The coronavirus pandemic threw a wrench into the travel plans of everyone and left many travel advisors without their main source of income.
Many of Travel Experts’ advisors had to get creative and are reporting that they are stronger after the pandemic.
One of the ways they survived was to keep in close contact with clients, but a good amount of advisors made long-lasting changes.
"I think the biggest changes we made this year is we established strong terms and conditions, including cancellation policies and letters of agreement," said Jolene Detillion of Your Travel Designer, Seattle. "Last October, we started doing a series of panel discussions with preferred partners as a guest panelist. These are exclusive of our clients only and not sales focused but a way to keep people interested and dreaming of travel and also up to date on what is going on in the world as it pertains to the current state of travel."
Other travel advisors started new businesses.
Debbie Dos Santos of Journeys, Yacht & Travel in Alpharetta, Georgia, took the downtime during the pandemic to start a luxury travel candle company called The Traveling Wick. Dos Santos now plans to keep this side company running to complement her luxury travel business.
"If people can’t travel to their favorite destinations, I will bring it to them," said Dos Santos. ”Scent is a perfect sense to create emotion and bring the entire experience to people."
Stacy Small from Elite Travel International in Maui also started something new. Small opened a gluten-free, vegan cookie business.
"I put my therapeutic baking habit into a higher gear and launched StacyMauiCookies, inclusive of a website, online shipping, a commercial kitchen and local accounts on Maui," Small said. "This took a lot of my time and energy and attention during the pandemic, and was a really fun and healthy way to share some joy with anyone needing it."
She also put her healing and wellness services online, offering reiki energy healing and spiritual coaching at www.stacymaui.com/healing.
Christopher Koch of CK Global Travel in Cary, North Carolina added a new credential obtaining his real estate broker license.
"With this synergistic relationship, I’m able to leverage the relationships with my existing clients and new real estate clients as well as with my travel supplier partners, said Koch. “The fact that I am able to receive commissions, as well as referral fees worldwide, has changed the dynamics of my travel business model going forward.”
Margot Kong of Journeys Unparalleled in San Francisco took her travel business virtual.
"In April 2020 we started offering virtual tours. These range from culinary lessons to live-streamed tours led by guides in-destination to educational and cultural seminars led by historians or art experts,” said Kong. “It keeps Journeys Unparalleled top-of-mind in the eyes of our clients, and helps our travelers remain hopeful.”
Kong also changed the way that she markets to her clients, pivoting to more domestic travel promotions versus international destinations.
Jeffrey Traugot of Traugot Travel in New York City has kept in touch with clients to keep his business going.
"I have kept business alive by checking in with clients and being more understanding about clients’ concerns and needs. I have become more responsive, more proactive, and more knowledgeable about travel requirements and restrictions."
Renee Taylor of Renee Taylor Travel in Searcy Arkansas said the pandemic was helpful in some ways.
“It forced me to look at the way that I have conducted business in the past,” she said. “Being in a small town, I have always conducted business in good ole handshake agreement fashion. I never stayed consistent in getting forms signed to protect myself or my business. With the valuable resources that I found through my host agency and organizations like ASTA, CLIA, etc., I was able to hire a travel attorney to have a complete Terms & Conditions agreement drawn up."
Taylor noted that Travel Experts helped provide new technology to make these agreements easy to use.
"Travel Experts helped their ICs to sign up with a free E-signature website to easily collect signatures for the terms and conditions as well as securely collect billing information from my clients. All of this plus a new look at restructuring the way I work with my clients has been a great help to me going forward,” she said.
Many advisors have sought out training or changed the focus of their businesses.
"I’m trying to narrow the products I want to sell when everything opens up again, so I've participated in more training with particular travel partners via webinars and Zoom calls," said Elaine Carey of Travel Expert in the Pines in Whispering Pines, North Carolina.
Jeanie Colclough of Riveting Trips in Los Gatos, California, has been learning more.
"I’m focused more on training and learning about marketing and travel partners and also focusing on the ideal client of someone who wants more slow and immersive travel," said Colclough.
Eileen Anderson of Journeys Afar in Raleigh, North Carolina said: "Given the gift of time, I was able to invest in myself with educational webinars, professional networking, updating my blog more regularly. I also rebooted my business with more efficient accounting practices and adopted a work flow platform to streamline client communications."
For some, the pandemic has allowed them to grow their businesses.
"I have grown my client base 13 percent since the start of the pandemic,” said Claire Saunders of Where Next Adventures, Austin, Texas. “I attribute the growth to emails I have sent to clients and potential clients keeping them up-to-date on travel restrictions, re-openings, COVID testing requirements, etc."