The COVID-19 pandemic has been one of the most – if not the most – challenging events to the travel industry in years. While it has no doubt been a difficult time for many travel advisors, it’s highlighting just how resilient they are.
We asked travel advisors what the pandemic has taught them about their own strength, individually and as an industry. Here’s some of their answers.
They are resilient in times of uncertainty.
“I would say the pandemic has taught me personally how important my attitude and calm steadiness toward my clients and the way it impacts how my clients respond to changes and new protocols.
As an industry, I think it has hopefully reminded agents of a sense of purpose and how resilient we are. It has been easy to doubt our importance in the age of the internet, but with vendor and country regulations constantly changing I believe consumers will be driven back to working with a personal travel agent to ease their questions and apprehension of traveling in the future.”
- Christina Hawkins, certified travel associate with AAA Carolinas
They are true heroes to clients.
“We all know that travel advisors are going to come out of this even more important. They’re true heroes to their clients, and they’re going to be even more important going forward.
Obviously, the situation with COVID will eventually subside, but there will still be plenty of information that people need to know. Historically, travel advisors are the go-to one-stop-shop for all things travel, and now we have even more resources for them to realize how important advisors are in business and leisure travel planning.”
- Gina Gabbard, senior vice president of leisure and independent advisors for Ovation Travel Group
They put in the hard work.
“An individual company that will remain nameless took five months to refund guests, and after 143 phone calls we got them their refund. If someone on their own has to make 143 phone calls it wouldn’t have happened. It’s really true without a travel advisor you’re on your own.
I’ve also gotten multiple phone calls from non-existing clients but friends of friends who booked directly with airlines or a website and I was able to help them when they were stuck and couldn’t get a hold of anyone.”
- Susan Rice, president of New Era Travel
They’re there for each other.
“I have been in this industry for 35 years. We have been through it all: 911, Swine Flu, Zika, recessions, and more. We are strong and have always been strong. What I am noticing more so now, with Covid19, is that we are not competitors, we are a family. We are here for each other. I have been invited to join Facebook groups, where we can get support and ask questions. It's been a rollercoaster and having these different avenues of support has helped get me through a dark time. This has also been a great time to reinforce all of the many reasons to use a Travel Agent. People who did not have spent a lot of time on the phone trying to figure out how to get credits and refunds, if they could even get through to anyone.”
- Trinette Neuerburg, manager of Oakmont Travel
They can adapt to any challenge.
“We definitely have graduated with a Doctorate in Travel. We have had to navigate through the challenges no company in our industry has ever experienced before combined with abrupt worldwide changes. Staying on top of this and managing through the changes in real time, as each day is different, has been a huge accomplishment. We may also have earned a degree in psychology as we have had to be a calming force for our clients as they experienced a range of emotions through the uncertainty of travel. I am 100% confident those clients using travel advisors will never book travel without one after this period.”
- Sofia Markovich, owner of Sofia’s Travel LLC
Daine Taylor contributed to this story.