TORONTO — Though Sandals Resorts International didn’t invent the all-inclusive concept with its first resort in Jamaica back in 1981, it is largely credited with perfecting it. Since the debut of ...
Though it’s been only seven years since Colton Chia first joined TPI, one can argue his travel career began 26 years ago as a young boy learning the ropes of the family business, from sorting tri-colour paper tickets to learning the ‘blue screen’ from TPI’s Inside Sales team.
Now, as Director of Partnerships, Chia is responsible for working with the company’s preferred partners and head office team to support its network of independent business owners. His favourite part of the job? “Learning about each of our advisor’s goals in their businesses to understand their needs and how we can help achieve them together,” he says.
Those needs have grown exponentially in recent weeks due to the COVID-19 pandemic. To support its advisors and ensure their continued success, TPI has implemented a number of policies and initiatives, including a portal dedicated to all things related to the crisis.
By throwing its support behind the advisors that serve as the backbone of the company, TPI is well positioned to weather the storm until global travel resumes and operations return to normal.
We caught up with Chia for our COVID-19 Questionnaire.
Q. How is morale and how is TPI handling the crisis?
A. “There is no doubt that this crisis has sent a shockwave that is being felt throughout our industry. From early March we initiated twice-daily calls to make sure we connect with our network and make sure that our advisors have firsthand information on what is going on with our supplier partners and all the different policies. Despite the nature of the situation, we are very proud to see how we have come together as a family to face this situation together, to help and support each other, both within TPI and our industry at large.
“We launched a portal dedicated for all things COVID, to make sure our advisors have this information at their fingertips. The TPI COVID-19 portal has been a great resource for our network throughout this evolving situation as a one-stop shop to get the latest information on supplier policies, government subsidies, consumer facing collateral, recorded training sessions and much more.
Q. What do you think travel will look like in a post-COVID-19 world?
A. “Travel advisors will thrive. More than ever, travellers will want to know they have someone to can count on to orchestrate their travel plans and be there for them, particularly during their travels in the immediate future. Overall, there will be more attention paid to details: health safety initiatives, seclusion availability, insurance coverage options. We must provide our clients with the reassurance and answers for their questions to help them feel comfortable before, during and after their vacation.”
Q. What do you think will rebound most quickly, and what might take some time?
A. “Domestic travel (which we would like to think includes the Caribbean in Canada!) followed by popular Canadian vacation destinations — South, Sun, North America. International travel will likely take some time to fully rebound for the people. Government health safety initiatives and media coverage will play a major part in rebuilding consumer demand for travel.”
Q. With travel at a standstill, how should agents be marketing themselves and keeping themselves in front of clients?
A. “Now is the time to connect with our clients, even if they don’t have affected trips. I like the 4-by-12 rule – call 4 clients before 12 noon, just to touch base. To help bridge this conversation, we launched our consumer facing TPI @ Home page, which is a collection of curated activities with kids, virtual tours, recipes, online courses and more. We designed this for our advisors to send to their clients as a way of fostering client engagement and relationship maintenance – a reason to reach out, share something and touch base.
“We have also built out an entire section on the TPI COVID-19 portal that gives our advisors access to inspirational social media posts and videos, client email templates, zoom virtual background templates (which is a huge hit!) to use when calling their clients and so much more. Communication is the key to navigating through a crisis.”
Q. What new destinations are you really excited about for when this is over, and ideally where will your own first trip be?
A. “We look to the future of supporting destinations and communities that have been drastically impacted by the crisis. I personally have been planning a trip to the East Coast of Canada to visit some friends, soak in the picturesque landscapes and indulge in the local cuisine. A ski trip to Japan has also been on my list for a long time!”
Q. What do you like most, and least, about working from home?
A. “Personally, for me, working from home is great! I love that it is “bring your dog to work day” every day, however, the lack of in-person connection with friends and colleagues at meetings and events is what I miss the most. I also feel this has brought us even closer together as many audio calls have now become video calls for us to stay connected. Our advisors have been hosting more video calls than ever before to stay connected with their clients.”
Q. The travel industry is showing its strength and resilience as it rallies to take on the unprecedented impact from the coronavirus pandemic. What message do you want to get out to travel agents?
A. “I am proud to be part of TPI, of how we have come together as a company and an industry to support and be kind to one another at a time when we need it the most. I believe our industry will persevere and soon thrive through resilience, relationships and innovation.”