PHOTO: Downturns in business can be upsetting to travel agents, but there is hope on the horizon. (photo courtesy of Thinkstock)
Thanks to travel limitations set down by the new administration—whether they are challenged or not—times are a changin’ (and affecting the travel industry).
Some agents aren’t seeing any effect on their bottom line at all (yet?), while others are finding that business has been slowing a bit.
It doesn’t surprise Danielle Dougan of StudentUniverse, that there has been a slowdown.
“For the period January 27, 2017, (the day the travel ban was instated) through February 5, 2017, bookings from the UK to the US on studentuniverse.com were down 19%, year over year,” said the public relations manager.
“We see these types of peaks and valleys after a lot of major world events. Other examples would be Brexit and during the Zika outbreak, so it is not a huge surprise.”
Margie Lenau of Wonderland Family Vacations hasn’t had a downturn in business at all, but the destinations that her clients want have changed.
“My travel to Mexico has increased,” said Lenau. “That may be because I take the time to talk with my clients about the political climate that we see recently, and we discuss any concerns that they may have. Mexico has become a great value now, and you get a lot for your dollar. I have seen a slight decrease in travel to Europe, which I think may be [due to] the concern of remaining safe there.”
Some reports suggest that the travel industry is hurting right now because of the travel ban and other changes. Others show that the market remains hot, albeit different.
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Mary Catherine Sinkule Travel, an affiliate of Travel Experts, also isn’t experiencing a slump but said that she has strategies she implements if her business suddenly downturns:
“I usually promote a popular destination through social media, like Facebook and Instagram,” she said. “I get immediate feedback, and people will call me to book that destination.”
If you are a travel agent who has been hit hard by recent events, Sinkule advises you not to get discouraged.
“Our business comes in waves,” she said. “Keep your head up and keep promoting. Hard work does pay off. Try to upsell your existing clients or focus on your own travel for once. You do have to travel well in order to sell well.”
Greg Antonelle of MickeyTravels LLC said he has only had one recent cancellation, but otherwise business is fine.
“We are not seeing a downturn in business at all,” he said. “The only instance that we’ve had due to recent politics is that one of our international families of royalty (a Prince of a foreign country, which is an ally to the US) cancelled a vacation shortly after the election due to the political climate we’re now in. They claim they will rebook once things settle down a bit.”
Olga Leonetti, a travel professional with Travel the Skies, advises agents to use any downtime to reorganize.
“Preparing for downtime sometimes can be challenging to any business,” said Leonetti. “It gives me time to reorganize as to what has worked and what has not worked in the past year.”
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She also suggests being ahead of the curve: “Knowledge is key in the travel industry and keeping up with the changes is also very important,” said Leonetti.
“Know the products out there; Stay up-to-date on the new resort openings and changes to those that already are in place, and attend webinars and familiarization trips.”
When business is down, get out and push.
“Get out into the community through local events and trade shows,” Leonetti said. “Being a home-based travel agent, most times people do not know you even exist unless you get out there and present yourself and you can't always rely on word of mouth.”
Most importantly, Lenau said to reassure clients who might be getting skittish during a downturn.
“I have had clients ask about traveling during this time,” she said. “I reassure them that if their papers -- passport and government issued ID – are in order, they should be safe to travel. If they are still concerned, I recommend that they do not leave the USA.”
Nobody knows what will happen tomorrow, but agents can stay educated, prepared and active. There are always opportunities.