10 Tips for Travel Agents - Selling Travel in COVID 19 Times
Finding the right balance between freedom and safety will undoubtedly be the main priority for everyone who’s starting to plan their Fall and Winter vacation. Where’s the safest place to be? Should we stay close to home or can we trust long-haul flights? And, once we actually have our feet on the ground…does it matter where we stay?
Travel agents the world over have been contemplating this conundrum since the COVID 19 pandemic first emerged. If you, like us, are apt at thinking ahead, you’ve already pondered over the kind of consequences the pandemic would have on our entire industry, at the (lighter) end of the tunnel. Travel may have been put on hold but if quarantine and movement restrictions have taught us anything, it’s that people cherish travel experiences above almost everything else – yes, including sourdough breadmaking.
It seems the world is busting to travel and explore and you, dear travel agent, will have a pivotal role in ensuring your clients stay safe and healthy while having the absolute time of their lives.
Here are some tips from our "top ot her game" travel writer
1. Stay abreast of the news
You’ve probably had enough of numbers, curves and trends to last a lifetime but now is not the time to slack off. Staying informed and updated is paramount to you offering the best travel recommendations. Subscribe to the newsletter offered by the CDC and do a daily scan of the WHO news page, keeping an eye out for emerging COVID hotspots.
There are various reasons why it’s important to keep abreast of the news - the primary one is…
2. Promote destinations that have fared well during the pandemic
As it becomes more and more obvious that the pandemic has hit different countries in different ways, most travelers will automatically be drawn to places that haven’t been ravaged by the coronavirus. This is why it’s important for you to be informed and to know which travel destinations fared unfavorably in the news in the past and which ones are emerging as clear winners in the COVID fight. You really should know what these are, especially as many people decided – for the sake of their mental health – to shut off the news at some point during their quarantine.
Be informed and you’ll project confidence and calmness, the two attributes that many will no doubt be looking for in their travel agent.
3. Make sure you promote destinations that are no longer in lockdown
It may seem obvious but it’s important to ensure your clients will not be restricted from traveling around once they reach their intended destination – not much point sending them to a country still in lockdown! As the Summer travel season nears, in the northern hemisphere, we’re seeing more and more countries open up to tourism. Popular hubs in Europe, which rely heavily on tourism, are swiftly adjusting to a new ‘normal’, placing no restrictions on visitors and allowing shops, hotels, restaurants and marinas to open to the public. There will probably be some social distancing rules in place, but we feel clients will not only understand this – but also welcome it.
While freedom of movement is essential for travelers, most will also want to know their safety and well-being are being protected.
4. Promote less crowded options – make social distancing easy
For obvious reasons, crowded all-inclusive resorts and cruises on megaliners will be the last options people will consider this year, and it’s up to us to promote destinations, itineraries and travel-styles that subtly promote social distancing without it feeling like a burden. Private villa rentals, private luxury yacht charters, remote eco-lodges and island-stays in compact and less-populated archipelagos, are expected to be the “go to” places this summer.
5. Make nature the absolute highlight
Any destinations renowned primarily for incredible wilderness – be it national parks and reserves, forests, mountains or an abundance of underwater marine life – will be highly sought travel destinations this year, so make sure you know about the most idyllic destinations to promote (we’ll leave some of our best tips below).
6. It’s OK to visit popular places, if keeping away from crowds
It’s fair to say that shopping or sightseeing trips in overcrowded cities won’t appeal to anyone this summer – except a few discerning travelers that realize this could be an amazing time to visit some of the world’s most popular destinations, normally overrun with tourists in summer. Accommodation choice, in this case, will be more important than ever.
Take Dubrovnik (in Croatia) as an example – this spectacular seaside historic town is normally chock-full of cruise passengers in summer, sometimes numbering in the tens of thousands, visiting every single day. They’ll be blissfully absent this year which means as long as you keep your clients safe (on a private yacht charter, perhaps?), they could be enjoying the most idyllic conditions of all: the glistening gem of the Adriatic, at the best time of year, without overwhelming tourist crowds.
7, Promote destinations that are closer to home
Wherever in the world you happen to be, you can trust that your clients will likely want to steer close to home. Although international flights have fared remarkably well during this pandemic crisis, and the fact that airlines are imposing strict guidelines in regard to the wearing of masks and social distancing, many travelers will feel uneasy with long-haul flights. Understandably.
8. Know which airlines offer enhanced safety measures
Some airlines are committed to not selling the middle seat, restricting numbers in premium cabins, requiring health-certificates, limiting onboard service and offering staggered check-in and boarding procedures, all aspects that make people feel and be safer when traveling. Research the latest safety protocols of varying airlines as you book flights and make sure you give you clients all the available options and let them decide.
9. Care about insurance and choose options that have COVID-19 related cancellation policies
Although most travel insurances do not cover a pandemic, they will cover a client who contracts COVID-19 and cannot travel. When booking with a supplier, ask about their COVID-19 policies. Last time around, suppliers and clients had no road map to follow. The one sure-fire way to appease clients’ fears is offering a a venue that has clear cancellation or postponement guidelines related to COVID-19.
Protecting your clients also means protecting their travel-investment!
10. Encourage family and small-group travel
Unsurprisingly, even the most ardent big-crowd lover will not want to share close quarters with strangers this summer. A huge silver lining of this recent health crisis is the fact that family and close-friend connections have received a much-needed boost of appreciation. Those who will want to travel this summer, will surely want to do so only with their immediate family and closest friends – so look for options that allow them to enjoy their privacy and togetherness, away from everyone else.
Bonus #11. Look out for deals so clients can upgrade their usual travel style
The travel industry will be facing the most competitive season in recent memory and the biggest winner, among the scramble for attention, will be the traveler. Deals are set to be the best they’ve been for years (and even decades) so it’s worth considering varied and more luxurious travel options. If your client would normally be on a mega cruise liner with family this summer, advise them to consider private yacht charters instead. When traveling in a small group, private yacht charters make financial sense and will be even more affordable this year. Go 5-star instead of 3, fly private instead of business or, perhaps, opt for a one-week vacation nearby, rather than a two-week vacation farther away.
Ocean Getaways is an international yacht charter company offering bespoke private vacations on yachts throughout the world.
Read more about the Advantages of a Yacht Charter During COVID-19.