The world has seen things go from bad to worse recently with the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus COVID-19. Entire countries have closed their borders and global citizens are on lockdown. Beyond that, the economy and the travel industry alike have taken major nosedives. We thought we’d seen it all with 9/11 and SARS, but nothing could have prepared us for the crisis at hand. It is an unprecedented time in our industry and around the world. This COVID crisis is emphasizing the value of the travel agent role.
Over the years we’ve always preached the importance of using a travel consultant. We offer convenience, experience and most importantly we are in your corner at all times offering on the ground support. In the age of do-it-yourself travel and online booking platforms, some people started to view travel agents as dispensable amenities. However, in light of the current COVID-19 crisis, that perception is quickly starting to change. It is becoming clearer and clearer that having a good travel agent is now more valuable than ever.
March is one of the busiest travel months of the year for Canadians. Right now, there are millions of travellers directly affected by the COVID-19 crisis. Business travellers, families, spring breakers and snowbirds alike are all rightfully concerned. When the coronavirus panic escalated the first week of March, many travellers were still abroad, and many more are still stuck overseas trying to get home. Countless others with imminent travel plans are left unsure about what the future holds.
Flights are being pulled, hotels are getting closed, tours are being cancelled and cruise ships are being docked. Millions of people are stranded with no way home, nowhere to stay and most importantly no one to help.
Many of those people did not book with a travel agent and instead booked online. Those people are now spending hours on end, just to find out the status of their trip. Unless their trip is leaving within 48 hours, it is unlikely they will receive much help anyways. Some people are even getting disconnected before ever speaking with a customer service representative. Customers complain that they’re being bounced around from department to department and sometimes disconnected for no reason. When people do get through, many are being offered minimal compensation for the tour they booked and left with thousands of dollars tied up in a future trip with an expiry date.
Several companies have expressed that the best way to get in touch with them is through online chat bots or social media. This solution may seem easy for most, but many of those abroad don’t have the infrastructure or the technical wherewithal to connect via these methods. And well, those people are seemingly just out of luck.
You could be watching the news and hearing that all borders are closing and you should get home immediately, yet there are no flights available. And while that might seem like a worst-case scenario or “wouldn’t happen to me”. Unfortunately, this is the reality for millions of Canadians right now.
This is where the true value of a travel agent comes in. One quick phone call or email and they’re on the case. No bouncing around to different departments, no chat bots and no waiting in line for help. They’re calm on the surface but under the water they are kicking furiously to sort all of your problems while assuring you everything will be okay. In times of hysteria and panic amongst the masses, an expert who knows just what to do is the calming influence you need.
When you book a vacation, it shouldn’t be a stressful thing. So when things like coronavirus, or natural disasters strike and you have to get home, make the call to postpone or cancel your tour, that shouldn’t be stressful either. When you spend thousands of dollars on your dream trip, you want to ensure every detail is taken care of and your investment is protected.
And while everyone else is closing their doors, or putting you on the back burner, we are here on the front lines working for you to save the hassle of sitting on hold for hours on end. Crisis management is a specialty of ours – from lost bags to global pandemics we can help. Beyond that, we have direct access to people at airlines, cruise companies and tour operators that the general public do not.
While sales are immensely declining and cancellations are unbridled we’re still here working for our clients – because that is our job! We hope that if we take care of clients in times like this, it will prove our worth they’ll come back when the situation improves.
The rumour that booking online is cheaper comes around often and is far from true. If a price looks too good to be true, theres probably a reason. And if we’re a few bucks off, trust us, we can definitely more than make up for it in the extra value we provide. On a good day, it is unlikely that an online travel agency will remember that it is your anniversary and send bottle of champagne to your room or call you when you get home hear all about your trip. Online Travel Agencies sell thousands of packages daily so clients are just a number. And with the situation at hand that reality is rearing its ugly head.
When the call centres have wiped their hands clean of your problems, we remain on the frontlines working to tackle your problems. Travel agents all over are working tirelessly to repatriate Canadian citizens, helping clients reschedule travel plans and answer questions and concerns about future travel when this all inevitably passes.
With many countries closing their borders indefinitely, there is a lot of uncertainty about what the future of travel holds. We hope that measures implemented by the Canadian government and others around the world will help to eradicate this horrible virus swiftly so we can return to our normal lives.
The industry will likely take a hit and will take considerable time to fully recover. Despite the situation, travel agents will continue to provide an invaluable service, highlighting the true value of the job. Like everything, this too shall pass and we are confident that the industry will bounce back. One thing that is certain though is the value of a travel agent in these unprecedented times.
If you’re out of country and need assistance getting home, our agents are still available via phone and email. Please don’t hesitate to reach out! It’s times like these that you truly value having a good travel agent in your corner. Stay safe everyone!