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Collette has been a key player in tourism for 102 years — which means the tour operator has overcome numerous challenges, from 9/11 and SARS to the global financial crisis in 2009. And, according to Jeff Roy, executive vice president of Collette, “the travel advisors and businesses that support tourism always find a way to innovate and come out stronger.”
Despite the coronavirus pandemic, Roy is confident that Collette and the travel industry will continue to prosper in the long run.
“Ultimately, people will always want to see the world, learn, interact with different people and experience different cultures,” he said. “The demand for these experiences will continue to grow.”
Below, Roy shares how the tour operator is navigating the current landscape and effectively supporting its advisor partners.
How is Collette adapting to the realities of tourism amid the coronavirus pandemic?We’ve been in business for 102 years, and, unfortunately, we’ve seen other trying events like these. We have taken those experiences from the past and applied them to today. That means we always ensure the utmost safety of our guests and employees, and we support our travel professionals and their unique challenges.
Collette has long operated a “cancel for any reason, money back, guaranteed” policy. What was the thinking behind this approach?When we developed this Travel Protection Plan back in 1989, we wanted to show both our guests and travel agents assurance every step of the way — with no blackout windows or hidden restrictions.
We instituted this policy as a way to protect the traveler; it’s easier for companies to issue vouchers, since the money will remain on the books. Instead, we’re handing that money back to the guest, right now.
How is Collette helping travel advisors through this predicament? We continue to focus on the relationships that advisors have made with their clients over many years. Now, more than ever, we want to provide flexibility for travelers who have been affected by any disruptions in their travel plans, which comes in the form of three options when we cancel a departure: We are giving clients options to receive a full cash-back refund; rebook with price protection for a departure later in 2020; or receive vouchers for travel through the end of 2021 valued at 105% of money paid, for both land and air.
We feel that these options eliminate friction between the travel professional and the guest. And to show our appreciation for their tireless efforts, we are offering agents an additional $50 booking bonus for those who do rebook.
Why is it more important than ever before that Collette prioritizes its relationship with advisors?We know that the travel market will return soon, and there will be an enormous demand for people to see the world. Advisors who have strong relationships with their customers will play a vital role in fueling the rebound.
We know that the travel market will return soon, and there will be an enormous demand for people to see the world. Advisors who have strong relationships with their customers will play a vital role in fueling the rebound.
It’s essential that we support our travel advisor partners in maintaining those relationships by having policies in place that put the advisor at the forefront of the customer experience.
Do you have any advice for advisors at this time?Like much of the industry, we really don’t know when guests will be able to travel. The one thing we know that advisors can focus on is their relationships. Our data from those trying events of the past has shown us that guests will rebook, and they will go back to the advisors and tour operators that stood by them during this challenging situation.
What’s next for Collette? We are continuing to monitor the guidance provided by the World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control and U.S. Department of State, among other public and private organizations we have partnerships with, in order to determine when we can safely resume travel in 2020.
Beyond that, we are maintaining strong two-way communication with our travel advisor partners, and we’re moving forward with product development plans and the release of our 2021 season.
Read more from TravelAge West about the COVID-19 outbreak.