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Agent Interview: Jill Noble – Advice on the COVID-19 Pandemic as a Travel Professional

Perspective and Lessons Learned through the COVID-19 Pandemic as a Travel Professional


An Interview by Andy Ogg, CTIE, Co-Owner – Travel Professional News


First off, thank you very much for the time today and joining our fantastic Travel Professional NEWS readers!


Would you mind sharing a bit about yourself and your Agency with our readers? Where are you located? How did you become a Travel Professional?


My travel agency is Cruise Therapy Travel and my office is located in Flower Mound, Texas, which is part of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. Prior to starting our family 16 years ago, I worked at advertising agencies and had a couple of travel accounts in my portfolio. I planned advertising media plans for Bermuda Department of Tourism’s Meeting and Incentive division and also developed the 1st marketing plan for Grenada Department of Tourism’s (then new) Destination Wedding & Honeymoon program. These opportunities planted the seed…Later, once our 2 daughters came along, I needed a more flexible schedule. Using my marketing/advertising background, I started a local, family-focused blog and online business directory. I offered advertising sponsorships to local businesses in my area for about 4 years, while growing my online subscriber base of moms (and dads) in the area. My love of travel, cruises especially (we were married on a cruise ship 25 years ago and our daughters took their first cruise at 2 and 5 years old), crept back into my mind and I began my research to find a way to sell family focused trips to my subscriber base. This began my travel consulting business, Cruise Therapy Travel, which specializes in cruises and all-inclusive land vacations for families.


How long have you been in the travel industry? How long have you been running your Agency? Do you work with a Host Agency? If so, which Host Agency?


I’ve been involved in the travel industry for 12 years, 4 on the marketing side and 8 as a travel advisor (I started my agency in 2012). After much research at the beginning from franchises to opening as an independent agency, I decided to work with a host agency, Travel Planners International. I have never regretted this decision. I’ve been a platinum agent ($500,000+ annual sales) with TPI since 2016. TPI is always at the forefront of host agencies, many times forging new paths for other hosts to follow. They are truly behind each and every one of us and we know they have our backs. The backend support from corporate is top-notch. They understand 100%, if we are successful, they are successful.


2020 started off with a bang with WAVE season followed by the COVID-19 pandemic. What a year it has been already! Can you share a bit about how the recent situation has affected your business?


The understatement of the year! Whew! What a crazy time this is. The cruise industry is one of the segments being hit the hardest, so my business is definitely taking a huge hit. It will be a tough year for sure. Since most of my business is family travel, my bookings take place during school holidays (spring break, Thanksgiving, Christmas) and summer breaks. This hit just before our spring break, so I lost 100% of my spring break cruise bookings, with the first round of cruise suspensions. I’m encouraging my clients to hold off on any summer and later cancellations until final payments, before making any decisions, so the cancellations will be ongoing for me until it ends.


With cancellations (hopefully) behind you, how are you spending your time during this time of Travel Bans and “stay at home” warnings?


I haven’t had much down time yet since I’m processing cancellations as final payments approach, and fielding questions from clients re: future sailings further into the summer/holiday season. As the cruise suspension extends, my cancellations are coming in waves. The bulk of my clients are travelling during the summer months, so final payments are just now beginning to come due. I am however, using the down time I do have, to re-design my website and begin an email and social marketing program to stay in touch with my clients. This is something I’ve put off for years, but have known I need to do…especially coming from a marketing background! I’m also beginning to take a look at some domestic travel ideas/packages that may interest families. This is not an area I generally cater to, yet once travel is open again, may be an option for some families that do not want to cruise or leave the country in 2020.


As an experienced Travel Professional, do you have any advice or tips for other Travel Professionals during this challenging time?


Keep your head up and stay positive. Once this is over with, many will want to travel again…and quickly. I truly think 2021 will be a very busy year for travel. I believe avid cruisers will be back on the ships as soon as possible, but the first-time cruisers will be slower to get on board. Take time to educate yourself and plan your re-entry into sales once the quarantine ends. BE READY! Take time for yourself every day. Get out and breath fresh air and enjoy the sunshine at least once a day!


We know that in this Industry, we are stronger together and it has been shown time and time again through the COVID-19 pandemic. Can you share a few suppliers / partners that have truly helped you and your clients in this challenging time?


Royal Caribbean/Celebrity have been hands down the best supplier to work with through this pandemic. Everything they do is with the travel agents in mind from protecting commissions on the cancelled sailings AND re-booked sailings, flexible cancellation policies for our clients, technology created quickly to allow us to make many changes on our own without calling in, even setting up a new department to help agents navigate through all the government offerings available to agents. My BDMs for these lines have been tremendous and very helpful and supportive as well.


Through these times, we all learn a lot about ourselves and our businesses, can you share a few things that you’ve learned through this current pandemic either personally, professionally or both.


I’ve learned that I made the best decision 7 years ago when I moved into an office outside my home! I miss going in every day and the opportunity to meet with my clients in person. Working at home has made me realize how important it is to get up, get dressed, yes, do my make-up and put on real clothes, and act like I’m still going to my office every day. Otherwise, the day can get away from you and become quite unproductive! I’ve also learned how great my clients are. As long as I keep them informed of the latest in happenings and changes, they trust me, value my professional opinions and are grateful. I’ve received so many sweet notes from my clients concerned for my well-being and simply to let me know they will be booking with me again in the future once this has all ended. I feel like travel agents will gain respect through all of this and maybe some travelers will think twice before trying to book everything on their own in the future.


Before we conclude, I personally want to thank you for your time and information shared today. We appreciate your involvement in our publication!