Lessons for the future

Without a doubt, the pandemic has taken a toll on the travel industry. According to ACTA, over 800 storefront agencies across Canada are now permanently closed. As agents continue to see a revenue decline of 95%, more than 90% of travel agents are still on CRB or EI. While the industry tries to hold out for a better tomorrow, Travel Courier caught up with several travel advisors to learn and share their strategies for success and recovery through this challenging time.

Professional travel consultant Tara Sparshu recommends travel advisors implement professional fees not only as a means of survival right now but as a strategy for success in the long term.

“The biggest thing I’ve learned is to believe in yourself and the service you provide. The concern when implementing fees was that I would loose clients. And ultimately I will probably loose some but I want to work with clients that value my experience, knowledge and what I bring to their vacation,” the travel consultant with TierOne Travel in Edmonton, Alta. tells Travel Courier.

Sparshu also suggests that as an industry, travel advisors work together during this time.

“We can’t look at other travel agents as ‘competition.’ I have been so lucky that I have a great network of fellow travel agents and suppliers,” she explains. “Throughout the pandemic it’s become even more important that we work together, use each other as a sounding board, learn from each other, direct each other and help each other grow. I have been so thankful for the agents that have been there as a sounding board and to share their insights with me.”

Similarly, Marion Rose, the president of Elgin Travel & Cruises TravelPlus in St. Thomas, says it is essential that travel advisors learn how to charge their worth.

“Take this time now to get your systems, accounting, and processes in place,” Rose says. “The demand is coming and you need to be ready with a mindset going forward to value what you create for your clients. They need you and you have invaluable resources to help them. Don’t be hard on yourself, but take the steps to be prepared.”

Over the course of the pandemic, Rose points out that members of the industry have been working together for a common goal.

“We have become closer as an industry to our travel professional peers and we have developed some very strong relationships by advocating with the government and being there for each other,” she adds.

Meanwhile, Angela Piercey, senior travel advisor at Travelworld of Collingwood in Collingwood, Ont., suggests utilizing this time to prepare for the future.

“Upgrade your education by way of webinars, and online conferences. Become a master advisor with your preferred suppliers and stay in touch with your valued business development managers,” she notes. “Keep updated with the government regulations, reach out to all your valued clients, and most importantly, get excited! When the flood gates open, our industry is going to be epic!”

For the owner of All Seasons Travel, the pandemic gave Anita Djordjevic the time to shift from a brick and mortar office to working remotely. Djordjevic suggests agents reevaluate whether or not a physical location makes sense or is necessary for business down the line, and points out the cost-saving benefits as well.

“It allows my staff greater flexibility to work from anywhere in the world as well as having a new platform that keeps us connected 24/7 and anyone can access any time,” she says. “It works better for us and our clients.”

Finally, Erin Kemp, the co-owner of Kemp Travel Group in Bowmanville, Ont., says it’s key to do the work now while focusing on the future.

“We all know that we are going to see a huge resurgence in bookings as soon as the restrictions ease. Now is the time to realign priorities, make plans, learn and to change things that weren’t working,” she says. “Update your website, give your office a deep clean, reconsider your marketing strategy and take advantage of all of the free training available to you as an industry member. Utilize this time to prepare yourself for when travel inevitably comes back. If we’ve been given one thing through this entire pandemic, it is the gift of time. We won’t have this time again so use it to better position yourself for the return of travel!”

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