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The excitement is building. We are at the starting line for what (we hope) will be our own version of the Roaring Twenties, and economic prosperity awaits those who persevered the drought. The starting line judge is shouting, “Are you ready?”
So, from a legal sense, are you?
We have all had time to dust off and button up our booking terms. We have created new marketing ideas and have found a new love for domestic travel (and some of the more friendly foreign lands!).
But today, I’m writing about lessons we need to apply to our businesses as we prepare for the post-COVID-19 realities of travel.
Simply put, travel will be different.
From a travel advisor’s perspective, the difference is easy to spot. A whirlwind of change is happening on a near daily basis, and advisors need to be on top of it.
Here are my top lessons for travel advisors conducting business in a post-COVID-19 world.
No longer should you start your mornings just watching network television; rather, you need a daily morning dose of industry news and to be aware of what’s happening in our world.
If you haven’t already, sign up for daily blasts of industry data. After all, clients can reasonably expect you to be up to date with what’s happening.
However, being up to date on the news doesn’t make you a clairvoyant. So, your booking terms need to include a COVID-19 reminder that, despite all of the best planning, the trip might not go as one expects. Services offered by suppliers still vary drastically.
Perhaps even more concerning is the fact that suppliers are constantly changing the rules — temperature checks, possible vaccination mandates and rules about mask wearing can change on a dime. You need to tell your clients to be nimble and expect the unexpected. Travelers can be denied entry by a supplier (a theme park, for example) and then what? When they call you to complain, you can remind them that they needed to be prepared for the unexpected.
Recently, a traveler got “stuck” in Antigua because she tested positive for COVID-19, and the hotel would not let her leave. Feeling worried, her family chartered a jet for a medical evacuation for $33,000 to bring her home to the U.S. Did she have a travel protection plan? No.
Another lesson: Strongly urge the purchase of the broadest form of coverage available. Written declinations of travel insurance are now a must. Coming home to the U.S. is not as easy as it has been, so you need to advise all travelers going out of the U.S. that they may be barred from re-entry — and that the added travel costs will be borne by them.
Advisors are in the business of recommending and, up until now, most of us felt comfortable doing so. But now, there are new obvious questions to expect. Among them: “Should we go on a cruise?” “Do you think it is safe to go on a plane?” “What is the air quality in the hotel?”
Please don’t fall head-first into this trap and guarantee a client’s safety. Be savvy. After all, how do you really know the answer? Encouraging travel is understandable. Selecting and offering suppliers that have published new safety standards seems like a good decision. But remember, you can’t guarantee safety. The cruise industry, our great partners, are battling back and will be ready to welcome throngs of passengers. So, pass on that industry data to the potential traveler. If you have personally traveled, you can share your experiences with a cautionary note — after all, it may not be the same for the traveler.
And finally, of all the lessons learned in the COVID-19 refund free-for-all, we definitely know that we need more transparency on the financial side of trip planning. Share the supplier’s terms with the traveler.
Be sure to charge a nonrefundable planning and service fee (and have the client agree in advance to the fee), and continue to accept credit cards, but be more focused on written authorizations for each charge. After all, your customer is your friend until there is a battle for a refund.
The starting line judge has just fired the starting line pistol – Go! It’s time to get back to work.
Jeffrey Ment currently works as a travel law attorney and previously worked as a travel advisor, airline sales manager and tour guide. For more than 27 years, he has represented individuals and companies in the travel industry.Have a question for Jeffrey? Send an email to [email protected]
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