With Coronavirus (CV) cases spreading into new countries daily, we are now well and truly in uncharted waters when it comes to the impact on the travel industry. So how can agents stay relevant and best navigate these dark times?
If I were to begin this piece with the latest update on which new countries and how many people had now been affected by CV, my story would already be out of date – even if you were reading the story just minutes after it’d been published.
Such is the tumultuous and unprecedented pace of this now global – yet still unconfirmed pandemic.
Looking and listening to our broader industry though, I would suggest that the latest outbreak and subsequent deaths in Italy last weekend, as a result, have ensured CV has now sadly founded and amplified a ‘European fear’ in many travellers minds here in Australia.
Tuning in to both our partners and you! Our awesome readers, it seems that in the last few days, travellers have quickly moved from ‘still going anyway’ or re-booking other destinations to ‘cancelling altogether’ and ‘putting a stop on travelling for now’.
It’s only natural. People are nervous. Fear is contagious, and no-one can (or should) give any guarantees or reassurances that things will be 100% fine when it comes to travelling overseas.
Because we really don’t know. No-one does if they are totally honest.
So what should you be doing right now as an agent? And how should you be handling your client’s enquiries and concerns?
Here’s 5 points that may help.
1. Be honest and transparent
Burying your head in the sand and pretending this isn’t happening is not going to be a beneficial short or long-term strategy.
But being mindful and upfront about what’s going on and keeping your clients informed is.
Make sure you are communicating up to date information and tips for your client’s to stay abreast of the travel impact of CV. Utilising www.smarttraveller.gov.au is a great starting point.
Make sure this (updated daily) content is on your website, social media and all of your communications. As I mentioned above, use the big news channels as your guide given the pace of change to stay on top of it.
This is the time to connect and cement your trust with your clients and show them how much you do care about their well-being and the bigger picture. If people aren’t travelling anyway or are feeling nervous about it, you want to be in the conversation now to help them for when they are ready to go again.
While I was researching this story, I was disappointed to find hardly any retail or mobile travel websites that had dedicated space for addressing the travel implications of CV.
No-one has all the answers – but you do have a fundamental duty of care to inform your clients of what they need to know.
2. Share your Coronavirus policies
Following on from the above point, it’s imperative that you pro-actively outline your cancellation and re-booking policies etc. with existing and potential clients.
Highlight insurance policies and make sure they are clear and easy to read and not just additional terms and conditions tucked away that you’ll need a microscope to read.
You should be up to speed with all of your supplier policies too and ideally speaking to them regularly to get a feel for what the current status is on operations and what they are experiencing.
So much has changed from a product perspective and continues to do so continually so staying on top of it again, gives you a market advantage.
Suppliers are doing it tough too remember, so this is an opportunity to help each other and share valuable insights and information as the situation changes.
3. Promote different destinations, routes and alternatives
Sounds obvious, but the fact is, many of us still need to travel for a variety of reasons, and of course, we all still need a good holiday.
Time to get creative and offer alternative solutions. No, online can’t do that, and I don’t recall a search engine ever showing any ’empathy’ for my fears, whims and desires when I’ve been searching to book an alternative trip.
Why not ‘Holiday here this year!, Shoot across the ditch to New Zealand to say “Good Morning World!” or become a Bulanaire in Fiji or the South Pacific? There are still so many fantastic places to go closer to home.
Take the hassle and worry out of people’s hands and again get on the front foot. Use Social Media or your e-newsletters to advertise different options for now while remaining vigilant of the changing landscape.
4. Remember – Nothing is forever
You must stay top of mind with your clients old and new throughout this tough period so that you can kick back in when the bounce begins.
And there will be a bounce. We just don’t know when at this point.
While bookings may be down right now and changes and cancellations up, it’s imperative to stay positive and know that this isn’t forever.
Make sure you are looking after yours and your colleagues’ mental health through this time and are sharing your frustrations and worries with workmates and those closest to you.
5. You’re a Travel Advisor – Be the expert!
We’ve all been banging on about it for years – and that’s why Travel Advisors are so much better than booking online. Of course!
Need we remind you… 7 Reasons Why You Should Never Book With a Travel Agent 😉
So here’s your chance to be human and shine again, take a leadership stance and gift the professional advice and empathy that will help ease people’s fears and give them the confidence back they need when it comes to travelling.
You, your personality and expertise are the reason you exist as an agent remember. And its why you love what you do and why your clients love you for it.
Time to start navigating your way through this mess with grace, style and care for others.
You’ve got this. And we’re with you all the way.
Want to share any of your recent experiences with us or let us know your tips and success stories? Email us at [email protected]
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