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They say to never underestimate the power of positivity, and a number of travel advisors are living proof.
Like many advisors, Rachel Mooney of Changing Your Latitude Travel in Birmingham, Ala., saw what would have been a lucrative wave season come to a complete halt due to COVID-19. Rather than lament and focus on her losses, she connected with a local community group that provides homemade masks to those in need and began making personal protective equipment (PPE) from home.
“Once I saw COVID-19 would affect my business for a while — instead of just a couple weeks — I knew I needed something positive to do with my time,” she said. “The best thing when you are down is to serve others. I knew I needed to do more to keep me energized and my customer service high.”
Similarly, Nanci Ott of Tinker Travel in Pismo Beach, Calif., found a pattern for homemade masks on YouTube — one that uses, of all things, a disposable baking pan to form a nose piece — and has been making masks since early March. She has gifted them to friends, family, hospice workers, nursing home employees, grocery store workers and doctor’s offices, to name a few.
There is certainly an undercurrent of shifting priorities among the travel community as travel advisors — from independent travel planners to members of large travel management companies — use their skills in new ways during the pandemic.
The ripple effect? Travel professionals could help save thousands of lives in the interim. In fact, some advisors are directly assisting those who may be infected with COVID-19 — and doing so from the safety of their home offices.
The best thing when you are down is to serve others. I knew I needed to do more to keep me energized and my customer service high.
In an ingenious move, Travel Leaders Corporate has redeployed its corporate advisors to help residents of New York by scheduling COVID-19 tests. To keep from furloughing its staff, Travel Leaders partnered with AnswerNet, a 24/7 call center services company. Now, corporate advisors handle phone calls and emails from residents who feel they may have symptoms related to the novel coronavirus.
“Travel Leaders Corporate has always had a virtual workforce, working from their homes around the country. Because of this, it was simple for our travel advisors to take on this new role,” said Gabe Rizzi, president and chief sales officer of Travel Leaders Corporate. “Besides that, our corporate travel advisors are used to dealing with highly complex situations that need fast solutions, so this type of work is right in their wheelhouse.”
Los Angeles-based TravelStore has also kept from laying off or furloughing its staff while helping with COVID-19 relief efforts. Corporate and leisure advisors are now arranging hotel accommodations for front-line health care workers who may be exposed to the virus or who test positive for COVID-19 but do not require hospitalization. Health care workers, some of whom were sleeping in their cars after working back-to-back shifts, are able to safely and comfortably shelter in place without potentially exposing others to COVID-19.
RELATED: Thank Health Care Workers by Gifting Them Future Hotel Stays
TravelStore is a contracted travel management partner for the State of California and has booked more than 95,000 room nights in every county as part of this emergency program. More than 300 hotels have participated thus far.
“A lot of our agents feel a sense of pride in helping those who are helping others,” said Trudy Flores, senior vice president of Northern California operations at TravelStore. “We all feel that health care workers are putting their lives on the line, and we are doing our small part to try to get them some relief and recognize their hard work. It’s a very good feeling.”
Advisors who want to channel their energy into doing good and spreading positivity during the crisis can find entry points all over. Mooney of Changing Your Latitude Travel has recently started leading a twice-weekly exercise group in her backyard for neighbors at a safe distance. The goal is not only to burn calories but more importantly to raise spirits, laugh and benefit from a safe, tight-knit community.
While both Mooney and Ott of Tinker Travel know how to sew and own sewing machines, those aren’t requirements for helping provide homemade PPE. Mooney suggests that interested advisors look to see if their community has a face mask production group and contact them to see how they can help, from cutting T-shirts for mask ties or acting as a runner for errands.
“If you don't have sewing experience, you can find other ways to help during the pandemic,” Ott said. “Of all people, travel agents are wonderful phone conversationalists, and I think we would be great at checking in on others who are isolated, such as senior citizens or cancer patients. Going to the grocery store for someone in need is also very helpful and kind.”
Travel planners have always served their clients in creative ways, and it’s no surprise that they continue to reinvent themselves in these challenging times. It’s evident that through their thoughtful actions and refocused business models, the power of positivity is alive and well.
The DetailsChanging Your Latitude Travelwww.changingylt.com
Read more from TravelAge West about the COVID-19 outbreak.