Despite the frustrations of long wait times with suppliers and constant flight changes, delays and cancellations, travel chaos isn’t bad for travel advisors, say executives at five host agencies and franchise companies.
(Elsewhere in this series, we talked to executives about how the first half of 2022 went overall, the sudden influx of new talent, and what they expect for the rest of the year.)
The frustration is real…
“You can’t turn on the news today without hearing that a thousand flights have been canceled, so it’s absolutely intrusive,” said Kathryn Mazza-Burney, president of NEST, about how the summer air chaos is affecting travel advisors. .
“They’re definitely dealing with chaos with the airlines,” said Michelle Fee, founder and CEO of Cruise Planners. “There are still long hold times … every booking takes twice as long as it could because they are on hold.”
“It’s very frustrating,” added Jackie Friedman, president of Nexion Travel Group. “But clearly that means people are traveling.”
Jeff Anderson, co-president of Avoya Travel, agreed. “A headache? Absolutely… It can be very bad when someone’s trip is cancelled. It’s a significant problem, but we’re not seeing it stopping people from continuing to shop and buy holidays.”
Debbie Fiorino, COO of World Travel Holdings, the parent company of Dream Vacations, echoed Anderson. “Our customers are dealing with a lot of stress and frustration, but they’re still booking and they’re still traveling.”
The same frustration that drives consumers to advisors
Chaos at the airport, or stories of canceled and delayed flights from friends or on TV are not just a sign that people are back to traveling in droves – and not deterred by all the chaos.
It also highlights the value of trip advisors to people who may have forgotten that advisors still exist.
“I think what’s happening is some of the DIY stuff, the do-it-yourselfers at first, are now thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, I don’t want to wait. I need to call a travel advisor to help me,” Fee said. “These types of travelers are starting to understand the value of a good travel advisor.”
“Counselors are doing what counselors do best,” Mazza-Burney said. “They are servicing their accounts. They are really showing the consumer why it is so important to use a travel advisor.”
A little perspective
Anderson told TMR when it comes to flights, he believes much of the chaos is overstated.
“I think the recent problems should be put into perspective. It’s still only a few percent of flights that have been canceled… The number is huge, don’t get me wrong. You don’t want any cancellations.”
But he said there are more delays than cancellations, adding that during a recent check of the FAA’s website, more than 42,000 flights were being tracked. Of these, several thousand were actually cancelled.
Better than the Alternative
Several executives TMR spoke to also wanted to remind travel advisors that the chaos of travel is much preferred by anyone who doesn’t travel at all.
“There’s a lot of stress, anxiety, frustration for travel professionals right now, whether it’s COVID restrictions, whether it’s airline issues,” Fiorino said. “But you know, just a few weeks ago it was a year since we saw the first ship go back into the water. They went from worrying about whether or not they’d survive an industry-shutting down pandemic to worrying about dealing with all this chaos. I would choose the second, every day of the week and twice on Sundays.”
Fiorino added that she doesn’t want to downplay how stressful it can be for advisers. “But it’s such an important thing to keep in perspective. Just stop and think about where we were in 2020… know that these things will get better. We have businesses that are doing really well and we’re too busy to keep going and that’s a really good thing.”
Mazza-Burney said this is one more example of how resilient the travel agency industry is.
“When the going gets tough, strong advisors in this industry really step up and shine. We’ve been through some really tough times. But counselors are here to stay.”