Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash
Over the last few years, the travel industry has experienced incredible growth, and it has been an exciting time to be a travel advisor. Then COVID-19 hit and the travel industry came to a screeching halt. Though this virus is new to our world, disruptions to the travel industry are not.
At Brownell, we have been continuously operating since 1887 – that means the Great Depression, World War I and World War II, the beginning of air travel (and the airline commission cuts in the mid-1980s), the rise of OTAs, 9/11, the Great Recession, and countless natural disasters and tumult. During our tenure, we have learned to adjust and adapt to the changes each crisis brings in order to successfully come out on the other side. Below we share a few tips for managing your travel business during COVID-19.
Care for Your Travel Business
Communicate, communicate, communicate
Communication is always important, but it is even more crucial during a crisis. Proactively reach out to clients and let them know you are there for them. Listen to their concerns, be empathetic, and graciously answer their questions (or direct them to the best source of truth). Often, we don’t know the answers to the most burning questions (When can I rebook? Can I take my trip in the Fall? How long will this last?) but letting someone feel heard and cared for is just as important.
Strengthen your relationships
One of the keys to being a successful travel advisor is building relationships with your clients. Though they may not be traveling now – or even planning a trip – you can take this time to cultivate your relationships. Did a client have to cancel or postpone a trip? Send them recipes, books, or movie recs to keep the excitement alive. Has a client mentioned their dream destinations during previous conversations? E-mail them some virtual ways to experience them. And beyond travel, think about your clients’ unique situations during this time. Most all of them will be impacted by COVID-19 as well, so think about ways to support them and show that you care.
Review your Terms & Conditions
Thorough Terms & Conditions are they best way for you to protect yourself should a client hold you liable for any mishaps. Check out samples from ASTA or from industry attorney Mark Pestronk’s website, and read a few of our tips below:
- Make sure all clients sign T&Cs for every trip
- If possible, incorporate the supplier T&Cs with your T&Cs so you can provide one document for your client to review and sign
- Do not rely on an email exchange – client must sign the document. Use RightSignature or a similar electronic signature system to make it easy.
Focus on Marketing
Rethink your marketing strategy
The marketing plan you came up with in January is not the marketing plan you should be using for your travel business during COVID-19, so reevaluate it to ensure you are being sensitive to the current climate. Get a sense of what your client base needs (it can vary by location) and adjust your strategy and content to fit that. Our in-house marketing team is creating regular e-mail touchpoints to clients that our Independent Advisors can opt-into as they please.
Review Your Website
You’ve been meaning to update your website since you launched it…in 2010. Now is the time to revise your bio, add any new awards or certifications, update your photos, create additional pages, and more. If you’re not sure where to start, look at other websites, whether they’re travel or other service providers, and get inspired (but don’t copy!).
Write blog posts
You could probably write a book with all your travel tips and destination intel, but you haven’t had the time to even add a new blog post with all the travel planning. And suddenly you now have a little more time on your hand. Take advantage of it, and write those blog posts! You can schedule them to go live in the weeks or months to come, so when you’re back to creating trips your blog stays fresh and updated.
Make Time to Grow
The travel industry is constantly changing with new hotels, cruise ships, experiences, and more, and it can be impossible to keep up. While you’re staying home, do the trainings and sign up for webinars. You’ll come out from this sharper than ever and ready to plan the most current experiences for clients.
Evaluate your approach
Are there things you’ve been meaning to tweak about your business? Do you need to update – or create – a business plan? Do it! Review the last 12 months and find ways where you could maximize profits and overall improve your business. Independent Advisors in the Brownell Hosting Program can schedule business review sessions with our in-house VP of Business Development.
Assess your SOP
Consider what your typical day (we know, we know…there isn’t a typical day in travel!), week, and month is like and look for ways you can improve your process and/or save time. Explore technologies that could make keeping up with your to-do list easier, like Asana or Basecamp. Develop your “gracious no” response to clients who don’t fit your model. Do what you need to do to make your standard operating procedure more seamless and less stressful while you’ve got the bandwidth to properly think it all through.
Take Care of YOU!
Engage with your community
Working as an Independent Advisor can feel pretty isolating. Throw in a halt in travel, and your days that were filled with client calls and chats with suppliers are suddenly silent. But don’t let them be! Set up calls to keep in touch with your travel friends. At Brownell, our community is so important, and we use virtual meetings, our online community, and more to ensure we stay connected.
Make the most of this time
There are naturally busier and slower times for business during the year, but times like this are extremely rare (thank goodness!). Make the most of it by doing some of the things you haven’t had time to do, whether it’s travel related or not. Do the face masks that are taking up space in you bathroom. Organize your closet. Try a new cocktail recipe. Binge watch the show – or shows – on your list. Enjoying the unplanned extra time can be the silver lining.
Though there is plenty to keep you busy during this time, it can still feel disheartening when your passion is planning travel. But don’t get discouraged! Keep dreaming about ways to grow your travel business, during COVID-19 and after, how you can help clients experience the joy of travel, and where you will go next. We’ll all have low moments during this global pandemic (lean on your travel community to bring you back up!), but a crisis cannot take away our wanderlust!