TORONTO — With the number of coronavirus cases on the rise in Italy, particularly in northern Italy, Globus family of brands is reassuring travel agents and travellers that it’s doing everything it can to monitor the situation and keep clients safe and secure.
Italy, which has reported 400 cases and 12 deaths so far, is what Stéphanie Bishop, Managing Director of Globus family of brands, refers to as the backbone of the company. But despite the surge of new cases in recent days, Bishop is encouraging travellers to remain calm.
“No one would’ve thought Italy would’ve sprung up the way it did this past weekend, it took everyone by surprise,” she said in a trade media briefing this morning at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto. “But the reality in the travel industry is, if you sell the world there will be challenges all over the world. The most important thing now is to let calm prevail and don’t panic.”
To minimize the fallout from the outbreak and to ensure the safety of its guests, Globus family of brands, which comprises the brands Globus, Cosmos, Avalon Waterways and Monograms, has postponed all tours to China, where the virus first broke, until April 2020. All other tours, including those to Italy, are going ahead as planned.
“It’s a fluid situation and we’re dealing with it,” added Bishop. “We don’t want to make a decision today that will impact the whole season when we don’t know what will happen tomorrow. I don’t want to minimize the situation but we’re not going to speculate on what ifs.”
Bishop did confirm that the company’s call centre has received more phone calls than usual from travel agents with concerned clients, and that the company has been able to switch some travellers to other itineraries as requested.
“But we haven’t seen a huge amount of cancellations because our trips are booked so far out. What we may end up seeing is a slowdown in new bookings,” she said, though adding that the likelihood of someone planning a trip to China at this time “is not very high.”
Globus’ Exotics line, which covers Asia and South America, has seen steady growth for the company, but with the outbreak still very much a concern in China, Bishop said that its Asian portfolio will certainly dampen.
When asked whether the company would make a similar move to postpone trips in Italy, Bishop said there’s no way to tell at this time.
“We don’t have a crystal ball and we can’t have one policy for everything. Our portfolio includes airlines, hotels, cruises, transportation – there are so many moving parts. If you layer all of these things on top of each other, you get a machine that’s constantly moving,” she said. “But what I can say is that we’re handling it as a team, we’re taking it one day at a time, we’re keeping track of government advisories, and we’re evaluating client concerns on a case by case basis.”
For agents who have concerned clients, Bishop’s key message is this: “Know that we are always keeping your client’s security and safety top of mind, and always push for insurance.”
With four successful brands and offices around the world, including Canada, the U.S., U.K. and Australia, Globus family of brands is well-equipped to respond to any global challenge swiftly and effectively. Crediting the company’s “robust back-end logistics”, Bishop assures that Globus passengers are in good hands.
“I’m confident we’ll be among the very first to rebound,” she said. “We always have contingency plans in place.”
Noting how important travel agents are to the company, Bishop confirmed that approximately 200 advisors will be participating in fams with Avalon Waterways this year. Globus’s BDMS across Canada – nine in total – will be hosting several trips this year, accompanying close to 20 travel agents on each trip.
In addition to the updates about Italy and China, this morning’s briefing, which was also hosted by Chris Jones, Director-Marketing of Globus, included a presentation on debunking popular myths about river cruising and coach touring. They are as follows:
Isn’t river cruising for old people who love statues and classical music?
“There’s no such thing as old,” said Jones, emphasizing that while travelling with Globus family of brands, it’s not so much about choice but about experiences. “Avalon is all about choice, and you see that in every port of call where we offer multiple excursions, both Discovery and Active based.”
These range from hiking inside a cave in France, to a guided tour with a local author in Budapest, to canoeing on the Danube. By offering choice and flexibility, said Bishop, you transcend age.
“It’s not about age any more, but about interests and experiences,” she said. “We don’t think in terms of age. Someone may be 42 and want a certain experience, while someone else on the same trip can be semi-retired and want something different. We’re able to offer something for everyone.”
Isn’t coach touring just about following someone around with a mini flag?
This couldn’t be further from the truth, said Bishop. With private touring available, travellers can see the sights at their own pace and not have to follow a guide around. She added that private touring has been an increasingly popular option for multi-generational trips, where teenaged grandkids and their grandparents often express different interests.
Bishop also touted the company’s new ‘Whisper’ accessory, which this year has integrated new technology that allows for both listening capabilities and connectivity. The Whisper, which looks much like a pager, allows guests to easily listen to tour guides in real time and learn about each destination.
‘Authentic experiences’ is just a marketing buzzword when in reality no tour company has anything unique.
The days of cookie-cutter travel are long gone, said Bishop. “We’ve found a way to make experiences different and unique, depending on what your desires are.”
Both Bishop and Jones highlighted Globus’ ‘Local Favourites’, available on each tour, that allow guests to immerse themselves in local culture in a way they otherwise would not have been able to. Plus, all brands in the company’s portfolio feature the Go App, where clients can access their itineraries, maps and local suggestions for activities and restaurants.
And in terms of river cruising, Jones was quick to note that Avalon this year was awarded Best Shore Excursions by Cruise Critic.
Most river cruise operators are the same so I should recommend that you shop by price or who has the best deal.
It’s important for agents to not sell with your own pocket in mind, said Bishop, and to remember that people want experiences and will pay for them.
“It’s not about the price, but what value they’ll get for the price,” she said. “It’s about giving them choice and flexibility – that has more value to them than price.”
Bishop is also reminding agents to really get to know their clients. “Consultants who sell our product have the skill set to ask the right qualifying questions. They know to not focus on just price.”
Avalon’s innovative Panorama Suites are the brand’s main differentiator, said Jones. So for agents with river cruise clients, Avalon’s emphasis on exceptional views – not just in cabins but in lounges and restaurants – could be what seals the deal.
Clients can choose FIT or escorted, there is no happy medium.
Monograms in particular effectively debunks this myth with its freedom-and-flexibility model. Calling it “the little brand that could,” Jones noted that when Globus employees travel, they do so with Monograms.
The brand effectively allows clients to choose their own hotel, excursions and more, with all the logistics taken care of on the back end. A Local Host is on site to accompany them from city to city and to address any concerns on the ground.