Advisor Intel: Stronger on the Other Side

The virtual voyages that have been created by destinations, hotels, tour operators, attractions, and the like have been stunning, but armchair travel can only appease travelers’ thirst for new adventures for so long. Your clients are chomping at the bit to step out of their homes and explore the world again, but there’s going to be a new travel landscape when they do. We went to you—the ones at the frontline—to see what you envision will be the new normal in travel & tourism. 

Susan Farewell

As travel advisors, your design skills and connections are gold, but you’ll have to up your game. You’ll have clients asking about small islands and destinations you may never have heard of. Charging and collecting your  design/management fee up front is more important than ever. Put a big—but fair—price on your expertise, your value, and you’ll have grateful clients worth keeping. 
–Susan Farewell, Owner, Farewell Travels

We’ve heard from multiple travel advisors that clients aren’t outright cancelling, rather they are postponing and already rebooking—destination weddings, cruises, all-inclusive stays, to destinations that offer adventures in the great outdoors. Says Susan Farewell, owner of Farewell Travels, “People want trips to look forward to (even if it’s a year and a half from now). I also think clients will get more involved in research (because they have the time right now) and many will work more collaboratively with travel advisors (as they lack the confidence and ultimately want us to make the decisions for them, as well as do the actual bookings).”  

Kim Goldstein

You will see a variety of buffet options disappear and food will be handled by gloved staff vs. guests. And I also think many clients will take a closer look at purchasing travel insurance. to help ensure their trip even though many policies don’t cover epidemics. 
–Kim Goldstein, President/Travel Consultant, Journeys Travel

Kim Goldstein, president/travel consultant, Journeys Travel, agrees with Farewell when it comes to how the COVID-19 crisis has affected the advisor/client relationship. “Clients are understanding the true value of travel advisors,” she says. “I have many clients texting me saying, ‘Thank you for holding my hand during this time,’ and thanking me for finding the best option for them given the circumstances.” 

Lauren Doyle

Clients will need more flexibility so they can book now with confidence. I think a huge change we will see is more relaxed cancellation and/or change policies with airlines. I also think that better health guidelines will be better communicated throughout hotels, airlines and cruises.” 
–Lauren Doyle, Executive Vice President,
The Travel Mechanic

With that in mind, it comes as no surprise that Lauren Doyle, executive v.p., The Travel Mechanic, points out that “Clients will need more flexibility so they can book now with confidence. I think a huge change we will see is more relaxed cancellation and/or change policies with airlines. We have already started seeing that happen, but I think it will continue.

“I also think that better health guidelines will be better communicated throughout hotels, airlines and cruises. I think clients will demand it and the supplier will be more transparent on their practices. We want to know how in-depth airlines clean the aircraft between legs and we want to know some better travel health tips for going on cruise lines, for example.” 

“I think we will see masks on planes and health checks at security lines,” adds Danna Kimpel, travel consultant at Always Travel with Danna, with Tammy Estes, owner/operator of Estes Consultant of Travel, adding that “Cruises and TSA security will start doing very specific health tests, not just taking a traveler’s word for it.”

Specific to hotels and resorts, Goldstein notes that “You will see a variety of buffet options disappear and food will be handled by gloved staff vs. guests. I also hope to never see a drinking glass being washed in a sink with sudsy water again at a bar.” And, she adds, “I think many clients will also take a closer look at purchasing travel insurance to help ensure their trip, even though many policies don’t cover epidemics.” 

Travel Plans on the Horizon

Kimpel did a poll of a few of her clients and what she heard was that “Domestic cruises on smaller ships are a go, massive ships are out. Theme parks will be a go if they feel the park is putting their health first. Other than theme parks, my clients are looking for family trips closer to home in lesser populated areas.” 

Staying close to home was a recurring comment among travel advisors, with Donna Adinolfi, founder/wellness travel expert and consultant at Mindful Adventures, pointing to drive-to resorts and road trips that include national parks with limited entry. In fact, Stacey Singleton Cabell, owner/travel planner at Starstuff Travel, says that her agency is “catching up on training on domestic locations, including national parks, cabin/lake rentals, beach rentals.”

Once travelers feel more confident and more comfortable getting on a plane, travel advisors point to Mexico/Caribbean as one of the first areas to attract visitors. That, says Eddie de Mena of Mena Travel, will be followed by “Europe, then cruises. Cruises will be heavily discounted with great promos enticing people to board and they will.” Lora Lee Arent Wes, travel consultant with Design a Trip Travel, says that she thinks “river cruises will become more popular over the cruise ships.”