Independent travel advisors affiliated with Travel Experts report that they have grown wiser and stronger during the pandemic. In a survey on how they have spent the year of the pandemic, most of the advisors indicated training, changing and polishing internal procedures, and some even starting new businesses to supplement their lost income.
Most important, the advisors said, was reaching out to remind clients they are there for them at all times. They also noted that domestic travel has taken precedence over international trips for the time being.
“What did I do? Deep breathing, long dog walks, laughing, crying and sometimes screaming in the shower. Not necessarily in that order,” said Jolene Detillion, Your Travel Designer, in a press statement.
“I think the biggest changes we made this year is we established strong terms and conditions, including cancellation policies and letters of agreement,” said Detillion, adding: “Last October we started doing a series of panel discussions with preferred partners as guest panelist. These are exclusive of our clients only and not sales focused but a way to keep people interested and dreaming of travel and also up-to-date on what is going on in the world as it pertains to the current state of travel.”
Some of the new businesses started by travel advisors this year include a candle company, a cookie business and an international real estate firm.
Debbie Dos Santos, Journeys, Yacht & Travel, took the down time during the pandemic to begin the process of launching a luxury travel candle company called The Traveling Wick. She intends to keep this side company running to complement her luxury travel business. “If people can’t travel to their favorite destinations, I will bring it to them,” said Dos Santos, adding: “Scent is a perfect sense to create emotion and bring the entire experience to people.”
Dos Santos said added “The candles will be unique in that they will be sold in themed collections of travel candles. They will be packaged in an equally experiential way to bring the destinations to the home. I am working with the Institute of Art and Olfaction in Los Angeles in finalizing my vision of the fragrances.”
Stacy Small, Elite Travel International, started a gluten-free, vegan cookie business during the pandemic. “I put my therapeutic baking habit into a higher gear and launched StacyMauiCookies, inclusive of a website, online shipping, a commercial kitchen and local accounts on Maui,” Small added, “This took a lot of my time and energy and attention during the pandemic, and was a really fun and healthy way to share some joy with anyone needing it.”
Small went on to explain: “I am celiac and always had a challenge finding decent freshly baked grain free, dairy free, egg free, low sugar cookies that I loved…and so I came up with a branded website and had a lot of fun focusing on this brand new type of business. I am now returning to focusing on my once-again busy luxury travel business.”
In addition, Small put her healing and wellness services online as a “real” business which is located at www.stacymaui.com/healing. She offers distance reiki energy healing and spiritual coaching.
Christopher Koch, CK Global Travel, has been running his travel company since 2015. “As COVID-19 devastated our travel businesses for my colleagues and myself, I decided to complement my business during this lockdown and decided to expand my marketability and became a real estate broker licensed in North Carolina.”
Koch added, “With this synergistic relationship, I’m able to leverage the relationships with my existing clients and new real estate clients, as well as with my travel supplier partners. The fact that I am able to receive commissions, as well as referral fees worldwide has changed the dynamics of my travel business model going forward.
“While the travel business is starting to rebound, I’m taking the next step in obtaining my CIPS designation (Certified International Property Specialist).” This will enable Koch to sell real estate to his clients while they are traveling on vacation overseas.
Margot Kong, Journeys Unparalleled said, “In April 2020 we started offering virtual tours. These range from culinary lessons to live streamed tours led by guides in-destination to educational and cultural seminars led by historians or art experts. It keeps Journeys Unparalleled top-of-mind in the eyes of our clients, and helps our travelers remain hopeful.
“We have also pivoted slightly in terms of the way we market to our clients during the pandemic by decreasing our marketing to international destinations with a focus more on domestic properties, driving vacations, and active outdoor holidays.”
Jeffrey Traugot, Traugot Travel added, “I have kept business alive by checking in with clients and being more understanding about clients’ concerns and needs. I have become more responsive, more proactive, and more knowledgeable about travel requirements and restrictions.”
“I’ve created a new model, downsizing (by choice) my portfolio of past customers. I now have a new process to get clients re-interested, and a new process to re-qualify the suppliers I want to continue working with,” said Ralph Iantosca, Iantosca Travel, in press materials.
Renee Taylor, Renee Taylor Travel said, “The pandemic was actually helpful to me in some ways. It forced me to look at the way that I have conducted business in the past. Being in a small town, I have always conducted business in good ole handshake agreement fashion. I never stayed consistent in getting forms signed to protect myself or my business. With the valuable resources that I found through my host agency and organizations like ASTA, CLIA, etc., I was able to hire a travel attorney to have a complete Terms & Conditions agreement drawn up.”
Taylor went on to say, “Travel Experts helped their ICs to sign up with a free e-signature website to easily collect signatures for the terms and conditions, as well as securely collect billing information from my clients. All of this plus a new look at restructuring the way I work with my clients has been a great help to me going forward.”
Holly Lombardo, Lombardo Travel said, “Although, I had operated my business for 32 years I had never put into place items to legally reduce my liability. Now, I have terms and conditions and online secure credit card authorizations for every transaction.”
“I’m trying to narrow the products I want to sell when everything opens up again, so I’ve participated in more training with particular travel partners via webinars and Zoom calls,” said Elaine Carey, Travel Expert.
“I’m focused more on training and learning about marketing and travel partners and also focusing on the ideal client of someone who wants more slow and immersive travel,” said Jeanie Colclough, Riveting Trips.
Claire Saunders, Where Next Adventures, “I have grown my client base 13 percent since the start of the pandemic. I attribute the growth to emails I have sent to clients and potential clients keeping them up-to-date on travel restrictions, re-openings, COVID testing requirements, etc.”
Eileen Anderson, Journeys Afar said, “Given the gift of time, I was able to invest in myself with educational webinars, professional networking, updating my blog more regularly. I also rebooted my business with more efficient accounting practices and adopted a work flow platform to streamline client communications.”
“I have learned how much I value the human connections that I make through my business. Bringing that realization into sharper focus has been a silver lining of these past twelve months,” added Christina Schlegel, Bluetail Travel.
Schlegel added, “I posted a lot to social media and created a guide to travel planning to keep everyone’s spirits up. Everything I’ve done over the past year has been future focused, laying a foundation for when travel truly comes back.”
Linda de Sosa, Bucketlist Travel Consulting said, “I’ve been encouraging people to call me for anything they might want to do. I usually don’t do a lot of domestic, but I took several trips last winter and let the clients know and several people have booked those cities. I’m also making a big deal of those trips with dinner reservations, spa, golf, etc. in detailed itineraries.”
“I worked at a brick and mortar agency and lost my job due to the pandemic. I now enjoy my home office and I intend on staying in a home office environment,” said Kim Steiger, Adventures Beyond Borders, “I send a weekly Travel Tips update via Facebook and keep in touch with clients via email.”
For more info, visit travel-xperts.com.