Coping during COVID-19
This week Travel Courier checks in with Laura Lawrence, Owner & Consultant at Travel By Laura, who donned Mickey Ears while working with her kids at home as a signal that she was working.
What has it been like running a travel business over the past few months?
I have been a travel advisor since 1996 and an independent home-based travel agent for over 15 years, opening Travel By Laura in August 2004. I have never experienced anything like this before during my career as a travel advisor. The past few months have been crazy. I feel like I am on a rollercoaster ride. It has been very emotional, with lots of ups and downs, but I am optimistic about our industry’s future.
At the beginning of COVID, things were intense. I worked around the clock to do everything I could to help my clients. I was also trying to homeschool my kids and suddenly shared my office space with my husband and kids who were all home. We were all adapting to the new world we live in just like everyone else. I would wear my Mickey Ears a lot during this time. It was a signal to my kids to be quiet as Mom was working.
The pace is not as intense now. I have spent time with my kids this summer while helping clients with their cancellations, refunds, and just giving them a call to see how they are doing. I have also been attending many webinars to keep up to date with all the changes in our industry. I am a member of the Travel Leaders Network, and I am thankful for the support they have given agents during these crazy times.
How has this impacted your business and bookings?
It has been devastating. I feel for everyone in our industry right now, as COVID has dramatically impacted our industry. The last active file I had was cancelled last week by the supplier. That was an emotional day. Everything I worked on this past year is gone, and it isn’t clear when people will feel comfortable and safe enough to travel. I think many people do not understand how travel advisors get paid. People do not know that most travel advisors do not receive a commission from the supplier until the client travels. I am grateful that my overhead is low and that the last couple of years have been profitable, which will help me sustain the business during these unprecedented times.
Laura Lawrence, Owner & Consultant of Travel By Laura
“I know my clients were grateful when I called them to help rebook their flights. I worked around the clock in mid-March, ensuring all my clients and their families got home safely as borders closed around the world. I believe people will remember how travel advisors helped them during this crisis, and more will be booking with an agent once we can travel again.”
Do you have any strategies to get through the next few weeks/months?
I am taking this time to refocus on my business and have a solid plan for when travel opens up again. I have been keeping in touch with clients, trying to stay on top of policies that are changing daily and focusing on domestic travel. In the past, our family travelled extensively throughout Canada. I hope to help my clients discover all the many amazing things to see and do in our own backyard. On a personal level, I practice mindfulness. I have been meditating, going for walks each day and spending time in nature.
If there is one positive thing that has come out of this, it’s been that more people have seen the value of using a travel agent firsthand. Do you agree?
I agree! I know my clients were grateful when I called them to help rebook their flights. I worked around the clock in mid-March, ensuring all my clients and their families got home safely as borders closed around the world. I believe people will remember how travel advisors helped them during this crisis, and more will be booking with an agent once we can travel again. The support we provided our clients during this time will give us an easy and meaningful answer to “Why book with a travel agent?”
How has travel impacted your own life?
Travel has helped me become the person I am today. It has had a significant impact on my life, and I am grateful for the experiences travel has given me. I believe that it is a force for good and one of life’s greatest teachers. I feel blessed as travel has given me a career I love, which has given me more time with my family and because of travel, I have met so many amazing people throughout the world.
What do you miss about travelling?
I miss everything. I miss the anticipation, having something to look forward too. I miss the excitement of travelling to a new destination.
I miss the people. Some of my favourite memories while travelling are meeting new people from around the world. My husband and I still keep in touch with friends we met in Scotland 20 years ago.
Do you have anything to add?
This year has been challenging, but I am choosing to focus on the positives. To my fellow travel advisors and industry partners, hang in there, stay positive, and take care of yourselves. We are in this industry because we love what we do; we are passionate about travel and helping others. People will travel again. It may take some time, but when they’re ready, they will turn to us. We will be there to help guide them through the new norm. To our clients and friends who have trusted us to help them with their travel plans, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts. I know that all of us can’t wait until we can all travel again.