise line executives John Chernesky, s.v.p. of sales & trade marketing at Princess Cruises, who is talking to us about the fluid situation. Also, Vicki Freed, Dondra Ritzenhaler, Adolfo Perez, among others, have participated, and are being supportive, during this time. I am proud to be part of a team that’s leading the way the travel industry is responding to COVID-19.” Travel advisor Christine Crump agrees, saying, “Lots of learning, too,” and Elizabeth Wooley seconds that when she says she’ll be “catching up on webinars.” Travel advisor Quinne Hannah James says she’ll be “learning more about activities and hotels in several countries.” Adding that she’ll be brushing up on lots of new knowledge for the clients. For travel advisor Michael R. Cirrito, well, he plans to compete his recertification during this time. Laura Gilbard travel advisor with Roaming Travel, says she was just approved for her ACC (Accredited Cruise Counselor) designation by CLIA on March 5 adding that “if this downturn lasts into June I’ll consider going for the next level, the CTC, designation from The Travel Institute. And taking a few destination specialty classes.” Barbara Crawford, president, European Travel Advisors, also plans to use the time to hone in on destinations, saying that, “I am planning on taking some online destination specialist programs.”
- Promote Future Bookings
Travel advisor Myrna Reyes says it best when she says, “If you’re not growing your business, it’s dying. Now is the time to promote late fall and 2021.” Ylenia Sambati also plans on looking ahead and says she’ll be ”planning new fabulous itineraries, experiences and FAM trips for summer, fall and 2021.”
- Time to Get Social (Virtually, That Is)
If you haven’t brushed up on your social media skills, now is the time to do so. James says she’ll be “queuing up social media posts.” Sally Black, founder of Vacationkids Travel Agency, will be using her time to “increase our consumer blog and video posts for the new markets/destinations we plan to promote.”
- Organize Your Marketing Plans
“Now is the time to strategize,” says Carolyn Orf, Tempo Travel Group, LLC ASTA Rocky Mountain chapter event coordinator. “I am taking the time to look at my business model, monthly sales, and marketing plan. I am going through old brochures, organizing files, and cleaning up my client database.” Gilbard adds, “In the downtime, I will be tidying up the CRM and working on my marketing plan.” Tom Varghese of Travel Tom will also be working on new initiatives as he says, “we will be using the ‘downtime’ to huddle with our team to create additional best practices, learnings, create additional efficiencies with back office and sales tools, etc.” Kim Goldstein, president/travel consultant specializing in honeymoons, destination weddings & family vacations for Journeys Travel Inc., agrees saying that she plans to “get [our] marketing plan perfected so when things open back up, we’re ready to roll.” Adding that she’ll be “creating ‘drip campaigns’ for a variety of marketing tactics.”
- Train Staff
“My plan is to bolster my internal team video training so that we’re ready to hire new ICs as demands increase,” says Black. Varghese adds that, “We are also developing ‘cross training’ sessions for our teams so that everyone is more knowledgeable about all the destinations.” Goldstein agrees saying she’ll be “documenting additional procedures for training.” Adding that she’ll be “creating some role play videos to show how to do a phone consultation for a new vacation, honeymoon and destination weddings.”
- Book Future Travel
“I booked two Greece honeymoons for fall,” exclaims Varghese, “And a $10K safari for October. So, folks are still booking!”
- Check in with Other Advisors
“It is important for us, the travel community, to stick together,” says Orf, “so I am trying to be active in the Facebook groups online, contributing information I have received from suppliers, but also be there when agents just need to vent. I am looking forward to online happy hour with my ‘Travel Tribe’ tomorrow night as well.” Brenda Washington-O’Neale, romance travel specialist with This Ring Destination Wedding and Honeymoon Travel Agency, says she’ll be, “Checking with other agents to see if I can assist them in anyway as we are all pretty much solo in this business.”
- Streamline Your Business
O’Neale says she’ll be “learning new processes for invoicing (not my favorite thing) and checking out different CRMs.” Adding that she’ll also be “researching the insurance policies so that I know what is covered and what is not and seeing which is the best company for me to work with.”
- Get to Know Your BDMs
“I have moved to Maryland from Pennsylvania and I am getting acquainted with my new BDMs and checking in with my old ones,” adds O’Neale.
“After taking a few days off” this week to decompress, Jennifer Shanks, travel advisor with Family Adventures Await, says, “On Monday, I will return to work in full swing. I have been trying to find time to finalize my second travel brand and now all I have is time. I will get everything set up, website built, and marketing materials ready to launch my luxury travel brand I have been dreaming of. Once the dust settles, luxury travelers will be ready to take their next vacation and I will be ready to make it happen. I am super excited to have something to look forward to!”
When responding to our question, Orf adds, “Answering this question was therapeutic and really made me sit back and think about what it is I am going to do and how I am going to do it. Much like my children who I have created a schedule for during this time, I need that for myself as well.”
So, advisors, take this time to think about your business. Use this opportunity that might now have your days looking a little different, to plan, strategize, organize, and get ready for those future bookings.
For more information on this fluid situation, visit Recommend’s Coronavirus Updates Center at recommend.com/coronavirus.