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: Tracie-Marie Landry
Business: Ohana Travels Inc -TravelOnly
Where do you live: Bowmanville, Ontario
How long have you been a travel agent? Five years
What is your specialty? I am a WPIC Wedding Coordinator, I specialize in Destination Weddings and South Asian Destination Weddings, Luxury Travel, Honeymoons, Family Vacations, Cruising LGBT and anything Disney!
What has the COVID-19 pandemic taught you about yourself and the travel industry?
That things can change in an instant. With the travel industry mostly based on commission, and only being paid once your clients travel, this pandemic has really financially crippled the travel world. I have seen companies that have been in business for over 20 years, have to shut their doors as they could not keep up with their bills.
With 2020 looking like there will be minimal travel, all clients with cancelled and previously booked packages and vacations, were either issued a Future Travel Voucher/Credit or Wedding Files had to be moved to 2021. This took hundreds of hours on hold, on the phone and sending many emails ensuring our clients received what was owed to them. Which is a lot of work considering there will be no compensation for work completed until 2021. It is truly frustrating. I am here to ensure I take care of my clients, no matter what this ends up meaning for me and my company.
What has been your biggest challenge during the pandemic?
The unknown. It was definitely difficult to give any information to our clients when the suppliers didn't have any idea when things would open either.
With government mandated border closures, we are basically getting updates daily. It truly makes things difficult for us all to give the answers are clients are desperately seeking. Whether that be refunds, Future Travel Voucher/Credits or moving the dates of travel to next year. It's truly a frustrating situation for everyone involved.
It was also really difficult to keep myself in good spirits. With everything going on around us and trying to keep up with all of the files cancelling or clients calling in to cancel, I felt like I was on auto pilot most of the time. There were days where I just sat in front of my computer and had a really good cry.
What challenges lie ahead as the travel economy gradually re-opens?
I feel the biggest challenge for my clients moving forward with travel is the 14-day quarantine upon return from travel. I have a mixture of clients. Some are not interested in travelling right now and I have some that have their bags already packed. I also have some that truly never wish to travel again....and that's ok. We all have different comfort levels and we have to be respectful of each other's choice.
What is one good thing that has come out of this situation?
I can honestly say that all of my clients have been so patient and understanding through all of this. I have met some really great clients that have become really good friends.
Knowing that I partnered with the right franchise is also key. I own my company and purchased a franchise through TravelOnly. The amount of support and training we had from them through this pandemic was truly paramount in getting through this. It truly feels like we are a family all helping one another get through this together. TravelOnly posted on our Workplace Chat sometimes hourly about any update from the suppliers and the procedures in place. This saved us agents a considerable amount of time and it felt great knowing we had their support
What does the travel industry need to do restore consumer confidence?
Let them know the safety protocols that have been set in place. From the airport, to sanitization of the luggage all the way to the resort and taking their temperatures.
I just got back from Mexico to experience what travel will be like for a few of my weddings at Unico 2087 and Hard Rock Mayan Riviera. I am confident to say that I felt extremely safe and loved their Safe and Sound safety protocols throughout the resort. I am confident saying that my experience was not altered in any way with all of the newly placed protocols in place. I felt much safer in Mexico than I did at my local Costco or Walmart. So I think if clients are able to travel, they want to know their safety is first and foremost the most important thing, plus that it will change their experience.
What other travel trends do you think may emerge from this situation?
I think moving forward people will definitely purchase travel insurance and cancellation insurance.
I feel that travel agents will be seeing a lot of clients that normally book online start to book through an agent moving forward. I feel that clients that booked on their own while maneuvering through this pandemic in search of a refund or a Future Travel Voucher/ Credit, really shows how much we really do on the back end.
Anyone can book a trip online; it's the expertise, knowledge and connections that being a travel agent has taught us how to fix things once something goes wrong. Most times we have already deviated an issue well before you even know about it, all without any precious vacation time has been interrupted.
What advice do you have for travel advisors who are struggling during this tough time?
Reach out to other travel agents. There are lots of groups on Facebook that are there to help each other. Take a break...sometimes you need to step away from the computer to get things in perspective. Your mental state of mind and taking care of yourself is the most important thing.
When border restrictions are lifted and the risk is low, where are you travelling first?
I have already just come back from Mexico on July 17th, 2020. I was confident with all of the safety protocols in place, from the airport to the hotels. I think once the mandatory 14-day quarantine upon return home ends, I would love to go to Walt Disney World. It truly is one of my most favorite places on earth. I am definitely missing Mickey Mouse this year!
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