Recently I came across a definition of the word ‘Leader’ – “A powerful person who influences what other people do” – and thought this was the perfect word to describe our Independent Agents.
As we re-emerge from this pandemic it is apparent that Canadians are eager to travel but they are filled with questions and uncertainty. Never has the opportunity been greater to show the value of an agent. “What do I need to know if I leave Canada? What do I need to know to return? What destinations can Canadians travel to? Do I need to quarantine?” Now more than ever, they are looking to travel advisors for expert guidance.
There is no better time to ‘walk the talk’ and our IFC agents have embraced this mentality. They are leading the way as they begin to travel again, sharing a personal and informative look at what travel looks like right now.
As the experts, we know the foreseeable future will be filled with uncertainty as we navigate constantly changing policies, schedules, entry requirements and supplier availability. The best way to address this is not to sugarcoat it and give the illusion that everything is back to normal, but to acknowledge your clients’ concerns, answer their questions, and give them an honest understanding of what to expect.
There have recently been some incredible fam trips with several suppliers looking to show travel agents firsthand what clients need to know, including new processes and precautions that are in place and how to navigate the new landscape of travel.
If you are preparing to travel, whether it’s a fam or on your own, here are some things you should consider documenting to share with your clients:
DEPARTURE PREP – Ensuring your passports/documentation are up to date; any forms that the airline/cruise line or country you are travelling to might require; and new items to consider packing such as sanitizer, masks, and disinfectant wipes. A COVID test is now a requirement for every destination, however there are even differences between what kind of test will be accepted. Many countries in Europe and the Caribbean only require a rapid antigen test, but the window of validity for these tests will vary with your destination. Airlines and countries are using a variety of health pass apps. For example, British Airways uses the Verifly app. With all the new legwork that goes into even preparing to leave Canada this is a great opportunity to point out that you as a travel expert can advise the client of all these requirements and share your tried-and-true tips to ensure they are prepared!
AIRPORT & TRAVEL EXPERIENCE – Let your clients know that extra time will likely be needed at the airport with all the extra documents to be checked and increased protocols in place. There will be hiccups and delays while travelling now, so building in a buffer to allow for these will ensure your clients have as smooth an experience as possible. Let them know if restaurants within the airports are open, closed or on reduced hours or even just to share your genuine excitement (like our agent Amy Engler Wilson) at being on a plane again!
IN DESTINATION – Of course, all of your clients will likely want to know what to expect when IN destination. If staying at a resort, how are transfers being handled? (This also provides a great opportunity to get your clients to upgrade to private transfers). What is the check-in procedure like? In what areas of the hotel are masks mandatory? Are all the facilities open? If it is a group tour are people required to be vaccinated? Have they reduced the number of travellers? Recently our IFC Agent Caitlin Lajeunesse travelled to Jamaica and took the opportunity to invite her Sandals BDM, and the GM of Sandals Ochi Beach, for a chat on her IGTV channel to share their excitement about the resumption of travel, including how Sandals is ensuring the safety of its guests. Another one of our agents, Matthew Pruse, shared his recent trip to Mexico including room tours, site inspections, hotel protocols and tips for navigating the resort and preparing his clients who will be travelling soon.
THE TRIP HOME – This may be what your clients are most curious to learn about. Canada, unlike other countries, requires a PCR test taken within a specific time frame before arrival. You can share your experience booking and taking the test, and receiving your results. How soon should they book their test after arriving at their destination? Where can they find out where to take the type of test they need? You can walk your clients through how they will need to upload those results to the ArriveCAN app. Let them know what to expect if a worst-case scenario happens and a test result comes back positive. What is the policy of the airline you are travelling with? The resort or hotel you are staying at?
Now is a great opportunity to build on the relationships you have with your existing clients and forge new relationships with future clients built on your knowledge and expertise. Don’t shy away from sharing the not-so-perfect parts of your trip. By preparing your clients for what to expect you will earn their respect and confidence in your abilities. Our agent Julie Smigadis recently returned from an extended trip to Greece which included a three-hour wait on the tarmac at Pearson Airport, thanks to a delayed departure combined with the airport’s policy of staggering passenger arrivals through customs. A good experience? Definitely not. But one that needs to be shared to ensure that clients have realistic expectations and a few things in abundance: kindness, flexibility, patience and a trusted travel advisor.