In the early days of travel restrictions and cancellations, many predicted that there would be an uptick in travellers using the services of a trusted professional post-pandemic after book-it-yourselfers were left scrambling on hold for hours on end with no one in their corner.
On the precipice of international travel resuming, Travel Courier caught up with advisors from across the country to learn why they are increasingly confident more people will turn to the trade in the aftermath of COVID-19.
With so much uncertainty and constant changes taking place that impact tourism, international travel counsellor Colleen Hodgson believes more people will and should turn to travel advisors when booking holidays as destinations reopen.
“It’s a huge opportunity for travel agents to show exactly what we’re here for, which is helping smooth over bumps and manage the surprises that pop up,” says Hodgson, a cruise and group specialist with AMA Travel Services, Edmonton West. “And this being one of the bumpiest and most surprising events that’s happened in the travel industry, consumers are sure to see the value in using a travel agent more than ever before.”
Similarly, Fiona Barclay, Director, Supplier Management, North America Leisure at CWT Vacations, feels that it will be vital for travellers to book through travel advisors.
“Only a travel agent, with their up-to-the-minute knowledge of the global travel situation, the protection they can provide and the agent’s skill, connections and influence, gives them the power and ability to get a passenger home, come what may,” she says.
Marta Novkovic of Bon Voyage Travel in Vancouver, BC, is also positive more people will use travel agents after the pandemic in order to feel more secure about making a booking.
“It was very stressful mid-March when clients called in a panic when their flights were cancelled, they were stranded at their destination, or floating for days on a cruise ship and no port let them dock,” she recalls. “Travel agents were crucial in those times, projecting confidence, calmness, and reassurance that everything will be fine. If not before, people will now understand the value of booking with travel agents.”
Post-pandemic, Erin Kemp, the co-owner and travel advisor of Kemp Travel Group in Bowmanville, Ont., believes people who have never used a travel advisor in the past will look to start using one moving forward.
“Our agency is already starting to see this trend as of late. With the constant changing of rules, restrictions and regulations, booking travel has become more confusing than ever. People want to know that they have not only ticked all the boxes, but there is going to be someone at the other end picking up the phone when and if they call. So many people were left stranded or not knowing what to do with their future bookings when everything came to a halt last March. Many people unfortunately had to learn the hard way and are afraid to go through that again,” she tells Travel Courier. “Travel agents can provide an incredible amount of value, now more than ever. Knowing that there is a dedicated person monitoring your booking and looking after you every step of the way will be a priceless service moving forward.”
Similarly, Anita Gibeau, the owner of Kaleidoscope Travel in Cluny, Alta. points out that travel advisors provide assistance pre, during and after clients return and are only a phone call away if issues arise.
“With all the uncertainty around travel and issues from cancellations I believe more people will be turning to advisors in 2021 and beyond,” she adds.
Kate Neufeld, Assistant Location Manager and Network Support at Flight Centre in Burlington, Ont., also feels that those who previously booked travel on their own will turn to a professional as a time-saving measure.
“Even just the hours spent on hold with suppliers by clients who booked themselves I think has shown how travel advisors can save you time and aggravation,” she says. “Moving forward I think a lot of clients will be booking more complex, involved and important trips and they will want someone to work with them through that process.”