“People are itching to get out there,” says travel advisor Darci Murray of Personal Travel Management Ltd. “Once the 14-day quarantine is removed, I see people booking bigger trips. I see revenue for agents coming in stronger than ever.”
While travel restrictions and quarantine protocols may have thrown a wrench into people’s travel plans for 2020, the conversation about travel’s big return (and the wave of bookings that may come from it) continues to unfold in positive and enthusiastic ways.
The Canadian travel industry is changing, adapting and reorganizing itself as we speak.
For some agencies, the COVID-19 pandemic has, unfortunately, been the last nail in the coffin, shuttering some businesses completely after months of economic downturn and uncertainty.
This outcome has resulted in a community of highly-skilled travel advisors who now don’t have an agency to call their home and this is where boutique host agencies, like Personal Travel Management, come in.
The Burnaby, BC-based company says that despite today’s pause in the market, it is experiencing a surge of growth due to agents seeking new representation.
“So many agencies have gone under, and the fact that we’re able to take on agents that are looking for homes, means we’re growing,” said Murray, Personal Travel Management’s director of marketing and growth strategy, in a recent interview with PAX.
“Totally in love with our jobs”
Finding a host agency that’s a good fit can be daunting, but Murray has one statistic about Personal Travel Management that puts its agent success rate into perspective: in the company’s 25 years of business, it’s maintained a 98% retention rate.
“We have a saying here – you either die or retire,” Murray said. “You don’t leave Personal Travel Management.”
The family owned and operated agency, established in 1995, currently has a roster of 35 travel agents based in Vancouver, Bowen Island, Whistler, Trail, Calgary and Edmonton, and has big plans to expand across Canada.
Agents are well-travelled and skillfully diverse, with each boasting their own specialty, from adventure, sports and team travel to corporate bookings to holding expert certifications in destinations such as Africa.
“We’re ridiculously enthusiastic and totally in love with our jobs,” said Murray. “…Heck, we are a fun lot!”
Personal Travel Management advisors are natural storytellers at heart, especially when it comes to sharing their experiences online.
They operate like journalists, really.
Take advisor Philip Beck, for example, who flew from Vancouver to Edmonton and back with Air Canada in July and wrote about his experience in a blog post, explaining the many new health and safety measures that passengers can expect when flying amid the pandemic.
Beck, who recently sold an around the world cruise, is currently devising ways to blog about local experiences in Vancouver, with the aim of promoting staycations to his clientele.
This past summer, advisor Rikki Hepburn embarked on a road trip through British Columbia and Alberta, and documented her first-hand experience here with professional insights and pictures.
The team has stayed relevant and connected to the travel experience, even if some consumers have temporarily paused their travel dreams.
There’s advisor Linda Heiss, for instance, who cooked up a round of French Polynesian Poisson cru and Tahitian style tacos, and posted pictures of the delicious dish online for all to see, to inspire future culinary travel to the islands.
The company uses the power of video to capture the magical moments that come from travel, from the special bond this mother formed with her 16-year-old son after taking him on a trip to Thailand and Vietnam to this virtual African safari advisor Christine Boecker produced to invite potential clients to a webinar on Africa.
But nothing is more rewarding than staying active within their communities, and giving back when and where possible, as the agency did earlier this year, at the start of the pandemic, when it held a contest for essential workers and, out of 2,000 submissions, awarded a retirement home employee a trip to see the Northern Lights in Yellowknife in 2021 compliments of Anderson Vacations.
“It brought us together as a team,” said Murray of the give-back initiative.
Standing out from the rest
Personal Travel Management ranks within the top 50 of Ensemble's network of 850 travel agencies.
It’s also part of the Association of Canadian Travel Agencies (ACTA), The Business Practices & Consumer Protection Authority (BPCPA), and International Air Transport Association (IATA).
While the agency provides ongoing mentorship, training and weekly coaching sessions, it’s the camaraderie and teamwork shared between its advisors that makes the agency stand out in unique and rewarding ways.
“If anything, the pandemic has made us closer as a team,” said Murray. “We appreciate each other. We’re an extension of family.”
The pandemic has also changed the way people view travel in that they’re no longer taking it for granted, Murray explained.
People are travelling because they can, if they can, she said, with “revenge travel” – a concept where travellers take their “revenge” on the limitations and restrictions of 2020 by splurging on bigger trips – being one of the latest trends to emerge.
("Travel because you can" is the company's motto, notably).
In all cases, you can bet travel agents have an important role to play in future business.
“The importance of our job has increased drastically,” said Murray. “I don’t see anyone wanting to put dollars into something knowing there’s no one behind them.”
“I think there will definitely be a turn to using travel advisors.”
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