TORONTO — Not all heroes wear capes. Some work from behind their computers to get stranded Canadians home and move first responders to pandemic hotspots during a global crisis.
The endless efforts of travel agents these past few weeks have been nothing short of heroic, which is why TL Network and its affiliated agencies are paying tribute to advisors across Canada. As part of its Travel Agent Day campaign, which kicked off on May 6, TL Network is now retelling inspiring stories about how agents have “saved the day” during these difficult times.
“In the entire history of our industry there has never been a more fitting time to celebrate and thank travel advisors for going above and beyond caring for their clients every single day,” said J.D. O’Hara, CEO of parent company Travel Leaders Group. “Travel advisors are the calm to the fears of a worried public, guiding clients all while facing extreme challenges to their own businesses as they sought assistance to keep their employees working so they can continue to be a lifeline to travellers all over the world.”
Christine James, Vice President of TL Network, added: “It is vitally important for us to thank and support all the amazing travel advisors who we continue to work hand in hand with throughout the year and reward them for the dedication to their work. Your sincere passion, your dedication, and your deep love of enabling travel will be remembered. You’re the mainstay in this amazing industry and the most trusted voice on the current travel landscape.”
Heartwarming stories are being shared on TL Network’s social media channels, as well as videos from supplier partners who wish to express their gratitude for these everyday heroes. Here are a few stories:
Dave Herron, Pace Setter Travel & Tours, Okotoks, Alberta: “Just before 1 p.m. on the night of March 12 the dreaded ‘bing bing’ sounded on one of our mobile phones indicating a message coming in and at that hour, it is rarely a good thing. The second leg of a back-to-back small ship cruise from Panama to St. Maarten scheduled to sail in 36 hours had been scrubbed. Contacting the vessel’s ship to shore line, we were advised that they hoped to secure permission from Panamanian port authorities to dock as planned. By 1 a.m. we had secured replacement flights to get them back home. At 9 a.m. we were advised the flights had been pulled but we were lucky to be able to find replacement flights by 1 p.m. and managed to secure new e-tickets and e-mail them to passengers.
At 8 a.m. the following day the ship pulled into port and the cruise line was advised that only passengers with confirmed tickets were permitted to disembark. Our two passengers were among the ten that were permitted to disembark and were back home safe and sound that evening.”
Michael Kroeker, Bonaventure Travel Inc., Winnipeg, Manitoba: “I had a large corporate account attending a tradeshow in Las Vegas at the beginning of March. Our agency had booked approximately 30 of their staff from various parts of Canada and the United States to attend. On the second to last day before the attendees were due to return, the tradeshow was unexpectedly cancelled due to COVID and they were advised that the Las Vegas strip and hotels were shutting down within 24 hours. I received a panic call at 8 p.m. that night from their VP of Sales asking what I could do. I immediately went into action, holding space with the various airlines and started re-booking and re-issuing dozens of tickets. Being a fully IATA-appointed agency with GDS access I managed to get all of their staff home the next morning and afternoon with little to no cost to them. It felt great knowing I was able to assist in a time of crisis and have retained a client for life.”
Carlton Montaut, Centre Holidays, Mississauga, ON: “One of my agents, Shabana Punsammy, had booked a couple on their honeymoon to the Maldives. Two days before they were scheduled to return on March 25, their airline cancelled all flights from Maldives to Toronto until further notice. The air consolidator involved and the airline refused to offer any alternative arrangements. My agent took immediate action by calling the resort and ensured if things could not be resolved by the departure date, they would offer the clients a special rate that the resort agreed upon. She then had the most difficult task of finding flights as each day airlines were cancelling various routes and if one was available, the cost for a new ticket was enormous. With a lot of hard work and determination, she beat all odds and was able to get the clients out on March 26 from Male to Moscow and then on to London Heathrow where they overnighted in London then flew back to Toronto the next day. The honeymoon couple could not stop praising our amazing agent Shabana, who was able to get them back home safely.”
Pam Macey, Travel Trends, Calgary, Alberta: “Prior to the pandemic I sent a client to Adelaide, Australia for work that was set to conclude on April 3. From March 8 forward I was in discussions with her about returning to Canada ASAP due to Canada closing its borders to international travel. I had to rebook her three times because the flights were continually changing or being cancelled due to the situation being so fluid. I had also helped her get information for a repatriation flight. At long last I got her by land to Sydney and home to Calgary before everything shut down. She was very grateful for my service and wondered why anyone would not use an agent!”
Karlee Marshall, Glenny Travel in Fort Erie, ON: “I had clients on a cruise to New Zealand and Australia with plans for a one-month-long tour of Australia post their cruise when we received word that the Canadian government recommended that all Canadians return home as soon as possible. Australia had a mandatory quarantine policy for all cruise passengers so I had to arrange quarantine accommodations for the clients for five days while they waited for their new flights back to Canada. I constantly updated them on their flight status so they didn’t have to worry and arranged transportation home from the Toronto airport. My clients were extremely happy that they had used a travel agent and I was able to help them at this critical time.”