Poll results from Travelweek’s COVID-19 Travel Agent Survey show that while many front-line agents are working overtime to keep up with all the C&Cs - counselling and cancellations - they’re also ...
Like many of The Travel Corporation’s brands, Trafalgar, in accordance with ongoing travel restrictions imposed by government advisories worldwide, has now temporarily suspended all guided holidays across the globe for trips departing up and until Aug. 31, 2020.
As the industry looks ahead to better days, knowledge really is power, says Trafalgar Canada President, Wolf Paunic.
“Avid and curious travellers will have a lot more thoughtful approach to selecting their next destination. Agents who are able to communicate their knowledge and expertise through inspiring stories, either their own, or from their other clients, and to some extent, create a priority list for their guests, will do very well,” he says.
Paunic and his colleague Anita Emilio, Trafalgar Canada’s VP Sales, talk about the way forward in this edition of The COVID-19 Questionnaire.
Q. How is morale and how is Trafalgar handling the crisis?
WOLF: “After the initial surprise and switch to having the entire Trafalgar Canada team working from home, our teammates took it all in stride and focused on what we do best – servicing our guests and working with our retail partners. We are in constant internal and external communication, so it does feel very normal (if that is the right word to use) – morale is definitely at high level!”
ANITA: “We have been fortunate in being able to keep our team intact so that helps keep morale high. We are a very tight-knit team and really do work together so while it is different, we are staying consistent in our approach.”
Q. What do you think travel will look like in a post-COVID 19 world?
WOLF: “As after every other crisis, travel will successfully adapt. In this case, to the new standards of health and well-being while fully complying with WHO and host government rules to mitigate the risk yet meaningfully connect with people, places and lifestyle of the destination. Due to social distancing rules, groups may decrease in size, which will open some new experiential opportunities.”
ANITA: “The desire to see the world will be there, so we will adapt to meet the requirements in the post COVID-19 world and find our way forward. Thinking about myself personally I will be more aware of my personal space so imagine that will play a part. Part of my role is travelling extensively so I am acutely aware when I travel to sanitize and believe that will be more common now.”
Q. What do you think will rebound most quickly, and what might take some time?
WOLF: “Domestic travel, which was mostly an A-to-B affair in the past, will acquire new dimensions. Travellers will seek unique and authentic local experiences and use the time to become as well connected to the local stories, as they are with their favourite foreign destination. International multi-country travel, especially to the lesser visited areas with less frequent connections, will take some time.”
ANITA: “Domestic travel will be the first to open up and to satisfy the appetite of all of us. It will be busy wherever you go, once it is open. When we have been planning for returning to business it is exciting to think of all of the incredible experiences and places, we can introduce Canadians to.”
Q. With travel at a standstill, how should agents be marketing themselves and keeping themselves in front of clients?
WOLF: “Knowledge is power. Avid and curious travellers will have a lot more thoughtful approach to selecting their next destination. Agents who are able to communicate their knowledge and expertise through inspiring stories, either their own, or from their other clients, and to some extent, create a priority list for their guests, will do very well.”
ANITA: “Travel agents should be capitalizing on what they can bring to their guests. Their knowledge and true professional consulting on how they can best use their budget to ensure the absolute most authentic and engaging experiences.”
Q. What new destinations are you really excited about for when this is over, and ideally where will your own first trip be?
WOLF: “In many years of working in the industry, I was fortunate to visit a variety of destinations. Right now, I am ambitious to fill in the blanks in my travel education and visit some classical and timeless places and countries. Israel and Egypt are at the top of my list. Followed by Georgia, Armenia and Trans-Siberian railway.”
ANITA: “I am experiencing the itch to travel that needs to be scratched! My wish list is so long and if I had to choose one place to start with it will be Italy where my heart is. Morocco has escaped me, and I vow that I will tick that off my list as soon as I can.”
Q. What do you like most, and least, about working from home?
WOLF: “I like the extra time gained by not having to commute across ever dug-up Eglinton Avenue. I miss my co-workers, morning coffee together, the hum of the office. And my two office plants aptly named Trafalgar and Costsaver.”
ANITA: “The commute is great and because my family and my puppy are with me, I have great coworkers. While technology is amazing, I am someone who thrives in the person-to-person environment, so I am missing the collaboration and in-person meetings.”
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 does Trafalgar want to get out to travel agents?
WOLF: “The travel industry is 100% a people driven industry. We are as strong, resilient and adaptable as any other business out there. When the cycle is in the negative phase, we know it will go up, and our job, and our duty to our guests, is to be ready when they are safe and comfortable to travel. In over 70 years of Trafalgar’s and its parent company, The Travel Corporation (who is celebrating its first 100-year anniversary in 2020)’s history, we have developed expertise, hired talent, acquired technology to be able to service our guests and partners with knowledge and passion. And we tirelessly work behind the scenes, to ensure that our guests can fulfill their travel dreams in the most pleasant and inspiring way.”
ANITA: “Our sales team is ready and will be there and are motivated and energized to get back out working with our agent partners to rebuild their business. In the interim, our Sales Managers are available for webinars and training or one-on-one meetings to be ready to go!”