Kate Neufeld has been with Flight Centre for over a decade. The travel consultant and Assistant Manager with Flight Centre loves solving problems and has learned not to sweat the small stuff during the pandemic.
In the past year, Kate has shown determination and perseverance while making sure her clients are looked after and cared for. She has taken on the responsibility of countless others and does so with a smile on her face. As a supplier, working with Kate has been a pleasure both professionally and personally. Kate is a picture-perfect example of why I enjoy working with Travel Consultants.
Can you tell us a little about yourself and how long you’ve been in the industry?
My name is Kate Neufeld and I am a travel consultant and Assistant Manager with Flight Centre and work with nine other amazing travel professionals based at our Burlington, Ont. location. I’ve been with Flight Centre for 11.5 years and worked at several of our locations over the years, and prior to that worked in the hotel industry with Metropolitan hotels in Toronto. I love solving problems, helping people and trying to figure out public transportation systems in languages I don’t speak — so being a travel agent is pretty much my dream job.
Why and how did you decide to become a travel advisor?
After living in Antigonish, Nova Scotia for University and in Toronto for fun and experience I decided to move back to Hamilton to be closer to family and friends. Upon moving back I applied for a lot of jobs but knew with my hotel background I would be able to at least have that part of booking people’s travel figured out. I applied to Flight Centre on a Monday and was in training the following week. I had never used a travel agent before but had put together a pretty complex trip for myself just before I had my interview so I think they decided that if I could figure that out for myself I could do it for others. Even though I fell into it a bit accidentally I can’t think of anything I’d be better at or would like more.
What’s your favourite part of being a travel agent?
Hearing from clients during or after their trip, especially if they were a bit hesitant or were venturing into the unknown with a new destination. It’s so satisfying to hear a client talk about how they successfully bartered for something they really wanted or that they figured out the train system or even that they were able to navigate connecting flights for the first time in a new airport. Sometimes we take for granted our privilege in being as well travelled as we are so it’s a special treat to hear about how travel has opened the eyes and minds of my clients.
What’s a key thing you learned during the pandemic?
It’s a bit cliché but “don’t sweat the small stuff in life… and it’s all small stuff” has really hit home. I am so fortunate that my family and friends are healthy and safe. Staying organized, kind and genuine with clients and keeping them informed even when you have no news goes a long way.
What will be your first post-pandemic trip and why?
A coworker of mine was fortunate enough to win system wide tickets with United Airlines on a webinar so we are going to get the most possible miles out of them and explore whichever Asian countries don’t have quarantine requirements later in the fall.
From charging fees to re-evaluating which suppliers you will work or won’t work with in the future, how have you changed the way you work since the pandemic hit?
I’ve spent most of the last year working on client retention within Flight Centre processing credits and refunds. Now transitioning back to booking travel I’ve found that I really can’t take anything for granted as far as clients staying current on rules, regulations and trends. Really having a genuine conversation with someone about why they want to travel and explaining the differences between travel now and travel in the pre-COVID era is an essential part of my qualifying process. When I know the reasons behind why clients want what they want, it makes my job of matching them to the best product much easier.
How have you adjusted your business strategy over the past year?
I have a much bigger emphasis on flexible rates and paying deposits. Whereas before clients would often opt for non refundable hotel rates as the more economical option I’ve found that they are now often choosing something that will allow them to refund just in case that trip doesn’t happen as planned. The flexible booking policies that our partners have put into place are really helping as well – clients can secure their trip with a minimum investment and take advantage of the great fares currently in the market.
What’s your biggest piece of advice for travel advisors right now?
Find a hobby that you enjoy outside of work! Especially in the early days of Spring 2020 there was a tendency to work all hours possible but you won’t be able to do anyone any good if you don’t step away from your desk (or kitchen table) to clear your mind. Even putting a yoga mat in your living room and finding some youtube videos you enjoy can do wonders.
Do you have anything to add?
I just really hope that everyone has the time and mental energy to acknowledge and process the enormously difficult time that we have had. I hope that they can use this to reflect and think about how they will move forward with a focus on what really matters to them. And of course that everyone can get on a plane ASAP!