With the effects of coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak still being felt all over the world, and international travel effectively shut down worldwide, this seems like a good time to look back at how advisors have helped their clients during one of the most tumultuous periods the industry has ever faced.
For the clients of Alexis Sherry of AS Travel Pro, having an advisor on their side made all the difference when it seemed like the entire world was shutting down around them all at once.
Sherry had arranged an 8-day itinerary for a family of four to the Dominican Republic in mid-March. Despite the emerging reports of travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 outbreak, her clients decided to risk the trip, but about halfway through their vacation, things began to take an abrupt turn.
The family was about five days into their trip, when they were suddenly approached by the General Manager of the hotel, warning them that the country was shutting down the Punta Cana airport.
“The GM came to them at about 4 o’clock that morning and said ‘I just heard from our president that they’re going to shut down the airports tomorrow, and you need to get out today,’” said Sherry.
“It was kind of crazy. I didn’t even have any information about the airport closing there. There was nothing on the news, no notifications from anyone. At this point they called me frantic, and I calmed them down and started checking flights for them to get home.”
“I checked for any flights out of Punta Cana for them, but there was nothing back to New York. Then I checked Punta Cana to anywhere in the U.S., and still there was nothing. I checked splitting the family up, [pairing] the adults with the children…there was nothing! Literally nothing for that night, and nothing for the next morning.”
The family feared being stuck in a foreign country while an international lockdown was underway. A true travel nightmare was quickly becoming a reality, but being resourceful, Sherry utilized her connections to arrange a private flight for her clients.
“So after I checked everything, the only option if they didn’t want to be stuck there for 30 days, was to get them out on a private flight.”
Sherry managed to find a private aircraft heading out of DR that day. “My clients just had to make a fast decision, so I told them ‘let’s just get you on the private flight the least expensive way back to the U.S.”
The clients called Sherry at 4 a.m. She called her contact at Privé Jets, the private air and jet charter service, and had the entire return trip arranged. “I called a bunch [of carriers], but I quickly called my contact [at Privé], and there was about an hour turnaround. By 5 o’clock I had the contract signed… the turnaround was unbelievable.”
The plane had arrived to pick the family up a mere six hours after the hotel notified them of the shutdown. By 10 o’clock they were on a private flight to Miami, where they were able to use their JetBlue credits to catch a flight home from Fort Lauderdale to New York.
“They just wanted to be back in the U.S., and I’m just happy that I acted fast and stayed on my toes, and it worked out in their favor. At this point I’ve heard they’re sending the military to get people, but there are people who are still just stuck there. I feel like we just got really lucky to be honest.”
“My client told me ‘we literally wouldn’t have known what to do, and we would’ve been stuck there if I didn’t have you to call.’”
Sherry believes situations like this are exactly why people need travel advisors, and that although travel has been restricted for now, when the crisis passes there will be even more demand for advisors as people realize the value of having someone in their corner while they are traveling abroad.