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: Kayla Mahon
Business: Travel Agent Without Borders
Where do you live? Port Carling, ON
How long have you been a travel agent? Over 7 years
What is your specialty? My specialty is creating unique, custom travel itineraries, mostly in Europe, Asia and Central/South America with a focus in sustainable travel.
What lessons has the pandemic taught you about yourself and the travel industry?
The pandemic has taught me that nothing in life is certain and you must be adaptable in an ever-changing world. In the travel industry, change is often and sudden and as travel agents, we live life on our toes. The pandemic, however, was a catastrophic shift that none of us saw coming. I knew the industry was resilient but to see how the entire industry, from travel agents to flight attendants, tourism boards to hotels, came together in this time of crisis, when everything we knew and loved grinded to a halt, was magical. The pandemic taught me just how invaluable it is to be apart of an industry that thrives from showing others the beauty around the world; that when disaster strikes, we work together to make sure that not only our clients are happy and safe but also that our travel industry community is pulling through as well.
What has been your biggest challenge during the pandemic?
My biggest challenge throughout the pandemic has been visualizing the future of my company. Before the pandemic hit, I had so many goals, ideas, and dreams for Travel Agent Without Borders. However, with the uncertainty of when the travel world will regain its momentum and be the amazing, life-changing experience we all came to know, is making it very difficult to create a plan and set goals.
What challenges, do you think, lie ahead as the travel economy gradually re-opens?
I think the biggest challenge that the travel industry is going to face as the economy reopens will be providing clients with the confidence to travel. Clients' main concerns will be their health and to learn about the safety precautions that have been put in place in every aspect of their trip from the time they enter the airport to landing back home.
Tell us about one good thing that has come out of this situation?
Before the pandemic there were many consumers who did not see the value in using a travel agent's services. I believe that people's eyes have been opened (especially people who had vacations booked during this pandemic) to the real value that travel agents provide. When international travel resumes, I think we will see a dramatic incline in people who book their vacations and put their trust into agents.
What does the travel industry need to do to restore consumer confidence?
In order to restore consumer confidence, travel agents will need to be up to date on all safety measures, precautions and any mandatory quarantines or medical documents that may need to be provided for each country. Agents will need to be able to explain to their clients how they will be taken care of and be protected throughout their journeys.
What other travel trends do you think may emerge from this situation?
We have already begun to see certain travel trends that are emerging from COVID-19. Airlines have begun dropping their change fees, some permanently, to make travel easier for their consumers. I think this will be a trend that catches on with many areas of the travel industry and in the future, flexible travel will be more common. I also believe that the quality of the products that consumers will be looking for is going to outweigh saving a few dollars.
What advice do you have for travel advisors who are struggling during this tough time?
COVID-19 has changed so many of our lives and has taken not only our careers but has also halted our travels. In the beginning, I was struggling immensely with the idea of not knowing when I would be able to travel again. I felt as though my life had been put on pause and I was just waiting for some good news about the travel industry. My advice would be to keep moving forward, find other things in life that bring you joy and know that one day travel will return with a vengeance and we will all be right there to help everyone navigate a new world.
When travel restrictions are lifted and the risk is low, where are you travelling first?
This is a tough question for me! My next destination before the pandemic hit was going to be my new home. I was set to move to Thailand in May right after marrying my fiancé. Although Thailand is still on my bucket list, I think Hawaii will be our next destination when International travel resumes.