Building up a client list and generating some bookings as a brand new travel agent is a challenge at any time. Doing it during a pandemic? The mind boggles.
And yet that’s exactly what Infinite Departures Travel owner Eric Cohen is doing. The Richmond Hill, ON travel advisor, a new member of Nexion Travel Group – Canada, was even honoured recently as the host agency’s Canadian Rising Star.
While bookings may be hard to come by these days, Cohen’s willingness to learn and make use of Nexion Travel Group-Canada’s tools and programs helped earn him the Rising Star recognition. Cohen created a detailed Profiler Plus to bring in new leads. He’s also received numerous certifications from supplier partners including Disney and Universal Orlando. Plus, Cohen is known to regularly contact experts at Nexion Travel Group-Canada for guidance and coaching as he builds his business.
We caught up with Cohen to congratulate him on his Canadian Rising Star award, and to see how he’s faring in these extremely challenging pandemic days.
Sphere: How long have you been a travel agent and how did you get interested in working as a travel agent?
Cohen: “I have been a travel advisor for approximately a year and a half, but I have previous experience working on the supplier side in the travel and tourism industry. I have always been interested in planning travel and I have been a go-to resource for travel planning with my family and friends for years. Although my passion is the travel industry, I am also a practising lawyer and I was in the process of transitioning into the travel business full-time before COVID-19 started.”
Sphere: Being named a Rising Star amid all this COVID craziness is an amazing achievement. What are some successful habits you’ve developed that have really paid off?
Cohen: “I have tried to maximize my use of the marketing and educational programs offered through my host agency, Nexion Travel Group Canada. I have received multiple leads through the Travel Leaders Network Agent Profiler program and I also participate in social media marketing programs with Nexion as well.
“I am also committed to ongoing education to become an expert in the field. I have already completed certification with Travel Leaders Network as a Certified Leisure Travel Specialist and I am now working on my certification as a Certified Group Travel Specialist. This is in addition to all of the supplier and destination training programs that I have taken. The knowledge that these programs has provided has been invaluable in allowing me to market my services as a true expert.”
Sphere: How has the pandemic impacted business for you?
Cohen: “The pandemic has had an especially negative effect on my business, as it was just starting to take off when the pandemic started. As a relatively new advisor, I was in the process of building my client list before the pandemic, however not having a large number of previous clients to work with has made it especially hard to market during the pandemic. The Canadian quarantine requirements, along with the unavailability of travel insurance protection related to COVID-19 until recently, have also made it very difficult to book new business.”
Sphere: What are you doing to stay connected with your clients amid the pandemic?
Cohen: “I have reached out to past clients to check in by email, but I have primarily been working to enhance my online presence. I launched my own company website in July and I am now developing social media channels for the business. My primary focus at this time is continuing education and preparing for the eventual travel comeback.”
Sphere: What are your predictions for the future of travel, once we get past COVID?
Cohen: “I am very optimistic about the future of travel post-COVID, as well as the need for experienced travel advisors to provide guidance and personal service to clients moving forward. I have seen many studies which show that there is huge pent-up demand for travel and that people are yearning to get out again to experience the world. Business will likely pick up gradually rather than at a single point in time, as it will take time for the public’s comfort levels to return and for suppliers to restart or expand their operations.
“I also think that the public’s appreciation for the value of travel advisors will continue to grow, especially as so many travellers were helped immensely by travel advisors during the COVID outbreak. Travel advisors will not only have the benefit of providing destination and product expertise, but they will offer reassurance and support to their clients, especially to resolve any issues which may arise. Given that there were so many difficult traveller experiences during the pandemic, I believe that more people will want to have the benefit of an expert who can leverage their connections and offer timely support before, during and after their travel.”