Editor's Letter: Requalifying Your Clients

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Have you noticed a wild variation in how your clients responded to COVID? Were there some who never stopped traveling and others who went into complete lockdown? The latter was probably the most typical reaction, but there is one thing you can count on when the world opens up again, and that is that each of your clients will have a different view of what they will tolerate in terms of proximity to other people.

In our cover feature, Justin Dolan of CTA Travel brings this very point up. “The new challenge for us as advisors will be to have conversations with our clients about what they would feel comfortable with on a trip and what they would feel uncomfortable with. We need to be sure that they’re really ready for what life is like on the ground when they’re traveling,” said Dolan. That means, he says, advisors will have to really press their clients for what they’ll feel comfortable with and what they will not tolerate on the road.

Ruthanne Terrero

Advisors will really need to double down on this because most of their clients will be so anxious to jump on a plane when the time comes that they might not be thinking of the minor things they endured before the pandemic. That could start with getting into a car with a driver they don’t know, sitting side by side with a stranger on an airplane, or having people bump into them in a crowded airport. Not exaggerating here, but this could be absolutely traumatic and a bit gross to those of us who have spent a year avoiding other humans. 

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As for hotels and cruises, it seems as if travelers have already calmed down quite a bit about hygiene protocols. They still want them, mind you, but they are assuming that such practices are being adhered to. If upon arrival they see staff donning face masks and adhering to other safety measures in place, such as temperatures being taken and hand sanitizer readily available, they’re likely going to feel perfectly comfortable throughout their trip.

At our roundtable in January, Laurie Palumbo of ID Travel Group said, “[Clients are] not asking for details. They want to know if they can cancel within 24 hours. They worry about that last-minute lockdown and losing their money.”

Olga Placeres of Preferred Travel of Naples echoed that sentiment, adding that changing the client’s mindset is a challenge. “They haven’t been out of their home, and we’re asking them to trust us to go out. That’s huge,” she said.

The best advice advisors can take is to let clients proceed at their own pace and let them find their own level of “normal.” The beauty is that luxury travel typically provides for lots of private space and carefully curated experiences. 

Stephanie Fisher of the Lake Forest Affiliate of Huffman Travel Ltd. predicts that moving forward, “Travel will be more personal, with elevated moments. I think there will be a split in what luxury means; one side will want to escape to wide-open areas, and others will be all about special moments connecting with others in incredible destinations. Each person has their own definition of luxury, and we as providers have to elevate those options to fit client’s perception.”

Well said. I suggest you start these conversations now, as winter will soon turn into spring and hopefully, the gates of the world again be open. But as we’ve learned by now, we need to take each step of the way sagely and with care so that in due course we’ll recapture one hundred percent of our freedom to travel.

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