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In a guest column in this issue, Ethan Gelber, director of editorial for the Family Travel Association (FTA), discusses the importance of safety on a family vacation (see “Encouraging Safe and Healthy Family Travel,” page 8). As he points out in the story, travel agents can play a key role in assisting families and ensuring they are planning for various scenarios. I would go even further and suggest that, these days, one of the most significant functions of all travel agents should be to help clients overcome concerns about all the things that can potentially go wrong on the road.
The FTA recently published a report that asked travel experts to weigh in on what the organization calls the “new travel climate.”
“What is any traveler, but especially traveling families, to do in a travel environment where more and higher travel obstacles are shuttering borders that were once open, and where an overarching sense of negativity is making people think twice about leaving home?” the special report asked.
The responses to this question were generally pessimistic. Most felt that families, in particular, are going to need reassurance before they consider an international trip.
This type of reaction is not limited to families, though. A recent poll by Virtuoso found that 40 percent of travel advisors say clients are avoiding certain destinations due to concerns over terrorism. In fact, Virtuoso was one of the first travel organizations to introduce the term “VUCA,” which stands for “volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous,” as a means of describing potential travel disruptions caused by geopolitical situations.
Perhaps more than ever, travelers need to feel like they have an advocate on their side. This is a role that clearly favors travel agents over impersonal OTAs. Agents need to step up to the challenge and be models of professionalism in an increasingly chaotic world.