Travel advisors know that it is easier to sell a destination or a hotel once they have seen it themselves. And the value of an in-person experience is even greater during trying times like these, according to several travel advisors who recently visited Mexico from the U.S.
The goal for the five advisors, all of whom visited major Mexican resort destinations within the past couple of months, was simple: to educate themselves about the realities of travel during the pandemic, so that they can better serve the needs of their clients.
“I need to convey to my clients what to expect with firsthand knowledge,” said Donna Alkarmi, president of Lone Star Travel in McKinney, Texas, who checked into the Live Aqua Cancun in late June. “I was getting so many mixed messages about what people were seeing. I needed to go down there so I can report intelligently to my clients about what’s going on.”
Ashley Morris, owner of Alpaca Your Bags Travel in Kansas City, Mo., arranged a stay at Atelier Playa Mujeres, just north of Cancun, on a similar fact-finding mission.
“My goal was to observe the guest experience from beginning to end so I am better equipped to help my clients through the recent changes,” she said. “During my trip, I visited properties to identify the changes that are being made for guests. I also secured an in-person interview with American Airlines to board the plane early and learn more about their cleaning and safety procedures. As a leader in the destination wedding industry, I knew that I wanted to be among the first to travel. As a business owner, I feel a personal obligation to ‘test the waters’ for my clients.”
As a business owner, I feel a personal obligation to ‘test the waters’ for my clients.
What They Looked for on Their Trips
All of the interviewed advisors paid close attention to every aspect of the travel experience, including flights and arrival. That way, they could advise their clients about practices such as temperature checks at the airports and the additional form that arriving passengers must now complete about their health and travel history.
At the hotels, the advisors experienced the “new normal” for guests, which includes sanitizing luggage and shoes, and receiving hand sanitizer and face masks — although masks are only required for staff.
“Check-in was almost entirely touchless and very easy to navigate,” Morris said. “Every employee was wearing a mask or a face shield, depending on his or her specific job role. In my room, I found a large spray bottle of hand sanitizer, a disposable mask and sanitizing wipes. My butler was extremely well trained and adapted his room orientation to show me the features without touching anything.”
Jay Islam, CEO of Grand Travel and Cruise in Houston, was surprised by how enjoyable his recent stay was at Grand Fiesta Americana Los Cabos All Inclusive Golf & Spa and Breathless Cabo San Lucas Resort & Spa.
When I first arrived at the resort and saw the care that everyone was taking, I am not ashamed to admit that I cried.
“My hotel experience was better than pre-pandemic,” he said. “We did not have to wait for anything; there were no lines for anything at all. The destination and resorts have implemented a complete safety protocol, which made me feel safe. All of the menus are on a QR reader, which you scan with your smartphone; that way, you don’t have to touch the menu.”
Kacie Darden, owner of Blue Pineapple Travel in Atlanta, was also impressed with hoteliers’ ability to cater to safety-based preferences during her visit to Grand Velas Los Cabos and Le Blanc Spa Resort Los Cabos, where she participated in outdoor fitness classes.
“At Grand Velas, I told them that I’d love to take yoga but I don’t want to be inside with a group, so they got me a private instructor and did the session in an outdoor pergola, which they sanitized,” Darden said. “It was magical.”
Every advisor interviewed for this article reported satisfaction with their visit — so much so, in fact, that they are all planning additional trips to Mexico before the end of the year.
Jennifer Cassady, owner of Wander the World Travels in Indianapolis, found lots to share with clients upon returning from her visit to Live Aqua Beach Resort Cancun in June.
“It was definitely a productive trip,” she said. “I was very transparent with my clients when I came back and let them know they can have a decent time, but not everything is going to be open. If you’re really wanting to go and experience everything that a resort has to offer, this is probably not the time to go. But if you want to just go and have a relaxing trip, this is the perfect time to go.”
Visiting Mexico provided both professional and personal benefits for Morris.
“For me, travel isn't just a job; it’s my passion,” she said. “Like everyone in the travel industry, the last four months have been an emotional rollercoaster. When I first arrived at the resort and saw the care that everyone was taking, I am not ashamed to admit that I cried. It just felt so good to be doing something ‘normal,’ even though that definition of normal has changed.”