Why use a Travel Advisor in 2021
I hope that you had a good week. Me, I had a great week. There was more information given out this week about the return to cruising this summer and there is a lot of excitement building up around it. Next week I will be out of town on Wednesday and Thursday as I will be attending not one, but two in-person Travel Advisor events in Melbourne and Port Canaveral.
This week (May 2 – 8) is National Travel and Tourism Week. Wednesday was National Travel Advisor Day. I thought that it would be fitting to do my newsletter this week on the value of using a Travel Advisor.
TRAVEL ADVISORS WERE THERE FOR CLIENTS WHEN THE WORLD SHUT DOWN
If you had a trip booked in 2020 and didn’t go through a Travel Advisor, you probably don’t need further convincing on this statement. When the world shut down, hold times were hours long and even the suppliers were trying to figure out how to handle things. Their call centers and accounting departments were not set up to handle the call volume and number of refunds or credits that needed to be issued.
During this time, clients had lots of questions. Questions about a refund, what was going to happen with future sailings, how long would credits be honored, etc. Travel Advisors got these answers for their customers, sometimes sitting on hold for hours ourselves.
Many Travel Advisors I know shared stories about how their clients were overseas when the world shut down. The Advisors were able to help their clients get home. Sometimes by routing them through several other countries before finally landing on American soil.
We were there to calm and reassure our clients when they needed it most.
IT’S LITERALLY THE TRAVEL ADVISORS JOB TO KEEP UP WITH TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS
This is a tough one right now for Travel Advisors. When travel restrictions are changing every day and sometimes even every hour, we need to stay on top of a lot of information.
Not only do we keep up with the restrictions in different countries and even states within the U.S., but we also stay on top of the travel restrictions imposed by our suppliers. What Royal Caribbean is doing in the Caribbean may be different from what Carnival or Norwegian are doing.
It’s the Travel Advisor’s responsibility to know all the restrictions to make sure that when you travel you have all the information and documents you need. This will ensure you are not turned away at a border or even worse, arrested for not following local guidelines.
TRAVEL ADVISORS HELP CLIENTS MAKE DECISIONS
Many times, a client comes to me and they want to take a cruise or go to a resort. They usually go on to tell me something like they want to go on a cruise over the summer to the Caribbean. That is as much as they have decided. If they don’t have a preferred cruise line they will ask me about the different cruise lines or just pick one because they have heard the name on TV or a referral of a friend.
I have had people come to me who want to take a family trip on Viking because their great aunt had a wonderful time on a river cruise last year. River cruising isn’t for everyone, especially when traveling with young kids. Most river cruises won’t allow customers under 12 to sail. The ships don’t have onboard activities for kids or some adults who are looking for an abundance of active actives.
And even those who already know where they want to go and what they want to do, don’t always know the questions to ask. I had a couple go on a cruise two years ago who needed a handicap room. They looked on the cruise line site and found the room they wanted me to book for them. That was all great until I asked if they had a wheelchair and what its width was. The room they picked out was handicap accessible but the door opening was two inches less than the width of the wheelchair. They let me find them another cabin.
We ask some of the less exciting questions that are important to the decision-making process to ensure that the client has the best possible vacation.
TRAVEL ADVISORS EXPERIENCE WHAT THEY CAN
Education is something that never ends for Travel Advisors. We are constantly experiencing the destinations and products we sell.
When we do cruises or go to all-inclusive resorts, it isn’t to be there to relax on a vacation. Most times, a resort will invite us to visit for two or three days. Each of those days we may be spending 4 to 6 hours taking tours, sitting in education sessions, and more so that we can learn everything we can about that resort. Then when a customer contacts us we have the information – firsthand.
When I have to sell somewhere I have not been, I will usually contact the resorts or hotels in the area or the visitor’s bureau, and see if there are online courses that will familiarize me with the area. Even places I have been like Key West, I go and re-research before sending a client so I can make sure they are getting the best options.
TRAVEL ADVISORS KNOW PEOPLE
Most Travel Advisors including myself are looking to build relationships with our customers. We are not looking for a one-time booking and then never hear from you again. We want to get to know you on that personal level so that when you are ready for your next trip, we can help you more because we know you.
Say you contact me to go on a family vacation at Disney World. As a Facebook friend, I always see you posting about giraffes. You even have a photo of your bedroom with giraffes on your bed, wallpaper, and stuffed animals. I am going to recommend that you stay at Animal Kingdom’s resort where you can watch the giraffe’s come up to a fence 10 feet from your room and snack on the trees every morning.
It is the little things like that which help put the icing on a vacation and having a Travel Advisor who will go above and beyond to learn things like that about you is the person you want on your side when booking a vacation.
TRAVEL ADVISORS PERSONALIZE SERVICE
We turn the unknown into the unforgettable. This is where knowing the customer and knowing the destination come together. It also goes beyond just putting the person in the perfect destination at the perfect time. This is where most of the behind-the-scenes work happens.
Some of you have heard this story before but I love telling this one. A couple of years ago a customer was coming home from vacation and they had a flight that was going to have a layover up north. There was a snowstorm at the connecting airport and they were not letting any flights go out.
People were landing and getting off the plane to find out they were stranded there overnight. There were no hotels or rental cars available. When my client got off the plane, they already had a text from me with their hotel reservation for the night. As soon as I found out the airport was closed to outgoing traffic, I was on the phone to make their reservation while they were still 30,000 miles in the air and two hours away.
TRAVEL ADVISORS SAVE TIME
Making travel arrangements is very time-consuming. To do that yourself you need to spend hours or even days researching the destination you are going to. You need to research travel restrictions. Research the best accommodations and activities. And so on.
By doing all this for you, a Travel Advisor gives you back hours or even days you would have had to spend doing all this research on your own.
We value your time and use the resources we have at our disposal to research for you.
TRAVEL ADVISORS SAVE MONEY
Travel Advisors typically build relationships with their suppliers. Through these relationships, we find out when the best sales are going on or we can get an extra perk or two for our customers from time to time. And sometimes we will throw in a little something extra to our valued customers (this is every customer I have).
Some advisors like myself belong to travel consortiums. They will take out group space on specific cruises or vacation packages. When they do that, we have that special pricing and the perks available to advisors.
SUPPORT SMALL BUSINESSES
Travel Advisors are small businesses. Most Travel Advisors will work either from home or in a small storefront. Even the storefronts only have a few advisors working for them.
Just like other businesses in your neighborhoods, we rely on the local community for our livelihoods. Most Travel Advisors do not have a national advertising budget or actively look for customers outside our local area. Most of our customers come from word-of-mouth referrals or by us being visible in the community.
I am part of the Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Club, Knights of Columbus, and involved with my son’s school. These sometimes generate customers for me, but they also give me a chance to support my community the way it is supporting me.