TORONTO — The word ‘flexibility’ has popped up time and time again in the travel industry throughout the pandemic, emphasizing the need for policies that take into account the hardships of travellers. Airlines, cruise lines, tour operators and hotels have all implemented flexible cancellation and rebooking policies since March, putting the traveller first while at the same time aiming to save bookings and working towards the restart of global travel. It’s been a monumental logistical effort for suppliers, to say the least.
And then there are companies, like Uplift, whose entire business models are inherently based on flexibility. Uplift’s ‘buy now, pay later’ solution gives travellers the freedom to book travel now and pay over time with fixed installments, a flexible solution for those whose travel budgets have been significantly impacted by the global health crisis. Since its launch in early 2019, the company has already accumulated dozens of partners including Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Contiki, Sunwing, AMResorts, tripcentral.ca and, most recently, Air Canada.
One can argue that Uplift is well suited to – almost built for – a crisis of this magnitude. With a vast number of travellers dreaming about travel but not having the financial means to pay for it due to the many challenges of the pandemic, Uplift gives them a way to plan for the future without any added pressure.
As such, Denise Heffron, Managing Director of Uplift Canada, tells Travelweek that interest for Uplift’s services has grown in the past eight months.
“Travellers are opting to take advantage of Uplift for a number of reasons. In some cases, we’re providing access to travel that clients might not have had otherwise, for example, a last-minute expected trip. As well, many clients are choosing Uplift in order to manage their finances through utilizing low monthly payments,” she says. “As vacationers start returning to their favourite destinations, we are here to help them realize their dream trips. Making travel more accessible, affordable and rewarding is our mission.”
When asked whether she anticipates acquiring more partners in 2021 after the significant addition of Air Canada last week, Heffron says “definitely” and that Uplift is actively building its partner portfolio.
“Uplift is a tool that can be used to assist our partners and their clients as we all move toward recovery together. We are constantly evolving and a number of enhancements are planned for the coming year, so stay tuned,” she says.
As a company that works solely through travel trade partners and not with consumers directly, Uplift knows all too well the value travel agents bring to the table. This is why Heffron jumped at the chance to respond to a travel agent question posted on Facebook about refunds.
The question is as follows: “How would things work if a vacation was cancelled? What would the financial ramifications be for the client and the travel agent? And would Uplift pay the travel agent for the extra paperwork involved if there was any?”
According to Heffron, when a cancellation occurs and a refund (or partial refund) is due, travel agents would follow their normal cancellation procedures.
“A refund is applied to the original form of payment, which in this case would be the Uplift card,” she says. “Once processed, Uplift pays down the loan and if the refund exceeds the amount of a guest’s remaining balance, Uplift will automatically refund the client.
“We do not impose any penalties in the event of a refund, nor if the guest chooses to pay their loan off early. As well, we don’t charge late fees. Simply put, our partners handle the travel and we handle the financing.”
To further support travel agents, Uplift has a robust learning portal for its partners that includes training videos, a helpful Q&A and marketing assets. Heffron also says it’s currently working with a number of retail networks in Canada, not to mention the fact agents can also access Uplift through Sirev.
For more information go to www.Uplift.com.
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