The travel industry is one of the first to be impacted by blockchain technology, and it will continue to be so as more companies enter the space. But what about those who have already been working in the industry for years?
The the future of travel agents after covid-19 is a question that has been asked many times. This article will answer the question and give advice on how to restart your business.
Ensemble Travel Group advisors are shifting focus as the pandemic starts to come under control.
In its latest Restart Sessions Video Series, the topic was “How To Sell and Market Travel in a Post-Pandemic World” with a panel that included Flemming Friisdahl, president and founder of The Travel Agent Next Door (Canada); Cindy McCabe, owner of Bethany Travel; and Tara Minson, senior vice president of marketing and communications for InteleTravel.
Topics included pent-up demand for travelers.
“Whatever you want to call it – revenge buying, whiplash, it’s real and it’s a tidal wave. Consumers have the disposable income from months of staying at home, they have the time, and they just want to go somewhere – anywhere after being trapped for most of 2020,” said Minson. “They want to go now and the experiences they are booking are often more premium type vacations.”
McCabe said that most of her clients are still booking a lot of Caribbean, Mexico and Disney for the near term.
“We are also seeing that clients are booking more than one trip because they can see that if they don’t book now, they won’t be able to get what they want,” she said. “So our longer-term bookings are including places such as Alaska, Hawaii, as well as river and ocean cruises for well into 2023.”
Canada is looking to the U.S. for its travel restart, noted Friisdahl, who pointed out that due to a lag in its vaccine rollout, the country is likely four to five months behind the U.S.
He also pointed out that Canadians who aren’t ready to book yet will likely find themselves unable to get spots on cruises or even in hotels in popular destinations as capacities are more limited post-COVID and people are booking whatever they can get.
A couple booking with a travel advisor. (photo via iStock / Getty Images Plus / dragana991)
The discussion also focused on the changing role of travel advisors.
“There is so much more that advisors need to know about now from government policies to testing and quarantine requirements in hundreds of destinations,” said Minson. “It’s been a baptism by fire, and I really credit advisors and our partners for stepping up to meet the new demands. At InteleTravel, we have really relied on our partners–who did an amazing job of creating entire portals with resources and information. We also partnered with a medical organization that provides home testing kits that advisors can provide for their clients to use at home. The industry really came together in this crisis to provide communication and education.”
“I became the test case for travel post COVID,” added McCabe. “I started traveling again in October 2020 and traveled monthly on my own using miles or free nights that I had previously not been able to use. But it was important for me to know firsthand what the experience was in order to guide my clients on what to expect. I then shared all of that on social media, which ended up bringing in new business. For some of my clients, it may not be the right time for them to travel but it was important for me to have that experience to let them know that we are still here and will be ready to help them when they are ready.”
Panelists also chimed in on the obstacles to booking travel.
“Some agents–and even suppliers-are apprehensive to market right now. I personally think it’s a mistake not to be marketing and selling right now because I think it’s so important to get out in front of the clients. We’ve been marketing since January and it’s paying off–literally. In June, we did 70 percent of the business we did in June 2019–which was our best year ever,” said Friisdahl.
Minson added that the biggest obstacle they are seeing is that clients are confused and overwhelmed.
“And that is where the advisor comes in. They are really able to help guide their clients on what’s open and how to do the trip that they’ve been dreaming about whether it’s now, or in 3-6 months,” said Minson.
Travelers are seeking expert advice from travel agents. (photo via jacoblund/iStock/Getty Images Plus)
McCabe said that the biggest shift is that clients are not just seeing advisors as order takers. They are seeking advice, and advisors are pseudo therapists.
“I am doing more research than ever before to see what’s actually happening at that property or destination. I also feel like we’ve been able to upsell a lot to ensure that the client has a great experience. And clients are actually listening,” she said.
McCabe has also found that former clients who started booking directly have returned.
Each of the panelists provided tips for restarting business.
“I would encourage all advisors to call their clients and check in with them. Find out how they have been holding up and stay connected with them even if they aren’t ready to book or travel yet. If you don’t, they may think you have closed up shop,” said Friisdahl.
“Always be optimistic and treat people with respect, kindness. It’s important to make every client feel important whether they are booking a three-night cruise or an epic journey,” said McCabe.
Minson encouraged advisors to be consummate students and to embrace change.
“This is an industry that is always evolving and changing, but it always comes together.”
The questions about tourism industry during covid-19 is a blog post that shares advice from travel advisors on how to restart their business.
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