TORONTO — The coronavirus crisis brought confusion and chaos to the travel industry, but amid all the tumult, two things have become very clear. First, travel insurance sales will likely skyrocket in a post-pandemic world. And second, travel agents will be seen – rightly – as indispensable.
Well more than half – 57% – of respondents in Travelweek’s COVID-19 Consumer Survey said they were more likely to seek out the services of a travel agent when booking their next trip.
The survey noted that Canadian travel agents helped thousands of Canadians get home as borders were closing in mid-March.
Some 2,853 Canadians across the country provided input for the survey, which went out in early May.
For their part, agents are confident that their services are more valued in the wake of the pandemic. If anything dispelled the outdated notions of what travel agents do, it’s the COVID-19 crisis.
Many agents in Travelweek’s COVID-19 Agent Survey identified the higher profile of the retail travel trade as an area for opportunity post-pandemic.
“The value of a travel agency has been brought to the forefront. We need to ensure that the consumers are all aware – could be a strong rebound as a result. I believe more people will use travel agents, giving us more opportunity,” said one agent.
That’s true for current clients, and new potential clients too.
“Travel agents will be important as has been evidenced by quite a few calls from non-customers who have thanked us for our help and have said that they will come back and book with us. The important thing is to keep your travel agency brand front and centre with the consumer so that when this is over we will be their first choice,” said another agent.
Online bookers got a wake-up call too, said another agent. “Booking with agencies will be an advantage … can only imagine how frustrating it has been for direct bookers to get answers etc. about their bookings.”
Now is also be a good time for gathering client testimonials. Never has the public’s perception of travel agents and the services they offer been so positive. The current environment is “definitely more travel advisor friendly,” says an agent. “People who had agents as their advocates in this trying time were willing to share how much less stress was involved as advisors looked after the details. New clients will be looking, at least at the start, for advice and bookings.”
With insurance sales coming with such high commission levels, the public’s need for increased coverage will also be a boon for agents.
Survey results show that consumers are much more likely to get travel insurance going forward.
Just under half, 48%, of respondents said they typically bought travel insurance pre-pandemic.
Now in the wake of COVID-19, 72% of respondents say they are more likely to purchase travel insurance.
Navigating the post-pandemic world of travel insurance coverage could be complicated, however, now that COVID-19 is a known event. “[There’s] the opportunity to sell insurance but insurance needs to guarantee coverage,” says one agent.
An overwhelming majority of respondents in the consumer survey, 75%, said they wouldn’t travel if their insurance didn’t cover COVID-19-associated illness.
No one knows when travel will get back on track, although there are encouraging signs of progress in places like Europe, and to some extent, the U.S., although numbers are still high south of the border.
No matter what happens, “hoping more people will use travel advisors and purchase insurance,” says one agent.
Another sums it up for many: “More insurance sales, less online bookings. Agents are important again.”
The first article in Travelweek’s ongoing coverage from its COVID-19 Consumer Survey, looking at consumer attitudes towards refunds and vouchers, can be found here.