TORONTO — Travel Agent Day has always been a standout on the travel industry’s calendar. This year, it’s even more so.
After everything travel advisors have been through over the past 3 years, it’s time for suppliers to salute travel retailers with incentives and promotions.
No doubt those special offers will be popping up all over the industry today, this week and all this month, in some cases.
And while the Travel Agent Day perks are very much appreciated, Jamie Milton with Uniglobe Carefree Travel in Saskatoon, SK, tells Travelweek that just as important, if not more so, are words of appreciation and gratitude from supplier partners.
Especially when those kind words are broadcast for all to see via traditional and social media.
“Promotions and incentives are great and very much appreciated by travel advisors,” says Milton. “That being said, the feeling of being appreciated, valued and respected is also important. One of my favourite things to see suppliers do, is promote travel advisors to the general media, and through their own personal social media. Hearing well-known and respected suppliers promote travel advisors and all they do, is very impactful.”
It was at Uniglobe Carefree Travel – and thanks to travel advisor Colleen Lorenzen – that Travel Agent Day got its start back in 2011. On the first Wednesday of every May, Travel Agent Day is when travel agencies recognize their hard-working team of agents, and encourage other agency managers and owners, and suppliers, to do the same.
Travelweek asked Milton, who is co-owner Uniglobe Carefree Travel, about the most gratifying feedback a travel advisor can hear from a supplier – and for that matter, from a client.
Says Milton: “Any words of thanks mean a lot. You would be surprised how great it makes our advisors feel; to have even simple words of thanks and appreciation given – to know their work has meant something. The best stories are always being able to help clients facing extra-stressful situations and being able to alleviate some of that stress. Clients who have had a family emergency and need last-minute travel, or who face a massive cancellation, missed connection or disruption to their travel plans. If we can take that stress away and fix some of these situations for them, it’s very fulfilling and gratifying. Hearing from those clients how our work has impacted them, lends importance to the work we do.”
Travel Agent Day 2023 is certainly a far sight better than Travel Agent Day in 2020 and 2021, or even 2022, as travel was just starting to get back on track this time last year after the last big hurdle to travel – the COVID-19 test for returning travellers – was dropped on April 1.
But in some ways, at Milton’s agency and at other travel agencies across Canada, it’s a classic case of ‘the more things change, they more they stay the same’.
“In some ways, we have come 360 and in other ways, it feels like we are still stuck in the same place,” she says. “During COVID, we dealt with extreme workloads and stressful travel situations for our clients, as well as staffing shortages. Right now, we are dealing with extreme workloads, stressful travel situations for our clients, as well as staffing shortages.”
The big difference now, she adds, “is that instead of fear and defeat, there is optimism that travel is ‘back’. There is a sense that travel advisors are needed and appreciated – not only by our own industry, but by the public as well. The main challenges going forward will be managing advisor burnout, adjusting client expectations to the new travel normal – which includes the potential for disruptions – and enticing new people into this industry that we all know and love!”
Ever since travel restarted last spring, travel retailers as well as suppliers have been off-the-charts busy accommodating all the pent-up demand. Some may wonder if in all the hustle and bustle, Travel Agent Day promotions might get pushed to the back burner.
Here’s the message from Milton: “As an industry, we have come through our biggest challenge to date and we are stronger than ever. The reason we are here and thriving, is our travel advisors and they absolutely deserve more appreciation and thanks than ever before.
“For suppliers – remember these are the folks who worked around the clock this year when storms hit, systems failed and clients were stranded and they often did so for no compensation. They had your back when times were tough and now is the time to show these travel advisors your appreciation and your love.”
To read the full article, including Milton’s take on booking trends, check out the May 3 edition of Travelweek here.