Coping with COVID-19 as a Travel Professional

How are you?  It’s been a week since we’ve hunkered down and began homeschooling in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  I guess I’m glad that since we’ve been to so few activities in the last week, it’s good measure for us practicing our social distancing.  ** SEND HELP**

There’s been a lot of changes within the travel industry as it relates to the coronavirus.  It’s been changing by the minute, if not by the hour so I thought to start the discussion on a variety of trending topics. Of course, COVID-19 being the topic of the hour.  COVID-19 is the technical term of the coronavirus which is the big search term that everyone is going after.   No, it’s not the Chinese virus despite what some people might say, it is COVID-19.   

The travel industry is taking a major hit with research indicating $800 BILLION dollars lost and 4.6 million tourism related jobs will be lost by this summer alone.   With everything changing as fast as it is, we don’t really know when this will be the over so it could get worse.   A lot of people are projecting that it will get worse before it gets better, but when it does get better, there is research out there that indicates projections are set for a rapid economic growth once it’s all over.  We don’t know when it’s going to end unfortunately.

What’s crazy is, we still have people traveling out there. You know, we (and we’re not promoting anyone go travel right now), are looking to post a story about a traveler’s experience when they were traveling within the next few weeks.   The fact of the matter is, some people are still traveling, fewer people now than the last two weeks but some people are, and I want to know why?  No … I wish I were with them, but I think that it would be an interesting story to tell.  Obviously, our readers would be interested in it as well.  

Do you know anyone choosing to travel right now?  We would love to hear from you!  Hit us up at brieskitravel.com, even if you’re not traveling right now and you’re practicing social distancing and you’re quarantined in your house and you’re just day dreaming about travel and want to get it all out.  We’d love to hear from you, we’re fan-friendly!  Hit us up!!!  Leave us a review!!  We would greatly appreciate that!!! **Can you tell I miss social interaction now?**

The silver lining in all of this is, are the local communities coming together helping the restaurants and small businesses that are really taking hits which is great to see!  Stepping up and helping their local people out, you’ve gotta love to see that!!  Not every place is in such a good position to be able to help. The good thing with this is that everybody is coming together throughout the industry even outside the industry and helping as much as possible.  

It’s also great to see agents out there on their phones, helping their clients, a lot of suppliers scrambling to figure out what to do.  I’m sure it’s tough to get ahold of people but agents are coming to the limelight here, really stepping up and so are the suppliers. 

Speaking of agents, over 6,000 travel organizations recently united in an urgent plea to Congress basically asking for aid and release.  If you’re a travel agent, make sure you’re getting with your local government to make sure that you benefitted.  Everyone needs help in these trying times right now.  ** THAT MEANS YOU TOO**

Now, let’s touch on what a travel agent can do in these times with all the information/rumors swirling around the virus and what travelers should know when booking with an OTA (on-line travel agency), or wherever you’re booking outside of just agents, you may not be as protected as you might be when booking with an agent. 

The one thing we’ve learned from this whole disastrous outbreak has been the undeniable value of working with travel agents and advisors.  What you’re seeing out there on social media, whether it’s one of the OTA’s, Air BnB or even VRBO, people are going with other than using a trusted advisor – there’s three, 4-hour long wait times sometimes, where people are just getting disconnected at the end of that and that’s their only lifeline.  They must call a 1-800 customer support line, to talk to a random person, who doesn’t know anything about them or their booking or what they have going on and this is where working with an advisor that knows you personally, who can adjust things to your needs.

One of the biggest things to take away from this is that travel agents and advisors are trained to handle crisis management which is exactly what all of this is!  It is their job to be able to change and adjust on the fly, making ensure it’s the best bang for your buck and make sure you don’t lose as much money as you might somewhere else.  Even though there’s a lot of uncertainty out there, booking with (whether you have insurance or not) an advisor is way more beneficial in times like these then it is to just ride it out and be uncertain of what might happen. 

When you book a trip with an OTA like an Expedia, Priceline or a bookit.com (which is one of the sites that shut down recently), a typical experience you might have with them is:

  • you call an 800 number,
  • sit on hold for 2, three, maybe 4 hours, (only to possibly get disconnected which a lot of people have been reporting)
  • start the whole process over or … you can get in touch with somebody that you explain your entire process to all over again to every person you talk to, who have ZERO idea what the circumstances are. 

They might be able to give you a voucher for future travel but what do you do?  Then you go through this same process all over again to try and re-book.  They may say something different than the first person, so it turns into this huge kafuffle!

Working with an advisor can cut you out of all those instances that might happen and when it comes down to anything that people categorizes as mass hysteria it will be vital to have somebody there by your side to give you peace of mind, especially when something so unprecedented happens!

If there’s any consolation to this Corona virus outbreak, it will be that more travelers are going to recognize professional travel advisors are worth their weight in gold – especially during a crisis!  You know a year from now you go on your summer vacation, there’s no global pandemic, you break your ankle (not wishing this on anyone) and you need to get home or something and you book through an online thing, it’s going to be a nightmare … on top of your ankle pain!! Remind me to tell you the story of an older gentleman, visiting Phoenix and riding a BIRD scooter after dinner … UNGOOD!!!  Just know that he had to be medevac’d home as he was 6’6 and unable to fly commercially with his left leg extended. **UNGOOD**

You want a travel advisor who is going to be able to help you get home and you don’t want to have to worry, you can focus on your injury or whatever hypothetical situation.  

Suppliers are also working diligently to make sure their agents have the most up-to-date resources, information and everything that they can give to their clients: Delta vacations is getting real time information out to agents, AIC hotel groups – Hard Rock hotels was one of the first resort brand to proactively release a very flexible re-booking program for worried travelers and many key resort partners around the world actually followed AIC’s action plan which is really great to see.  Apple Leisure Group is doing an amazing job implementing self-help technology through VAX, to agents to update their bookings.

If you have your own story about suppliers helping you, we would love to hear from you.   If you have any personal experiences whether it’s good or bad, let us know.  We would love to feature you on brieskitravel.com or you can reach us via email at: brieskitravel@yahoo.com

While we’re talking about the different resources that suppliers are giving the agents, a lot of suppliers are also connecting agents to webinars and trainings.  If you find your business slowing down – as an agent myself, I know it can be hectic, answering the phones, serving your clients, but if you have free time because your business is at a momentary stand-still, instead of getting wrapped up in the politics surrounding this, find out what you can do to better your business. Become productive towards your business.  There are a lot of different ways you can do this. It isn’t just limited to the few of things discussed here. 

There are webinars coming from suppliers, there’s also virtual events and exposes which can be attended like you would a physical trade show.  Instead of going to a physical trade show which right now is not a possibility, you can attend one online, with all the same functionality, with great resources.  On top of that, when travel comes back and it’s not a question of “if” travel comes back, but “when” travel comes back, you’re going to want to be on top of the game with anything your clients are requesting. 

People are going to have an itch (I have an itch), they’ve been cooped up in their homes, quarantined across the US. “Stay Home” Orders are in effect in multiple states.  They can’t leave their homes!  I guarantee you, people are going to be itching to go somewhere – whether it’s domestically, internationally, they will want to get out and go somewhere. You should be up to date on as much destination information as possible.

Get specialized from numerous suppliers, whether it’s a hotel brand, the destination or tourism board, cruise line, become a certified specialist in those specific areas and you would have the best knowledge to pass on to your clients going forward.  I don’t have to remind you, that a lot of them are incentivized too.  You can win prizes for taking these courses whether its gift cards, stays, points … the point is to further your education and knowledge of those super, popular places that you will pitch to your clients when they are finally released from their houses.

If there’s one area that you’re like, I should know about it because it’s popular, but I’m not a  specialist in it, this is a time to become one! You’ll get a nice certification that you can hang on your wall and what’s better than if you are on a video chat with a client with a wall full of certifications behind you.  Have your social media bio listed with “I’m a specialist in the Atlantis- Bahamas” or something a little bit more mainstream like Destin, FL. I recently got certified with Carnival Cruise Line (and bought more stock)!  I choose FUN!! 😊

I say all of this to say, it is a really good idea to be as productive business-wise as you can. I know agents may be maxed out, helping their clients and that definitely comes first but instead of melting your mind, watching every single update while you’re quarantined at home – being as productive as possible for the betterment of your business is a really good idea for you and the future of your business and that’s what we’re all trying to save here.

There in just one more piece of advice I would like to share before I sign off here.  I’ve been working from home for about 10 years now.  Some of you are very new to this, some of you aren’t, but if you have a home-based business, set a routine, and try to keep it similar in some respects to what you would do when you were going to the office.  Get outside, go for a walk. I know you might fear everything going on right now but if you can go take a walk (make sure you’re social distancing and everything) get some fresh air because it goes a long way to helping make sure you have a productive day. 

You know the one thing that is killing me is being at home … surrounded by food all the time now.  There’s food, snacks and stuff all over the place.  Before they closed the schools there wasn’t, but since our son is home … SNACKS GALORE!!!!  You don’t want to be stress eating right now because these are unprecedented times with everything that’s going on so try to avoid all the snacks which I’m struggling with. I would recommend maybe do like an afternoon workout routine.  You Tube has a lot of different training videos to get your summer body ready.  When I find a good one, I’ll post it.

WOW!!!!  Maybe I need to be quarantined to more often.  We really appreciate everybody subscribing.  If you found any of this information useful, share it.  We’re always open to feedback from you and we’re looking forward to some very interesting conversations.  Tell your friends, leave and share reviews.  If you have any stories that you’ve been dealing with or personally dealt with as it relates to travel in any realm where you’re a traveler, an agent or if you’ve been working well with one supplier let us know.  Our email again is BrieskiTravel@yahoo.com.  We would love to share any stories that we have from you.  

Hit us up because we’re going to be having plenty of guests in our upcoming podcast.  We are booking in advance so if you’d love to be on with us, we want to hear from you!  Hit us up!! Leave reviews!!  Thank you for following…  we love you!!  We love travel!  We know its tough right now, but things will get better! Travel will bounce back!  Thank you for listening and have an awesome rest of your week.

Peace!

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Welcome to BrieskiTravel.com My name is Brie and I've been a #travelbug and full of #wanderlust since I was a little girl. You may wonder why start a travel blog ... EVERYONE is doing!? Right ... Wrong!!!

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