The world is in a much better place than it was a year ago and travel is certainly approaching much better times; however, after checking in with luxury travel advisors I found that their upbeat mentality these days is coupled with a strong dose of burnout.
International travel has returned, but the industry is still recovering. Many advisors are grappling with a constant flow of flight changes or cancellations that destroy complex itineraries in a heartbeat. Some suppliers are now very slow to come back with answers to simple questions. Hold times on some supplier help lines are hours and hours long (one advisor reports falling asleep well into the night after being on hold forever, only to accidentally disconnect the call when she finally heard a human voice on the other end of the line).
Add to that the many questions at hand. Can you enter the U.K. after a week in Greece? What if the gate agent during your clients’ transfer flight mistakenly decides they don’t have the proper COVID documentation to board the plane? What if one vaccinated person in your party tests positive when trying to re-enter the U.S.? Does that mean everyone has to quarantine for two weeks before heading home?
All this is not only creating angst for advisors, it’s giving their clients the jitters and some of them are canceling the plans they couldn’t wait to make a few weeks ago.
It’s not all grim, of course. Many advisors report they’re making money again, with last-minute vacations and rebounding business travel. Some have hired new advisors and assistants so they don’t have to take this all on themselves.
I asked travel advisors what they are doing to avoid burnout during these uneven times. One said she is setting serious boundaries with clients; asking bluntly if they are prepared for this new travel landscape where everything might not be up to expectations because of labor shortages. Do they have the patience to deal with changes and even the unknown in some cases? Another said she and her team are not taking any last-minute bookings because that just adds to the stress. Another agency is no longer taking on FIT bookings in 2021 — no matter what the profit — because it can’t guarantee clients the levels of service they are used to.
Owners and managers still need to keep their staff’s mental health in check, as well. Celebrate the wonderful feedback from those clients who have traveled successfully; their elation over the small wonders you performed for them will be contagious with your team. Continue to focus on their well-being and encourage them to focus on self-care. Enjoy the beautiful moments of summer and know that the revenue will return in abundance. The new COVID variants will soon be resolved and the human spirit’s desire to travel knows no bounds. Suppliers will staff up again (who doesn’t want to work in the travel industry?). And, for an absolute boost, take every opportunity you can to meet up in real life with colleagues as we recently did at our ULTRA Summit in San Antonio.