And so, the places where we keep our luggage and travel equipment in anticipation of our next trip, the houses really become homes where we have been exiled for weeks, reflecting on our industry, all of which have been closed because of COVID- 19
Despite the trauma of their income streams being almost closed and the days filled with canceling most of the trips they had planned for the whole year, most of the luxury travel advisors we contacted had gone through the initial shock phase of the crisis and were able to speak with considerable confidence. about what they see in the current landscape.
We surveyed 600 travel advisors during the week of April 20 to get a pulse of their experiences during the COVID-19 crisis, and what they saw for the future of luxury travel. The survey was conducted online for five days with a travel advisor whose business comprised more than 50 percent of luxury trips. Thirty-five percent are agency owners or managers; 51 percent are independent contractors; the rest are employees.
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How is the Agency Network Doing?
A strong majority (84 percent) of respondents were happy with the support provided by the host agency and their network when COVID-19 closed borders, air travel and hotels. Many comments cite their strong communication and network ability to keep them up to date on federal assistance options and supplier refund policies. Webinars, seminars, Zoom “office hours,” town hall meetings, daily briefings, flight cancellation support, and assistance with client re-bookings are also highlighted by those who are satisfied with their host network, as well as efforts on how to best prepare for the future. Providing constant moral support and the right tools to work from home is also called a positive thing.
Those who are unhappy with their network say they have not received bad or bad communication and suffer because of the lack of network personnel who are ready to answer questions.
New Lists Circulating
We have heard the roar about certain vendors who did not provide stand-up services during the beginning of the crisis, and indeed, 67 percent of survey respondents said there were suppliers who would not work with them anymore because of their return / cancellation policy. Destination management companies have also been criticized in the Facebook group for not providing timely (or at all) refunds and 46 percent of our respondents say they now have a DMC list that they will not do in the future. Anecdotally, some advisers said they would no longer book hotels through the DMC, only ground operations and visits.
Cancellations Still Occur
Unfortunately, the majority of respondents (86 percent) still see clients canceling future trips; many hope this will continue until the end of the year, although some indicate that things can happen after the summer. The point is that there is currently no clear answer, because it all depends on when the borders are opened, airlines are starting to fly again and people can move freely about the world.
More than half of travel advisors (57 percent) still get requests for future travel; one said that the festive season looked promising, another received a request for a November cruise, another received a request for March 2021 and so on. Marriage and honeymoon, as well as safari trips for 2021 are the topic of questions, as well as family holidays for next summer.
New Business Practices Appear
Having time to reflect on the chaos they had to face when the trip basically stopped in March and April, 54 percent of advisers surveyed said they planned to change their business model. An adviser who has already charged planning fees for new clients only says he will now charge fees to existing clients, as well as applying change fees and cancellation fees. The other will now collect travel planning costs before he begins working on the itinerary rather than the final payment. One advisor postpones international group bookings for the following year while another shifts its focus to special, small group trips.
“We will not sell anything – it cannot be returned, ‘” said another. The point is that advisors plan to be more transparent and discuss more fully their terms and conditions for fees and cancellations with their clients before any work is done.
Despite all this, expectations remain high for the future of luxury travel and 70 percent of those surveyed say they are optimistic. Asked if there was any wisdom to this temporary halt in business, we received nearly 400 responses. Spending more time with family and pets, walking on the beach and catching up on reading and pondering are popular responses, while an adviser said he was happy to clear his mind: “I work long hours a day that it’s very stressful. I also have time to exercise more. ”
Managing files, both electronic and printed, is another popular activity while others say they have finally created a new system to better track every trip.
Another silver lining? The advisor hopes that airlines will have cleaner aircraft and move seats further from each other and that the shipping lanes will be more aware of food preparation and crowd control. “It shouldn’t take this for all that to happen,” someone said.
Many luxury travel advisors contact clients, not to sell, but to check-in to see how they and their families are; of course, the conversation eventually led to a future itinerary, which didn’t hurt. Some of these calls are made via Zoom, whose video capabilities provide a more personal connection.
What is the most important thing
A pregnant adviser gets lots of new time to plan for the birth of her baby, while another who has just given birth now has plenty of time with her new arrival. “Before COVID-19, we were very busy so I wasn’t sure how I would actually give maternity leave,” he said.
Some advisers say they are learning a new language and many say they are working on industrial education, participating in webinars with suppliers and goals.
Overall, despite the downturn in business, almost every advisor says calmer time provides benefits, allows them to exercise, focus on their health and gain strength for the future. “I live these long days with positive energy that the trip will return and when that happens, we will not have any free time left for ourselves,” said a respondent.
However, not all zen and peace; when we last checked with our advisory audience, many wrestled with clients who, after getting a trip cancellation (thanks to their advisors), were looking for their refunds, repeatedly making calls and sending emails to find their money.
The world awaits …
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