We keep hearing the words ‘unprecedented’ and ‘once-in-a-century’ to describe 2020’s global coronavirus crisis. And there’s no doubt that it has been an unmitigated, unprecedented and all-encompassing disaster – or that the travel and tourism sectors (and their related supply chains) have been the hardest hit.
And as the industry continues to navigate the crisis, there’ve been some important lessons along the way.
It’s important to take note of the learnings, big or small. Destination Think’s Senior Strategic Consultant, Frank Cuypers, put it best when he delivered his keynote address at the BUZZ.travel Digital Travel EXPO at the end of June:
“Fight amnesia. Review what you’ve learned. Don’t just jump back into business as usual. It’s critical to fight the human desire to move on immediately.”
Travelmarketreport.com recently asked their pool of travel advisors to reflect on some of the pandemic’s key lessons.
This is their top 5:
1. Put time and effort into maintaining client and supplier relationships
If anything, the pandemic has taught us that we have to lead with empathy, kindness and diplomacy. No longer just ‘transactional agents’, advisors that have worked hard to build and maintain relationships will be rewarded with trust, loyalty and gratitude going forward.
One travel advisor, John Rees, said:
“I have also learned how to craft communication with ruffled clients, and have really managed to satisfy almost everyone, despite some bumps along the way. It’s been a valuable skill to be able to diffuse potential breaking points in client/advisor relationships. Honesty and some vulnerability have helped guide us through those tougher issues. I’ve also learned that our job is way more valuable than we have been given credit for in the past, and I have never been prouder than the work we’ve been doing these last three months.”
2. Value suppliers who value you
‘Hard times reveal true friends,’ or so the saying goes. The pandemic has definitely revealed who you can trust – and who you’ll happily work with again in the future. Trust COVID to strengthen bonds and relationships!
Travel advisor, Steve Lincoln said:
“I think (like most agents I’ve spoken with) the biggest lesson I have learned from all of this is which companies I want to work with in the future, and those which I will not. There are many companies that have gone above and beyond, and there are other companies that frankly should be ashamed of themselves for the manner in which they reacted to COVID-19. Post Pandemic – it will be even more important to support those that have supported you.
Likewise, it has been a learning experience to determine which clients I will work with in the future. I feel very blessed that the majority of my clients are understanding, caring, and reasonable people. There are a few that don’t make that list and I would be reluctant to work with them in the future.”
3. Always get travel insurance
And check the fine print! There’s no doubt that clients who once regarded travel insurance as, at best, a ‘nice to have’ or at worst, a grudge purchase, will be looking at the subject of insurance in a whole new light.
Anna Mila, an advisor with AAA Travel, said:
“The COVID-19 Crisis has taught me more than I could imagine. First and foremost: always get travel protection/travel insurance. Second – make sure you’re booking through an agency. Many vendors had wait times of 2+ hours for their phone lines throughout COVID – it’s a lot of pressure off your back to have a travel agent take care of it for you. And lastly, COVID-19 has taught me the importance of patience – as an employee, as a consumer, as a human being. It seems as though we become less and less patient as the years whizz by, and this pandemic has reminded me how much we all need patience with ourselves and with others.”
4. Protect yourself legally
Another hard lesson for many agents? The value of a clear and concise contract.
Travel advisor, Rachel Digirolamo says:
“One thing I have learned is that you can never be too careful to cover yourself legally. I will be doing contracts with my clients from here on out. Stating how my services work and that we don’t make the cancellation rules. The resort/supplier makes them. We are just their (our clients) advocate.”
5. Know that patience pays off
Grit, tenacity, patience. If you didn’t possess these qualities before the pandemic – you certainly do now. Of course, agents have needed bucketloads of each, but the same holds true for clients.
Rachelle Settle, with Wanderlove Travel, says:
“I’ve encouraged my clients to wait as long as possible to make decisions regarding travel. With policies changing daily (sometime hourly), it’s best to take the “wait and see” approach. I had clients cancel cruises and only a day later the cruise was cancelled by the cruise line. The longer you wait, the more options you are likely to have.”