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Agent Interview: Steven Nahabedian – Lessons Learned 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


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’m a life-long resident of Long Island, NY. My passion for travel goes back to my childhood in Floral Park, NY, where I’d go into the local travel agency to pick up brochures, and dream about all the wonderful places I’d like to explore.   After a long and successful career as a financial controller, I opened Journey To Bliss Travel. What started as a part-time enterprise quickly became a full-time career. 


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 Established Journey To Bliss Travel in 2017 and I’m affiliated with Host Agency, Outside Agents, in Jacksonville, Florida.


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?


Like you said, WAVE season started off a bang but then it came to a screeching halt. You started seeing some signs of it in February as COVID-19 was spreading through the Globe, but we hadn’t really seen it affecting the USA yet. In March that all changed. People started cancelling trips, some rebooking for later in the year or next year, but many are not. Many people have been laid off from their jobs and can’t plan any vacations right now.


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


Cancellations aren’t over yet. Major Cruise Lines haven’t cancelled sailings past Mid May and many people aren’t comfortable traveling that soon. New bookings are slow. Mostly, people are looking to rebook their cancelled trips. When I’m not working with clients, I’m spending my time in webinars, zoom conference calls with suppliers and doing training. There’s always more to learn, so continuing training is essential in this ever-changing business. I also co-admin a few cruise travel groups on Facebook, so I’m spending more time in those groups interacting with members, answering questions and trying to keep them engaged and interested in future travels.


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


I carry with me the most important lesson my father ever taught me, live every aspect of your life with complete integrity. This has served me well both professionally and personally. Remain calm, focused and communicate with your clients to let them know you truly care about them. Obviously, we need to keep our business going, but be aware of their comfort level with planning future trips. While some are ready to get out there as soon as possible to travel, others are not ready yet. Those that aren’t, want to see how the travel industry start up goes and know that the virus is not spreading anymore. They need to have that level of comfort that it’s safe to travel again, so be cognizant of that and help them plan accordingly. It’s also very important to maintain business relationships with suppliers. Our Business Development Managers are there to help us. Maintain those relationships with them to stay abreast of current travel restrictions and programs being offered to get your clients rebooked in the future.


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?


Norwegian Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean International, Apple Leisure Group and Carnival Corporation have been proactive with getting out in front of the situation. Arch/Roam Right Insurance and Allianz Insurance have made it easy to move client’s policies to future dates, preserving their coverage and peace of mind. These companies instill confidence that the future holds promise of travel.


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


It’s a difficult time, but we will get through this.  It’s not easy to be isolated from our family, friends, colleagues and clients. Thanks to technology though, we can remain connected to our suppliers, clients, consortiums and colleagues.  Our business and social networks are still intact, and although we are interacting in new ways, the strength of those networks will bring all of us through this together. In the meantime, we’re all learning new ways to connect, and that’s a good thing!


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