A career as a travel advisor can be a dream come true. You’re selling the world, learning about new destinations daily, interacting with fascinating clients and forging strong friendships with those who you meet on the road, at conferences and on familiarization trips. If you’re truly successful, you get to experience the best places firsthand and learn the nuances of one luxury hotel from another and one beautiful cruise ship from the next.
Not every day is a dream, as we know all know. Simple severe weather patterns can ruin the perfect travel itinerary and a global pandemic can bring virtually all travel to a halt.
Daunting, yes, but travel advisors have overcome many challenges in the past and come out on the other side better than ever. “Travel advisors are experts at finding solutions,” says Michael Johnson, Executive Vice President of Travel Edge Leisure. “They confront one problem after another every single day, solve each of them and move onto the next one. What travel professionals have always done on a daily basis has actually served as the perfect preparation for this moment in time.” He acknowledges that the current COVID-19 crisis presents an entirely new set of problems requiring unique solutions, but he’s confident advisors will see it through. “The will, the creativity and the hard work of my industry colleagues will meet this challenge,” says Johnson.
First Steps to Recovery
But where to even begin when clients can’t even leave their homes, and borders to international destinations are closed?
Johnson advises that travel advisors must strategize for financial survival before everything else. Participate in government relief programs and then begin looking within the industry for other avenues of support.
Travel companies have also stepped up in big ways making investments within the travel community for Independent Contractors including Travel Edge, who launched this week a $50 million investment fund for IC’s looking to join their network – this limited time signing bonus can pay up to 35% of 2019 commissions.
“Without revenue coming in, every business has to figure out how to bridge this time period to keep their operations running,” says Johnson. “Travel Edge created this signing bonus as a lifeline during our industry’s darkest time.”
Next step, after cancelling trips, waiting on hold to speak to suppliers and consulting with clients constantly on what the status of their refunds is, Johnson says this is a great time for travel advisors to use any down time to focus on themselves and retool their business. “Good advisors focus on their clients” Johnson says, “great advisors maintain balance by focusing on their clients and constantly improving their offering – be it their business model or engaging in opportunities for professional development.”
Reach Out and Stay in Touch
Above all, step up the communication! Your first impulse might be to crawl under the covers and hide, but instead, rise up and reach out to your advisors, suppliers and, of course, your customers.
“Right now, travel advisors should pick up the phone and ask every client how they are faring with their families during this quarantine period,” says Johnson. He says this is not necessarily about selling the next trip, but more about taking a moment to check in, human to human.
“This is also an opportunity to better develop your knowledge and skills around domestic luxury experiences and products; and speak with clients about trips they can plan for closer to home. The art of dreaming is an important part of these conversations. We are seeing the fruits of this conversations already as clients have begun booking for 2021 and 2022.”
In fact, Johnson says that if there is one positive result to come from this difficult era it’s that we’ll all have relearned the art of speaking to each other again.
Revamp Your Knowledge Base
Mary Kleen, Director of Advisor Services at Travel Edge, has years of experience in the travel advisor industry and notes that the best travel advisors match those of the most effective businesspeople in every industry. “The best advisors are those who stick to a work structure and optimize their time to always produce the best results,” says Kleen.
In fact, this down time is the ideal time frame to craft a new sales and marketing strategy in the new world we’re about to re-enter. Take some of the many webinars being offered by suppliers and agency groups, advises Kleen. “Travel Edge has pivoted from our strong community investment with regional supplier training and development opportunities to full virtual programming – including a focus on how to best use this time to re-think the way advisors can approach their business and their clients moving forward.
More than anything, be sure your host agency is one that respects the experience, relationships and skills of their travel advisor members.
“Expert agents are at the heart of any agency – and part of the unique DNA of Travel Edge’s travel offer,” says Johnson. “We’ve built an agency totally focused on providing the industry’s best tools and support to independent contractors. We believe the DNA of a modern luxury travel company involves these 3 elements: Preferred Access, Premium Technology and belonging to a Passionate Community.
Add to those elements the opportunity to earn an industry leading signing bonus and Travel Edge believes it is setting a new standard in luxury travel. “We are excited about the future of travel and investing in it. Together we can make a luxury travel company for the future.”