The coronavirus pandemic has put the travel industry, including travel advisors, into a tailspin. Tour operators and cruise lines have either suspended or delayed sailings and operations, hotels are shutting their doors, and travelers have, due to the travel bans being imposed around the world to stop the spread of the virus, hit pause on their travel plans. So we wanted to know whether travelers had completely abandoned their planned vacations or were taking a wait and see approach and simply rescheduling.
With that in mind, we reached out to our Facebook travel advisor followers with this question: “As a travel advisor, how are you dealing with the coronavirus crisis? Are clients rescheduling or are they canceling outright?”
The good news is that although there are many cancellations, it looks like for many of you—we heard from travel advisors as far away as Egypt (even Italy)—clients are hoping they’ll be able to go on with their vacation plans later in the year.
Clarissa Ojeda, a travel advisor with the Cruise Planners network, says most of her clients are “rescheduling. Not ONE cancellation.” She adds that, “Travel equates to hope, so people seem to want to reschedule hope and happiness now more than ever. Maybe we were lucky but zero cancellations here, just reschedules. Shocked.”
Rita Fitzpatrick, dive travel specialist at Dive Travels, says her clients are rescheduling. “Knock on wood.” And she’s also seeing bookings coming in: “Many people are calling to book for the later half of the year! It’s crazy!”
Advisors are setting their sights on the future. “We are promoting fall and winter travel for 2020. For summer travel only after 4th of July,” says Amanda Joy, owner of Vacation Life.
Stacey Singleton Cabell, owner of Starstuff Travel, adds, “We have had some clients want to take advantage of deals going on now who booked for later in the year. I am confident people will need something to look forward to after this horrific situation. When they do, many will book with a travel agent because they will now understand the value we bring to the table. We have to weather the storm to enjoy the rainbow.”
Noel Reitz, travel advisor with Uniglobe Love to Travel, says she had just finished rescheduling a big Hawaii trip, but that many of her clients are either cancelling, taking future trip credits, or just taking the loss. However, while responding to another advisor in the Facebook page, she adds, “I think once this is over people will be so ready to go.”
“Showing how we can help them in challenging times is one of the ways we shine with our clients. After this is over, they’ll come back with greater appreciation and
eager to travel again.” — Susan Farewell, owner of Farewell Travels.
Wait & See
Some travelers seem to be taking a wait and see approach. Says travel advisor Christine Cribari Tribble, they’re “mostly holding steady, but some cancellations. Many of my bookings for May/June are waiting.”
“I am advising [them] to monitor the situations in their destination and if they wish to not go, then to reschedule. One important thing is to never make them feel pressured to go,” points out Lynn Mohr, owner of Elite Vacations Paradise. “It’s their personal decision and their right to change their mind based on their personal wishes. No one is wrong, especially in times like these. Some feel safe, others do not. Providing facts from reliable sources is key so they are able to make informed decisions. So far rescheduling has been the option of choice.”
Janis Marie with Sol Journey Travel is also monitoring the conditions for her clients. “I have clients traveling in June to Greece so definitely monitoring the situation and keeping my clients up to date with what’s happening. Taking it day by day so far.”
“Our top priority is to do whatever it takes to take care of our clients,” points out Susan Farewell, owner of Farewell Travels. “Those who were traveling are now home. Those who were about to leave stayed home. For those who are supposed to travel in coming months, we are staying calm and providing them with their options. For all of our clients, we are doing everything we can to protect them, their money and their travel dreams.”
Ylenia Sambati, luxury travel advisor in Italy with YLTOUR DMC, says she’s “Encouraging to postpone or reschedule with open dates and very flexible cancellation policy.”
The current circumstances have caused families to take a pause before deciding how to proceed with the travel plans for their family. “We specialize in family travel so we have had many cancellations due to the fear of the unknown, but just as many rescheduling because they know they will be pent up for week and need that vacation,” says Singleton Cabell.
I am confident people will need something to look forward to after this horrific situation. When they do, many will book with a travel agent because they will now understand the value we bring to the table. We have to weather the storm to enjoy the rainbow.
— Stacey Singleton Cabell, owner of Starstuff Travel
“Most of mine in a holding pattern and making decisions as it gets within 30 days,” says Lisa Wood Rossmeisslm, owner of Boomerang Escapes. “Those making changes are moving dates out. Only one cancelled, but with FTC and she already said she and her husband will always use me.”
Mena Travel’s manager Eddie de Mena says he’s experienced both cancellations and rescheduling and is thinking outside the box. “We are offering an incentive to purchase a gift certificate for future travel and we are adding an additional 10 percent in the hopes of generating some business and future bookings.”
Claire Maguire, president of Island girl Travel Vacations, a Cruise Planners Affiliate, says, “I am proactively reaching out to all my vendor partners and BDMs to make sure I have tools and options to incentivize my clients to rebook for later dates.”
“Everyone is keeping the hope and cancelling the last-minute necessary. Best part is all my partners [are] working with me so clients don’t lose $$,” says Lauren Raps, founder of Travel Prospect.
In Egypt, Hisham el Sebai, a travel advisor in Egypt with Egitalloyd Travel, says travelers are seeking out flexibility. “Clients are postponing or rescheduling with open dates until March 2021.”
Paul Krause, a franchise owner with Cruse Planners, says most of his clients are cancelling up to April 11 “when the cruise lines come back. Doing a wait and see for after that.”
Michael Cancel Dargan, meanwhile, says he’s had some cancel cruises for this summer and booked land trips to Jamaica instead.
Tracy Allen said her clients are also cancelling, “but with the non-refundable fare. They are planning to reschedule once this all passes.” She adds that, “It’s hard to advise to reschedule when no one knows what will happen in the future.”
“Most or our clients are just taking FCC and waiting for things to stabilize,” agrees travel advisor Douglas Godin.
Tera Dawn Hunt with Scotland Travel Insider says she’s had some cancel and some postpone, “but I’m confident the ones who are cancelling will rebook.”
However, many travelers have had to cancel completely due to the uncertainty of the situation. Just ask Misty Griffin, owner and CEO of Griffin Worldwide Destinations, who says her clients are “cancelling. With a couple or so rescheduling. The unknown first two weeks, then 30 days, then 60…it’s an uncertainty. Plus, people need the extra funds because they are not going to be working.”
“Mine have cancelled altogether,” adds Thelma Mendieta, travel designer and honeymoon planner with The Little Getaway Travel Agency. Who adds that she’s only had “one reschedule. I now have no [one] traveling until July 10.”
A travel advisor with Inside Europe, Travel Better Together, says, “We specialize in specialty journeys for affinity groups, including choirs, with the majority of travelers multi-gen, many families, lots of students, and with trips being planned for almost two years in advance for April and June. Italy was our #1 destination, followed by Spain. It is heartbreaking!”
For more information on this fluid situation, visit Recommend’s Coronavirus Updates Center at recommend.com/coronavirus.