TA’s Share: How Has COVID Changed My Business?
It’s been over two years since COVID hit the travel industry by storm. It’s been a hard two years, but through it we’ve seen the incredible resilience of travel advisors and the industry as a whole. We asked travel advisors to share how they adapted their business to meet the challenges.
What has changed for your business over the last two years? What is one thing you’ve learned? How have you come through the past two years stronger?
The responses were so, so good. We wish we could share every single one with you. So many stories of pushing through hard times, covering business costs out of pocket to keep the lights on, and more… We heard how travel advisors have become more invaluable than ever, you are worth the fee, and travel insurance is a must-have! And, in one of our absolute favorite stories, we heard about the power of teamwork.
1. ALWAYS include travel protection
I have had so many cancellations. My cancellation rate is almost half of my bookings. I learned that I will ALWAYS include travel protection in a quote. Over the past two years I have learned to smell the roses more often and PRAYER has made me STRONGER!
2. Research, research, research
During the past two years, I have learned that I can no longer just sell a package, resort, or air ticket. I have to research protocols and entry requirements to sites all over the world. I have to really get to know my clients: Are they vaccinated? What day do they need to test before they arrive? What kind of insurance best protects them for their package? Because of the pandemic, I have bonded more with my clients, and that means repeat business and lots of referrals.
Rebecca L., TX
3. Stay on your marketing
I went from being a brand new travel advisor in 2019 with exciting unlimited possibilities to… OMG! We stuck it out and were able to keep some bookings through hotels for people who didn’t want to fly or go far. It helped, but it didn’t keep the lights on. Activity is higher than the first year which is a good thing considering it was just getting started. So all the work I continued to do to keep my social media churning that I am here and exploring and doing and opportunity is presenting itself constantly. We just need to be open to it and keep going to help others know the joys of visiting a place that you have longed for.
Richard D., GA
4. TA’s are more valuable than ever
Through the course of the pandemic, my business went from just launching to one of the largest independent agents in the USA. What I discovered is that the pandemic offered an unique opportunity: people finally realized that they needed assistance. When a helping hand was there, they were quick to grab on! The opportunity has been one to foster further client relationships based on service-focused value, thus steering the conversation away from the historical price-focus.
Addison J., TX
5. Patience and understanding
I’ve had to learn to be more patient and understanding with supplier representatives. They lost a lot of staff over the last couple of years and that means a loss of knowledge and experience. A lot of the new hires are learning as they go and need the confidence boost.
Scooter T., TX
6. Charge a fee upfront
I was pretty lucky over the last two years. I was still able to book a lot of travel and make commission in 2020 and 2021. I learned a lot about rebooking, the value of travel protection and that travel agents are invaluable to their clients! With the uptick of travel, I’ve also found that more and more people want to ask me for my help and advice but again don’t want to pay for it. So I’m learning to do a fee upfront before any information is given. I also know that I’m a smarter, better and more experienced travel agent because my business survived during the pandemic and I’ve come out with lots more practical experience to create better adventures for my clients.
Kim L., ID
7. Did we mention you’re worth the fee?
Over the last two years, I have learned that my business cannot run on commissions alone. It was time to start charging for the services I provide. I’ve come through the pandemic stronger by aligning my business with companies that have great support for both travel advisors and clients. I’ve learned where the weak points were in my business and have taken steps to rebuild those areas for the long haul. In addition, I’ve learned that things can and will change and that we just have to be as prepared as we can for that to happen.
Tracey L., MD
8. Adapt and diversify
As a Canadian travel agent with mostly cruise business, and the government’s Do Not Travel advisories, cruise bookings dropped to zero from April 2020 to January 2022 and with much diligence contacting my customer base I did get an occasional All Inclusive booking. My US clients have helped carry me through the last two years with bookings beginning mid 2021. I have learned that patience and perseverance can pay off. I have a much better understanding of the All Inclusive industry and it has helped me to diversify for the future.
Paul B., Canada
9. Client relationships matter
Before Covid, I had built a very strong relationship with many of my clients, but I was concerned that they had forgotten all about me, but now that the world is opening up again, one after the other are coming back to give me business. I think a lot of my clients have had empathy for me being in a very difficult season and they have shown a lot of support during the pandemic.
I have learned to be patient, but also that it is so important to go the extra mile with my clients.
Frank T., MN
10. A win for group contracts
As an Independent Contractor, I have learned that group contracts with Centrav are an excellent route. When my Fall 2021 group supplier canceled, we simply picked another date for 2022 and transferred our deposit. I also learned that domestic destinations provided me with commissions and satisfied clients in 2021. With these lessons learned during the hard times, imagine how profitable the good times will be.
Linda M., lL
11. Make the most of slow seasons
In the last two years, my business has gone from 0 to 100. It has grown from being flat-Iined to vibrant. I’ve learned that opportunity is there you just have to keep pushing. Perseverance was my key word during this difficult time. I became more educated on my profession and more specialized in what I do. It’s all about growth!
Felicia H., TX
12. Automate where you can
How I have adapted my business now that travel is picking up, is by building more automation so that I can provide my clients with a more personalized experience to their destination. Making 100% sure that they have the most up to date information on entry requirements.
Austin F., ND
13. The power of teamwork
As soon as this horrible illness peaked its head out, I immediately called a team meeting knowing that it could capsize my Agency. My team stayed calm, became informed and created a procedure on how to handle our existing clients who may possibly want to cancel. We have already established such a great list of loyal clients that less than 3% of existing trips cancelled without rebooking. I honestly feel it is because we pulled together as a team before things got crazy.
I consistently stayed in the loop and up to date on the outcome of the pandemic and took advantage of how other countries were handling all of it. And last, I personally got out and traveled right away to see, domestic and international, where our clients would feel and be safe. I firmly believe that the growth in my Agency is due to the pandemic, it proved to our clients that under all pressure you can always rely on us. We established our team’s value, while larger places, like booking through a random place online, left others high and dry.
Sarah S., Florida
14. Travel always makes a comeback
The biggest thing that I have learned is that we all really want to travel. It has been crazy and frustrating but ultimately, people want to travel. We have to be honest and help our clients feel comfortable to keep their trust. As an agent, I have been through several trying times in the industry. We learn to be patient! Timing is everything. I have built a relationship with my clients over the years and earned their trust. Just stay true and honest and the clients appreciate that!
Chris R., IL