“How could we have ever done this without you?”: Gratitude for travel agents amid the pandemic

“How could we have ever done this without you?”: Gratitude for travel agents amid the pandemic

TORONTO — For more than 21 months, travel advisors have dealt with a situation that pre-March 2020, would have seemed unfathomable.

The very first weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic brought confusion, panic and waves of cancellations and rebookings, as clients scrambled to salvage their travel plans for a later date.

The pandemic reached every corner of the globe, and few industries were more impacted than travel. Here in Canada there was the fight to secure commission protection, led by ACTA and ACITA and the tireless efforts of their leadership teams and every agent who reached out to their MP.

There were staycations and made-in-Canada vacations and through it all agents waited for the day that international travel would reopen to their clients.

 

Then, after more than a year and a half of the federal government’s blanket travel advisory, it seemed like that day had finally come. The advisory lifted on Oct. 21, 2021, and the U.S. border officially reopened, and the industry revelled in the long-promised pent-up demand. Bookings poured in.

Less than two months later, the travel advisory was back. The announcement from the federal government came amid a wave of uncertainty and rising case counts fuelled by the omicron variant. The grief and rage in the industry were palpable.

After everything that travel agents have been through, and especially in these last tumultuous days, we wanted to close out 2021 with words and gestures of praise and support for everything travel agents do – from clients themselves.

It’s been said many times but it bears repeating: if there’s any silver lining to this pandemic, it’s that travellers are more aware than ever about the value of working with a travel advisor.

“She was always there behind the scenes to make sure things went as smoothly as they could under such unprecedented circumstances.”

Jennifer McPherson with Turnkey Travel – Travel Only in Brantford, ON, helped her clients visit their son in Portugal. She tells Travelweek: “I curated a lovely 3-week visit for this past November including time in Lisbon, a villa stay in Madeira and a week-long river cruise on the Douro. Testing and protocols were still a bit uncertain and they ended up being tested four times.”

We have had many clients singing our praises in the last few months.

Niche Travel Group owner Faith Sproule, based in Dartmouth, NS, says clients have been beyond grateful. Sproule had four clients heading to Antigua from Moncton. “Antigua had changed their test requirements from PCR to antigen and then back to PCR on Dec 8. Our clients were heading out Dec. 9! They were denied boarding and we had to move their trip date by two days. Thanks to the emergency assistance from Sandals directly, Tameka Wharton (our Antigua rep) and a customer service rep at ACV, we moved the booking and they stayed at Sandals Antigua and had a great time. The clients were unbelievably appreciative and knew that without an agent to help out they would have been in real trouble and could have lost almost $8,000 per couple.”

I had two different clients send me gifts for helping them cancel. Both of those were higher-end itineraries that we had been planning for almost a year in advance.

Travel advisor Michelle Whalen with Uniglobe Enterprise Travel Ltd. in London, ON says one of those bookings was a multigenerational trip to the Netherlands for the grandkids to see their heritage. The family gave Whalen flowers, a beautiful hand made card and a gracious gift of $100. “I had assisted with their insurance claim which became quite complicated for a group of seven when insurance companies were bombarded with claims.”

The other booking was for a special European river cruise which was going to stop at the place where the client’s father used to fish. “There were some special pre-existing conditions and we worked hard to get them the appropriate health insurance.”

“I don’t know where I would be without an agent, things are changing so fast. … I’m happy I’ve got a professional looking after my travel. … I’ll never book anything again online.”

These wishes of thanks and appreciation, from various clients, were sent to Robert Townshend, President, Total Advantage Travel & Tours in Toronto.

And here’s one more Townshend sent through, one that many grateful clients would surely send to their travel advisors in these difficult and unpredictable days for travel. It’s the feeling from an appreciative industry as well.

“How could we have ever done this without you?”