TORONTO — Joe Adamo, Chief Distribution Officer, Transat and President, TDC, has a message for travel agents.
“Keep the faith – and stay close to clients,” says Adamo. “The number of people looking to travel is small but growing.”
In a wide-reaching interview with Travelweek, Adamo covered everything from Transat’s just launched winter 2020-2021 winter sun program and the company’s decision to cancel its program out of Western Canada (read that portion of the interview here), to what needs to happen with Canada’s travel restrictions to get people thinking about travel again, plus his thoughts on refunds.
Adamo tells agents, “those people who are prepared to travel now, they ought to be booking with you. Stay involved. There are people travelling every day.”
Agents also shouldn’t hesitate to recommend product to clients they think are ready to travel – or even clients who are on the fence.
“Be confident to walk them through the options that are available to them,” he said.
“THIS SIEGE MENTALITY … IT’S HURTFUL FOR THE ENTIRE ECONOMY”
Of all the roadblocks facing Canadians looking to travel in the coming months – the blanket advisory against all non-essential travel worldwide, the 14-day quarantine for arriving and returning travellers, and the difficulties with getting insurance – it’s the 14-day quarantine that Adamo finds the most frustrating.
The Canadian government could fine-tune the global travel advisory to offer more specific guidance country-by-country, as numbers drop in some destinations.
And while there are certainly challenges with getting travel insurance coverage for COVID-19, Blue Cross Ontario and Blue Cross Quebec (and B2C insurer Medipac) introduced some COVID-19 coverage recently made announcements on that front.
Adamo says other insurers will likely follow soon. “The private sector will fill that gap,” he says, adding that as the months go by, the definition of what constitutes ‘essential travel’ “has become a little vague”, with more and more people travelling.
But the 14-day mandatory quarantine for anyone entering or returning to Canada is a real sticking point. At best it’s inconvenient and at worst, for some travellers, it’s downright impossible. “It really is the 14-day quarantine that is the most debilitating to us,” says Adamo. “That’s the restriction we would most like to see revisited.”
Transat is part of the #timetotravel initiative from the Canadian Travel & Tourism Roundtable, which includes some of Canada’s biggest travel companies, both on the supply side and the retail side. Since early June the coalition has been urging the federal government to loosen Canada’s outbound and inbound travel restrictions. The EU and other parts of the world have been opening up in recent months, but not Canada.
Other members of the coalition, including Air Canada, have warned that if Canada doesn’t reciprocate global entry privileges soon, it could see more countries roll back on their decision to allow Canadians in.
In calling for the travel restrictions to be loosened, “obviously we are self-serving,” says Adamo. “We’re an airline, we’re a travel company. It’s our livelihood our our passion. I get that. But the repercussions are even bigger” if the border isn’t opened in a safe but effective way, he says.
“This siege mentality … it’s hurtful for the entire economy,” Adamo added. “We need to open up air travel with the major economic centres, with London, Paris, Milan, Tokyo. We need to open this up. Not recklessly. But the blanket restrictions have knock-on effects that hurt the entire economy. As a society we need to learn to live with this risk. Hopefully our leaders in Ottawa will come to that realization.”
Adamo said Transat is sticking with its policy of offering future travel credits (FTCs) rather than refunds, in line for the most part with what other airlines and travel companies in Canada are doing.
One exception is the cancelled South & USA program out of Western Canada. Announced earlier this month, the cancelled program will not likely be reinstated any time soon, and so Transat opted to offer refunds for those flights.
MORE FLEXIBLE FTCs
Also, in July, Transat announced it was eliminating the expiry date on its FTCs, and making the credits transferrable. Air Canada announced a similar move in June. “Transat credits no longer expire and are full transferrable. They’re as flexible as they can be,” says Adamo. “We were hesitant to make them transferable, especially because the burden of managing that transaction then goes to the travel agent. But the market told us we needed to.”
It turns out that making the FTCs transferable, and eliminating the expiry dates, was “very well received” by travel agents. “Travel agents view it as another tool in their arsenal.”
Also earlier this summer, Transat Distribution Canada (TDC) announced a new partnership with CanaDream, one of Canada’s largest RV rental and sales companies. Asked how that turned out, Adamo says sales were in line with expectations.
“We’re happy we did it, and we’ll have it for future summers. We’re pleased.” But not surprisingly, as Adamo notes, the revenue from the RV bookings “doesn’t even come close” to making up for the traditional outbound revenue that Transat would have seen in a typical summer.