Some travelers may have initial anxieties getting back on an airplane or cruise ship once the coronavirus is no longer a health threat. Travel advisors will help reduce the fear of traveling when the pandemic is over, by providing the guidance and support they always have to their clients.
While Pam Keystone, founder of Art of Vacationing in Scottsdale, Arizona, isn’t receiving any phone calls, she’s being proactive by putting out five trips that she is going to host. “My clients will see that ‘If Pam is traveling, then it must be okay.’ There is a comfort to that. I’m proposing five different trips, and every person I’ve spoken to, has picked one or two of those trips that they are interested in doing.”
Keystone said that has been helping to motivate clients to sign up. “There’s some safety in me planning the trip and going along, and that’s what is really going to drive our future,” she said.
In talking to her clients, Roxanne Boryczki and her team at AZ Trails Travel in Fountain Hills, Arizona, are keeping them informed with the facts, and being honest with them about the supplier offers of Future Cruise Credits or vouchers versus refunds.
“Obviously, we like it when they opt to rebook sooner than later for next year, as we know there will be a drain on the inventory for 2021 due to pent up demand when this is over. For those who choose the refund option, we are letting them know that we’ll be here for them to help figure out their next vacation plan when they feel confident to travel again,” Boryczki told Travel Market Report. “We have a great customer base so I know they will be back when the time is right for them.”
Simple reassurances can go a long way, said Tammy Estes, Estes Consultant of Travel in Augusta, Maine. “I think the most important thing has been to let them know that this too shall pass, and that people will get back to work. That travel is not completely dead and people are still booking.” She added that the deals offered by suppliers right now can also shift prospective travelers from thinking about a trip to making a booking.
Ken Neibaur, a luxury travel advisor with Travel Edge in La Jolla, California, said it will be important to pay attention to clients’ health concerns. “Advisors cannot be perceived as trying to promote early return to travel just to get a deal, or push clients past their comfort zones. Conversations with clients should start now, with open lines of communication but not aggressive promotion, he told Travel Market Report. “It’s very important to sense your clients’ moods and be only a few steps ahead of theirs.”
Terri Jo Lennox, president of Travel Time in Calgary, Alberta, agreed it’s important “not to push too hard, too soon,” but “still reassure people, it’s okay to dream and keep people aware that we’re still here when they’re ready.”
Part of an advisor’s job, Lennox said, is also to end up being counselors, support systems, and therapists. This will just be heightened in the wake of COVID-19.
“Listening to my client's fears is the most important thing I can do to help them make personal decisions about future travel plans, agreed Tara Hyland, with Travel Edge in New York. “Based on their concerns, I will provide information from the official sources regarding the latest health information.”
While new bookings might not be coming in the way they once were, Hyland said she will still engage clients in the process of beginning to dream about future travel plans by suggesting types of travel experiences with which they may be the most comfortable.
How it’s going to play out still remains unknown, said John Schmitt, president of Frankenmuth Travel in Michigan. “That’s the biggest question that I have right now – when things return, are people going to be cautious when they’re going to plan into next year, or is the pent up demand and all this seclusion going to have people traveling immediately? And that’s what I don’t know yet,” he said.
Limor Decter, luxury travel advisor and concierge for Ovation Travel Group in New York, combats travel anxiety by asking their clients about the reason they are going on the trip. “Asking travelers this simple question can shift their perspective from the emotional to the rational. Once a traveler knows their why and their reason for the trip, they can logically identify what motivates them to travel, which then reduces their anxiety. Rationales helps reduce anxiety ... mind over matter.”
Jamie Mussolini, founder and president of Westchester, New York-based Beachfronts Travel, also said advisors can use this time to start creating a game plan for their client’s next journey. Take advantage of virtual tours to beaches, museums, historical sites, and resort grounds to inspire your client to where they may want to go next. “It’s has been a great way for us to check out the numerous places that await us once we are on the go again,” she said.
For clients that had to move weddings and honeymoons, Mussolini encourages them to think of this as a positive – as “they now have that much more time before the big day comes to plan more and make it a more perfect dream, by adding extra special details for the wedding or tour spots for that honeymoon.”
“Over the years there have been threats and crises that have affected the travel industry – hurricanes, Ebola, Zika, snow storms, flu, malaria, post-911 traveling – but I have been reassuring my clients and pointing to examples like this in history to show them how we somehow always find a way to overcome these things and come out of them stronger than ever,” Mussolini told TMR.
“Travel is one of life's greatest pleasures and something we will probably never take for granted again. During these trying times it's hard not to daydream about jetting off to one of those white sand beaches or snowcapped mountains that ignite our inner wanderlust.”
Daniel McCarthy and Daine Taylor contibuted to this story.