Host Agency News Your Travel Agency

Agent Interview: Karen Holmes – On Working With Clients Through 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


Would you mind sharing a bit about yourself and your Agency with our readers?  

I am a Certified Travel Advisor with certifications from Princess Cruises, MSC Cruises, Marriott, Sandals, all Disney vacations, and Universal Parks and Resorts. I am a romance specialist! I love helping plan destination weddings, honeymoons, and anniversary trips. I also enjoy planning Silver Screen trips that transport you to the filming locations of your favorite movies and include themed experiences to add those extra details to make your trip extraordinary.


Where are you located?  

Kemp, Texas


How did you become a Travel Professional?  

I got started in business looking for something I could do from home, so I would have the flexibility to help my mom take care of my dad who was suffering from the late stages of Alzheimer’s. I had used a travel agent for a Disney trip and become friends with her. I thought I would really enjoy helping people the way she helped me, so I asked about joining the host agency through which she worked. I joined the company without even looking at any others and quickly realized I LOVE helping people plan their vacations! I think spending quality time together, meeting new people, making beautiful memories, and experiencing different cultures is a very important investment of our time.  I’m very grateful to be a part of this industry!


How long have you been in the travel industry?  

5 1/2 years


How long have you been running your Agency?  

I used to work with a previous host agency for 5 years but wasn’t getting the support or technology I needed to run my business successfully. After comparing the technology of other companies and talking with current franchise owners, I decided to make the switch to Cruise Planners. I have been with Cruise Planners since December 2019


Do you work with a Host Agency? If so, which Host Agency?  

I no longer work with a host agency; I proudly own and operate a Cruise Planners franchise.


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?

I feel somewhat fortunate that I didn’t have as many trips on the books during this time as I normally would. For my clients that have been affected, most have been extremely understanding, and the majority are looking to reschedule rather than cancel. In all, my clients have remained positive, and I am looking to gear up for fall 2020 and early 2021.


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

For me, it has kind of been a breath of fresh air. I have been able to slow down and focus on things I usually don’t have time for. I am working on trainings and certifications and taking care of back end tasks. I’ve spent time working with my business development coach Christine to navigate all the features in CP Maxx (Cruise Planners internal software tool and CRM to book and keep track of our business).


I’ve also focused on implementing Cruise Planners marketing campaigns to ensure my services and offers are top of mind for my clients. I’m connecting with my clients on social media on a more personal level, building my relationships, and getting to know them better. I want them to know me and know that I care about them. When the country starts opening up again, I know they will remember what I did and ask for my help planning their trips, but right now, building a relationship with them is more important than marketing to them.


My associate Megan has been brainstorming ideas, so when the time is right, we can implement them. I feel the CP social media department is doing a great job with my business Facebook page and that is sufficient for my marketing right now.


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


I would advise my fellow travel professionals to stay calm and upbeat – your clients take their cues from you. If you stay positive and calm your clients are likely to do the same. The industry is resilient and will turn around. This isn’t the first time we are hit with a difficult situation. Thankfully, people love to travel and want to get back out there as soon as possible. I’m focusing on prepping now for the surge in travel that will follow in the next few months.


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?


One of my areas of expertise is Disney, so I’ve been thankful for their constant communication and transparency in updated travel policies.


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 every individual is different, you can’t approach your clients with a blanket statement. You must address everyone on a personal basis. This is the secret sauce of a successful business. Always give advice based on who they are and what their individual needs are at the time.


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