Travel advisors are continuing to undergo a renaissance of sorts, with growing numbers of travelers appreciating the complexity and nuances that are part and parcel of their jobs.
“The travel world is not the same as it used to be. You cannot rely on how you ‘used’ to book travel. None of us can,” said JoAnne Week of Acendas Travel.
Weeks described how the agency booked a family of five on a $64,000 Africa safari – only to find the flights canceled the day before the family was scheduled to depart.
“Not only did we rebook them, but we were able to update their tours to accommodate their new arrival day, push back their return date – and myself and the tour operator kept in touch with them day by day to ensure everything went smoothly,” Weeks said.
“My client himself said, ‘There would have been no way we could have pulled off what you did.’”
Acendas Travel agents have also come to the aid of their customers in many other ways, as well. “We’ve calmed them down and took care of confirming a place for them to quarantine, providing a plan for the rest of their party and rebooked their return flight,” Weeks said.
“We then assisted them with their insurance claim upon their arrival home.”
Antoine D. Wilson of A.D. Elite Travels also received praise from clients for an African safari he booked “making their travels seamless, from visas to COVID test scheduling, and notifying them of the US change in COVID testing requirements to 24 hours from the previous 72 hours while they were abroad, which was lifesaving, prevented headaches, and delays at the airport.”
He added, “Travel advisors [provide] a gamut of knowledge and experience. They cover all the bases and remind you of things that the average traveler may forget.”
Amy Grant of Custom Design Travel, an affiliate of Travel Experts, had a couple traveling to Greece, with a quick overnight in Paris on the way home.
“While they were traveling, the new requirements came out changing the time frame of their COVID test from 72 hours to 24 hours,” she said.
“This proved quite tricky because their flight to Paris was right at the 24-hour mark, and they were arriving late that evening.”
Grant worked with her Virtuoso onsite partner and its Paris hotel to find a pharmacy nearby that offered the test.
“The concierge walked my clients to the pharmacy the next morning and made sure they got right in for their test – such a relief for all,’ she said. “This reminds me of the amazing partnerships that I have through my amazing Virtuoso network.”
“The past two years have shown that travelers need an advocate in their corner when they are planning travel,” said Chris Caulfield, owner of CruiseOne. “I spent countless hours on hold dealing with refunds and rescheduling cruises. That is time I saved my clients”
In the view of Kim Cook of Love to Travel, navigating through the myriad and ever-changing COVID protocols has been one of the most important reasons for consumers to use a travel agent.
“We have answered hundreds of questions from nervous travelers wondering if they have the right test, did they fill the forms out properly, and what happens if they test positive in destination,” she said.
“We had a honeymoon couple that decided on their own that an Antigen test would work for their travel to St Lucia. They had been advised by us as to what was required and had even read through the St Lucia website but still got the Antigen test.
“These are the most frustrating situations when we have given all the information they need, and they don’t follow the instructions. The night before they left, they called in a panic as St Lucia wouldn’t accept their Antigen test.”
Love to Travel arranged for their PCR test the next morning at a local company that turned them around in approximately one hour.
“We changed their flights and notified the resort of their delay and even got the resort to extend their stay so they wouldn’t lose a night of their honeymoon,” Cook said. “ Even though it was the clients’ mistake, we worked hard to make sure they were still able to have their dream honeymoon.”
“Our jobs have gotten five times harder as we are now not only trusted travel advisors, but gurus of all things COVID travel-related, said Sarah Kline, president of Time for Travel. “It’s equally exhausting and exhilarating. I love that travelers are going back to selecting to use true live professionals and not just blindly booking online.”
As Weeks of Acendas put it, “If they opt not to use our services, all I can say is, ‘Good Luck.’”