The 'Monday Minute' is a weekly feature at PAX dedicated to highlighting the movers, shakers, leaders and rule-breakers in Canada's travel agent community. Wanna be profiled? Wanna nominate someone? Email firstname.lastname@example.org!
Name: Ange Fuller
Business: Those Who Wander by Go Travel
Where do you live: Hanwell, NB
How long have you been a travel agent? Four years
What is your specialty? Europe, adventure, vegan-friendly travel, and cruise.
What has the COVID-19 pandemic taught you about yourself and the travel industry?
Patience has been key during this pandemic and I’m thrilled to have learned I have loads of it!
Finding that balance of when to push harder for what’s best for my traveller and when to wait patiently can be tricky. It’s been important to me to reach out to my travellers regularly to see how they are doing and to let them know I am thinking about them or keeping on top of anything they still have pending.
Social media has always been an important part of what I do, so I’ve worked on finding creative ways to talk about travel without being overly sales-focused to keep up my engagement.
What has been your biggest challenge during the pandemic?
While as travel agents we of course realize this has been a really unprecedented situation, it’s been really challenging to deal with ever-changing policies and to be the go-between travellers and suppliers, especially when travelers expect refunds or want things to be settled more quickly.
What challenges lie ahead as the travel economy gradually re-opens?
Many people are waiting for a switch to be flipped and everything will just go back to how it was pre-COVID - so I think one of the challenges will be getting people comfortable enough to ease into travel that looks different than before. Other travellers may not feel comfortable traveling at all until there is insurance coverage for COVID, less restrictions in general, or a vaccine. Travel components without very flexible cancellation policies may be quite challenging to sell.
What is one good thing that has come out of this situation?
I work with some really amazing travellers, and the outpouring of concern from them over how I’m doing as a travel agent when travel is closed has been amazing. Especially as I’ve cancelled trip after trip for them. I’ve never felt more appreciated and I’m so thankful for all of their support. It really helped to remind me how much I love working in this industry, even when times are very tough.
What does the travel industry need to do restore consumer confidence?
As long as countries are still issuing travel advisories and COVID-19 cases remain on the rise, I think people will remain quite hesitant to travel far from home. But we’re seeing suppliers really step up and make significant changes in how they operate – cleaner planes, traveller screening, changes to cruising, lower capacity on tours, social distancing. These changes are all definitely steps in the right direction.
What other travel trends do you think may emerge from this situation?
I’m already seeing a real interest in small group travel and for more adventure-based trips with a focus on being outdoors. Even as more and more borders reopen, within Canada and internationally, I think many travellers will focus on exploring their own province or country for the next while.
What advice do you have for travel advisors who are struggling during this tough time?
A pandemic is entirely out of your control. Wanderlust is a powerful thing and people are anxious to get out there and explore again. It may look a little different, but travel will be back. Take this time to learn those things you never had time to before, stay up-to-date on the state of the industry and supplier policies, and be ready for when the world opens again.
When border restrictions are lifted and the risk is low, where are you travelling first?
So many places, so little time! This is the hardest question you can ever ask a traveller, but I have it narrowed down to New Zealand or Peru.
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