Many of us are starting to think about a vacation, and now matter how nice our homes, there is strong desire to go someplace different. Chances are you will start seeing deals and discounts, if you haven’t already. Free nights, credits to use the spa or at restaurants, and of course 60% off are all standard tools for travel marketers.
Back in March, I wrote about how travel agents helped clients get home as walls of travel restrictions went up, and as airlines cut flights.
That story led a number of travel advisors sharing their tales. With pictures of stranded travelers sleeping in airports still fresh in my mind, and thousands of others unable to get ahold of their airlines, I thought now would be a good time to remind you why it pays to use a travel advisor.
One travel agent recalled, “On March 11, during the middle of the President’s speech to our nation regarding travel to and from Europe my team began making immediate contact with our clients who were still traveling in Europe.”
She continued, “We could only assume how crazy the European airports would become when they woke up the next morning to the news from the press conference. Even though it was the middle of the night for them, we called them, woke them up, calmly communicated the situation, and asked them to pack their bags and head to the airport.
“While they were doing so, we began immediately changing their flights to get them home as soon as possible. By acting quickly, calmly, and as a team, we were able to communicate with the clients, with each other, and with our suppliers. Our clients were among the first out of Europe that morning.”
One month later, the U.S. State Department reported over 21,000 American were still stranded overseas.
Closer to home, as millions of folks who booked direct were getting busy signals, we were swinging into action. A family she had in the Dominican Republic were notified by their hotel that the airport was shutting down.
Since they had used a travel advisor, as in real person, not an online screen bot, they had no problem getting through. After finding no flights available, Sherry contacted a private jet company, which arrived to pick the family up just seven hours after the hotel notified them of the shutdown. She also obtained a credit for the remainder of their interrupted stay.
Back across the Atlantic, Louisa Gehring of Brownell Travel affiliate Gehring Travel, didn’t need to look far to see how quickly the situation was deteriorating. A reporter from The New York Times posted about “bedlam” at Charles de Gaulle Airport as throngs of Americans sought to get home.
When the ban was announced, Gehring reached out to a couple were in the City of Lights celebrating the wife’s 40th birthday. She talked them through options to return home, even though it was 2 am.
Her clients decided to leave the next day. In cutting their trip short, they were going to miss going to the top of the Eiffel Tower and a dinner cruise by celebrated chef Alain Ducasse, which was also nonrefundable. Within hours, the star advisor moved both experiences to that day, their final day in Paris. They were among the last visitors to the Eiffel Tower before it closed, followed by dinner, where they were among only a guests.
In the case of Laurie Reitman of Laurie Likes Travel in Frisco, Texas, it wasn’t even a client. It was a client whose daughter who was afraid she was going to be stranded in Africa.
Reitman knew what to do. Even though her client’s daughter didn’t book with her she reached out to a trusted tour partner. Within the hour, the tour partner had arranged to get the daughter from the bush to Nairobi and even paid for her transport and hotel room, all because of the partner’s relationship with Reitman.
Of course, in a crisis, even the best laid alternatives plans sometimes need midstream adjustments. It took two tries for Kiersten Murnane of The Curator to get her clients home from Peru.
After learning that the country would likely close borders by the end of the week Murnane booked her clients on the earliest possible flight out, three days later.
It turned out to be too early for a mission accomplished moment. She quickly learned from a Virtuoso partner that Peru was going to close borders just two days later.
She then sent an urgent post on her agency’s internal messaging system and a colleague responded immediately. The two worked together, but couldn’t find a single flight anywhere. At 2 am, after hours of searching, her colleague found a “crazing” routing and days later her customers were relaxing at home instead of locked down in Lima.
Of course, some clients just didn’t want to come home. A mother and her two children were headed to Bhutan via Bangkok as part of a round-the-world trip when Samantha McClure of Small World Travel learned their destination had closed its borders.
Before they landed in Thailand, McClure designed a new itinerary for the Land of Smiles. They were then going on to Indonesia, but with the threat of more border closures, she made a split-second decision to recommend skipping Indonesia and to head for Australia. Fourteen hours after they landed in Melbourne, Australia implemented a 14-day quarantine upon arrival.