Brexit Presents Hidden Opportunities for Travel Agents

The upheaval over the Brexit vote allows travel agents to demonstrate their expertise By: Kenneth Shapiro
Shapiro // © 2016 TravelAge West
Shapiro // © 2016 TravelAge West

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My wife was traveling in Europe on a girls’ getaway with family members during the recent Brexit vote. Right after the vote, the women were in France, and the chef of the restaurant they were eating in was being oddly rude to the group. Finally, he said something about Brexit, and my wife told him that they were American travelers, not British. The chef was immediately kinder to the group and sheepishly apologized for his mistake.

There are a lot of unknowns about the vote — including, apparently, hurt feelings throughout the rest of Europe. Most of the official comments we are hearing from industry groups run along the lines of “it’s too early to see how this might affect travel.”

“Like all in the industry, the American Society of Travel Agents [ASTA] is monitoring the evolving story out of the U.K. in order to best understand the implications to our overall industry and, more specifically, both short- and long-term implications to our U.S. travel agency members,” said Mark Meader, vice president of industry affairs for the organization. “ASTA continues to monitor the situation and its potential ripple effect and will continue to advocate for and keep our members informed where warranted.”

At a recent industry event, Brexit was a hot topic. The prevailing wisdom seems to be that, in the short run, the falling value of the pound should inspire U.S. travelers to visit the U.K. However, one tour operator I spoke with said his company is being inundated with calls from worried travelers, some of whom want to change their European vacation plans simply because they don’t like the uncertainty.

For a travel agent, uncertainty can be an opportunity. If clients are not sure what to expect from an upcoming trip, agents can provide valuable insight and expertise. That’s one reason why it’s imperative for you to stay up-to-date on current events — following the news, checking in with suppliers and networking with fellow agents.

Brexit might be wreaking havoc with the government, economy and social norms in the U.K., but as long as Americans want to visit, there’s a good chance they are going to need some extra hand-holding by agents. And that should be just fine with you.