As travel slowly starts to pick back up as destinations begin to reopen, one thing we’re hearing over and over, is that most travelers will begin with travel in the U.S. before heading abroad. But, what does this mean for you after months and months of waiting for travel to open up? Well, according to these principals, you are now more valuable than before as travelers will seek an expert’s advice when navigating state openings, protocols, safety measures, and the possibility of canceled travel due to COVID-19.
“We understand how travel advisors are a key and integral resource for travelers and their expert advice has been shown to be key during the confinement and deconfinement stages,” says James Allen, senior manager representation for The Quebec Tourism Alliance.
As Allen notes, you were there to help them through the cancellations back in March, and supported them during the months of quarantine with cancellations and possible future plans. Now it’s time to focus on navigating these “new normals” when it comes to travel.
Yves Lalumiere, CEO of Tourisme Montreal echoes this thought, “Travel advisors are playing a significant role with vacation seekers right now. Their knowledge of the situation from one situation to another, the rules and measures in place for security and safety, as well as the activities and attractions open is essential to travelers to make their decision before booking their accommodations.” Adding that, “They surely need to be reassuring regarding safety measures, offering new ways of experiencing the destination and suggesting a large variety of activities, but [they] need to be realistic about the different sanitary measures and guidelines adopted by the destination, in order to avoid bad surprises.”
John Van den Heuvel, president of GOGO Vacations agrees that advisors are needed now unlike before. “Now more than ever travel advisors are critical to travel. Planning and booking travel can be daunting— especially during a time of such uncertainty. Travel advisors remove the guesswork and reduce stress. The value of a travel advisor can be measured by the guidance and service they offer—they should provide insight and counsel on changing travel conditions and safety requirements, as well as tools and information to help travelers make informed decisions that are right for them. Plus, because the situation with COVID is fluid and conditions are rapidly changing, travel advisors serve as advocates for travelers when it comes to refunds and changed policies. Most of all travel advisors are there to make travelers feel secure and cared for through the entire booking and travel process…travelers should feel assured that no matter what happens when they’re away from home, someone will be at the other end of the phone or an e-mail, to assist them with efficiency and kindness.”
Right now it’s all about being informed and proactive. “We want to make sure that we’re providing our partner advisors with up-to-date information on both restrictions and requirements for destinations both domestically and internationally, adds Van den Heuvel. “Our parent company, Flight Centre Travel Group, has created an Advisor Resource Hub, which is comprised of important updates and advisories from hotel and airline suppliers regarding policy changes and safety procedures. It also includes destination updates and advisories, with links to tourism websites, detailing all travel restrictions and entry requirements for visiting that specific destination. We also provide packing and preparation tips to make sure travelers have everything they need when they head out. Regardless of where you’re going or who you book with, a vacation right now is all about preparation, flexibility and extra safety,” he adds. The Travel Hub is a great way to help travelers plan accordingly.
Now, sometimes you’ll need to experience the destination for yourself in order to best serve your clients. “Travel advisors need to experience traveling during this time to properly educate their clients about their options. We are our client’s most valuable advocates,” says Denise Hafto, president and owner of Magical Travel.
To get that first-hand knowledge, Hafto attended Disney’s re-opening and tells advisors that when it comes to Disney, “Now more than ever guests of the Walt Disney World Resort need travel advisors to help them navigate the new way to enjoy the magic and the new way to travel. They know the right questions to ask.” However, she adds, “If clients are looking for the same experience that was available to them in the beginning of 2020 they should wait until 2021 or 2022 to travel. An experienced travel advisor will be invaluable to families who want to continue to travel.”
For Insight Vacations, Jon Grutzner, president of Insight Vacations says there is going to be a new online learning program for advisors so they can learn more about Insight Vacations’ new protocols. “They will need to update themselves on what many travel brands are doing. We are putting many tools in place to help guide advisors with bookings. Taking this time to develop skills and knowledge will benefit advisors’ business in the long run and our new Silver eLearning course will offer the ideal opportunity to focus on developing those skills we will need to recover.”