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One of our editors here at TravelAge West just celebrated a destination wedding. She and her (now) husband got married in Bora Bora, and the two sets of parents had to fly to Los Angeles and then on to the islands for the wedding. On the day of travel, however, there were so many flights delayed — and many canceled outright — that suddenly all the carefully planned travel logistics looked destined for failure. Luckily, our editor was able to get on the phone with a travel agent, who worked her magic and saved the day.
Now that the FAA has begun its budget-cutting furlough program for air traffic controllers, it seems clear that we are going to hear more stories of delays and canceled flights in the weeks and, possibly, months ahead. Travel Weekly recently ran a story that noted 400 canceled flights and nearly 7,000 delays the day after the furloughs took effect. It seems that we are entering a period where considerable consumer and media attention is going to be directed toward the best approach to travel.
Enter the travel agent. While it would be ideal to not have these disruptions in the first place, this could be an opportunity for travel agents to shine. The key will be how well agents highlight their success stories to the public. Now is the time to reach out to media contacts and suggest stories about the benefits of using an agent. Be ready with good anecdotes and a few tips.
Also, this is a good time to ramp up your social media marketing. Word of mouth is going to be crucial, so after you successfully save a trip, ask your clients if they wouldn’t mind posting a comment on their Facebook page or tweeting about your great service. Having clients tell their friends that a trip disaster was averted thanks to your expertise is invaluable advertising and can lead to new clients who never thought of using an agent before.
Of course, we can only hope that politicians will come to their senses and figure out a solution that will avoid this chaos. But putting your faith in the sensibility of politicians is not an especially realistic plan. Instead, be prepared to capitalize on this moment in history to bring the benefits of using a travel agent into the spotlight — and to highlight your good work in particular.