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?
I have been married to my best friend, Jim, for 39 years. We have moved around a bit since being married in our hometown in Michigan, spending 20 years in Kansas, 14 in Texas and the last five years in Colorado. Five years ago, we moved from Dallas to the Rocky Mountains in Colorado where corporate office jobs were severely limited. It was here that I began exploring other career options. We have always loved to travel and after extensive research and planning, I decided to start my own agency. We currently live in Aurora, CO close to our son, our daughter-in-law and first grandchild.
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 am fairly new to the travel industry, starting my business close to three years ago after spending many years in corporate America. Since I was new to the industry and had no options for mentoring locally, I signed up with Nexion Travel Group. They had a great training program, business coaching and are always available to answer any questions I might have about the travel side of the business.
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?
This was a great WAVE season and like most of us, I started the year off with a record number of sales and a positive outlook for the following months. With the arrival of COVID-19, travel for my clients stopped but my business did not. The business has taken a financial hit, but I did have a business plan in place and it will see me through this downturn.
With cancellations (hopefully) behind you, how are you spending your time during this time of Travel Bans and “stay at home” warnings?
I am still working with my clients and their trips month by month. Most of them still want to travel on their current itinerary. As it becomes apparent that the trip can’t take place, we get together and look at the options.
I am catching up on the tasks that I had delayed and am exploring new business tactics I didn’t have time to explore before.
Because of the slow down in bookings, I’ve had time to take a step back and revisit who I want my ideal client to be, not necessarily who my current clients are. Many of my current clients are my ideal client but some are not. My “new” ideal client has an avatar and a name. I can tell you where he/she lives, what he/she likes to do and who he/she associates with. With this in mind, I’ve refreshed my website and I’m in the process of building a redefined sales funnel.
As an experienced Travel Professional, do you have any advice or tips for other Travel Professionals during this challenging time?
Education is key. This is a great time to look at your business plan and processes and update them where necessary. My host, Nexion Travel Group, provides some great resources for this but don’t be afraid to look outside your host and even the industry for help. There are many free classes and webinars out there right now. Automate what you can so when you are busy again you don’t have to worry about it. Plan out blogs and newsletter content, create videos, catch up on bookkeeping and clean out files. Don’t forget your marketing plan. You’ll have to change the messaging to match the current situation, but you want to stay in touch with your clients and expose your business to all those folks who may be heading our way from the OTAs.
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?
Two come to mind right away: My rep at GOGO Vacations actually contacted me regarding a client’s trip in June before I ever reached out to her. The second one would be the folks at Viking Ocean Cruises. I had a couple on an extended cruise in South America when the COVID-19 pandemic blew up. I was in touch via email with my client daily and as the situation began to worsen we were able, with the help of the Viking staff both at the call center and on the ship, to alter their trip and get them on the last plane out of Argentina before the borders were closed.
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.
The first thing I’ve learned is that if I don’t take care of myself, I can’t take care of my clients. Pre-COVID-19, I didn’t take the time for exercise and meals were what was available quickly. Walking, meditation and meal planning are all part of my new way of life. Professionally, fine-tuning my business plan and process has been eye opening. Strategically thinking about how I can diversify so I’m not totally dependent on commissions. Personally, I’m starting to charge planning fee’s, but be creative, and find what works best for you.
Before we conclude, I personally want to thank you for your time and information shared today. We appreciate your involvement in our publication!