A message to travel agents everywhere.
#travelagents #covid19 Wow...Can we all just say "WOW" for a moment? I know that "unprecedented" is a key word right now in everyones vocabulary, but as an industry, this has never happened for an extended period of time and is the largest traveling scare since 9/11.
I'd like to draw some attention to the parallels and differences with the only other example in history that we have to learn from in this industry.
9/11 was an incredibly sad moment for our nation. A mourning period took place after the attacks on our nation and a fear and panic was set in our nation beyond anything in my short lifetime. If we take a look in the travel industry, drastic changes were made. From what I've been told from travel agents during that time, suppliers were not as kind. The majority of commission was made through airlines. This is the same period of time when airlines took away commission for domestic flights. A major blow was dealt to the industry, yet there are still agents who made it through. I'm not sure how they made it through, or who they counted on, because their largest ally in the fight deserted them and took away their commissions, but they still fought hard and made it through. The cruise lines weren't even close to as powerful as they are today. Disney wasn't the massive powerhouse in which it has now grown. Yet, the industry survived.
There was also the length of time it took for people to feel safe. Prices were sent to the bottom as supply was high and demand was low. No one wanted to travel because they were scared. There was no data to help with anyone's fear.
Now let's take a look at this epidemic. This sickness known as Covid 19 has dealt a huge blow to all industries. However, it's easy to feel personally attacked when all the bans have the word "travel" neatly inserted in front. Travel ban here, travel ban there... It hurts each time I hear it because I know that means our agents will now have to work hard to please their clients for absolutely no gain and no reassurance. But let's take a look at a few differences between these two events.
From the standpoint of "fear of the unknown" it is vastly different. We have data. We have a glimpse of what it may look like a month from now. Our infrastructure is being improved and testing is taking place, giving us more data and less of the unknown. A light is being place by most professionals into late April and early May. As we get closer to these dates and the virus hits its peak and dwindles down this produces a confidence in people to go back out and not just spend money, but travel.
Another major difference in this fight is that even though many travel agencies are large, some with thousands of agents, we still don't have a large voice in the massive industry filled with hundreds of thousands of people, but our partners do. Cruise lines and destination suppliers are the largest they've ever been and continue to grow larger. Unlike previous industry downturns, governmental agencies reached out to the travel industry and even the vice president himself sat down with top executives from many cruise lines. There is care, effort, and an intentional investment being placed in our industry. Never in our history has such an event taken place; and with all the panic, time was taken to make sure our industry leaders were heard. We have big brothers and sisters fighting for our small travel agencies. That reassures us this industry will survive and even thrive after the virus dissipates.
The last major difference I see is most suppliers stepping up and helping their partners on the front lines (that's us). We have toiled and worked hard to build our businesses to the highest levels, and have given them our blood, sweat, and tears (I’ve never bled, but it sounded better). This time they understand and unlike the airline greed of the past, suppliers are giving not only our clients credit and refunds, but also guaranteeing our commissions on cancelled reservations. Agents who had clients wait to cancel will receive commission on the cancellation and commission on the rebooking. This is why we use travel agents, people! During a time when only the brave are risking and booking travel, this is a huge sigh of relief. The industry is watching out for its small business partners and we see that.
So to finish, I'm thrilled of the actions being taken by our #travelindustry partners. Although it seems like they've been slow to react, in reality, this blew up within a few days and they were forced to adapt to something where there is no playbook.
Stay vigilant, take some time to refocus your brand, your marketing direction, your desires in life, and reflect on why you're a travel agent.
The next wave of clients will be here before you know it.