After a year of grounded flights and canceled holidays, it finally feels like we can begin to look ahead at travel returning to normalcy. Vaccines for COVID-19 are currently being rolled out around the world and several countries are even incentivizing tourists to book their next vacation. What can travel agents do to build trust with our clients?
As we prepare for post-pandemic travel to resume, it’s important to consider how the industry has changed. International travel has taken a massive blow over the past year and service providers have needed to adapt how they support travelers to suit the new situation. As travel begins to reopen more widely, holidaymakers now have many more questions about how they will travel in the future.
As we transition into post-COVID travel, travelers need travel agents who can provide an extensive and thorough service as per the latest ‘rules’.
To help professional travel planners prepare for the coming months, we will share our top five COVID travel tips to bear in mind for 2021.
1. Stay one step ahead of the latest travel regulations
The pandemic has impacted the landscape of travel and how travelers prepare for their trips. Whilst travelers used to fret about whether their passport was in date and what the weather will be like, travel now has many more considerations.
Changes in travel regulations and entry requirements are changing on an almost weekly basis. In addition to securing a visa for travel, travelers must also complete a health declaration for many countries. In some cases, depending on the destination, they need to take PCR tests prior to travel.
Travelers are anxious about catching COVID-19 or, even worse, spreading the disease to more vulnerable people. They want to book trips with organizations that they know are committed to safety and hygiene. This means they want to know exactly what hygiene protocols their airline and accommodation are doing to prevent the spread and keep them (and others) safe.
They’re concerned about whether they can get valid travel insurance that covers their destination and has a COVID-19 clause. They need help establishing whether a specific destination is safe for travel and whether travel itself is safe and ethical. They also want practical COVID travel tips from real experts.
With all these factors, travelers will turn to professionals that they can trust. Travel agents are in the best place to provide the most up to date information both pre-travel and during the trip.
All travel planners should now focus on providing answers to the above based on reputable news outlets and verified sources. By staying informed with the latest updates and providing their clients with valuable information, travel agents can instill trust.
2. Boost and optimize online platforms
Over the past 12 months, the digital world has boomed. Businesses across all major industries have turned to online platforms to continue their trade and communicate with their customers.
As with all companies, travel agents require a sound online identity. The events of the past year have compounded the need for a strong digital presence that will help their business stay afloat in challenging times.
It is crucial that all travel planners stay abreast of the latest developments in technology. This includes having a reliable messaging platform, utilizing contactless payment methods, and maintaining a proactive social media presence. Those in the travel industry should use this transitional time to audit their web channels and create a content plan for the year ahead. They should provide COVID travel tips as the situation develops.
As well as ensuring their business is well-represented across the web and social media, travel planners should also take the opportunity to engage with clients. As well as sharing their own updates, service providers should tune into what customers are talking about and listen to feedback.
3. Streamline online and offline communication channels
Whilst digital presence is vital for all travel planners, clients still expect and appreciate a human element. As we move into post-pandemic travel, travelers will seek additional support as they plan their trips that they may not have considered in the past.
A sleek website, top-tier technology, and hot-off-the-press news announcements are essential, but clients also want to know who they can talk to in the case of an emergency. This could be via social media, email, or even over the phone. Ideally, agencies will provide multiple options across all these methods.
Whilst chatbots do have their benefits, professional travel planners should prioritize providing clients with a line of contact to a member of their team. Speaking to an individual directly adds an extra layer of assurance and adds authority to a service.
Travelers are more likely to have concerns in the lead-up to a trip or during a vacation. Which means that they’ll want an open conversation with their trip planner. They also want to know that their query is being treated on an individual basis. Travel agents should provide tailored advice to all customers who get in touch with a concern.
Adding that emotional factor is one of our top COVID travel tips for all agents to adhere to. If clients feel supported throughout their entire journey, they’re more likely to recommend the service and book with the agent again in the future.
4. Add value and provide a bespoke solution
In the pre-pandemic days, travelers were hungry for deals and discounts. Whilst the cost of a trip is still a major factor when planning a trip, in light of the new situation they need more. Travelers are aware that travel prices may well increase – what with the new protocols that are now in place.
After an entire year of travel restrictions, closed borders, and lockdowns, travelers are eager to make plans. Their priority is receiving a safe travel experience just as much as getting the most out of their vacation.
Clients will want to know what travel planners are going to do to take the stress out of post-COVID travel. Airport transfers, pre-loaded public transport cards, pre-booked tickets to attractions, booking with reliable tour guides are just some of the ways travel organizers can boost their offerings. Remote accommodation is likely to remain popular as is car-hire. The more value that travel agents can give their customers, the better.
In light of what is happening both with the pandemic and the climate crisis, more travelers are interested in sustainable travel.
A premium experience will distinguish the top tier travel planners. Those who can provide a bespoke service that suits the individual needs of the traveler will stand out. Professional travel planners can get one step ahead by keeping on top of the latest developments and considering how they can add value to their packages.
Providing a premium travel experience is something that iVisa.com has proven success with. Travelers appreciate that our innovative travel visa service saves their time and expedites the trip planning experience. If travel agents can offer a way to streamline a traveler’s journey – then it’s a win, win situation.
Again, the better that the experience is, the more likely the client will refer their friends and rebook.
5. Build trust and offer flexible terms
Going back to that first point, trust is the key takeaway for travel professionals.
Post-COVID travelers will prioritize brands that they can trust and who have their best interests at heart. For every decision or proposal that a travel agent makes – the needs of the individual traveler must come first.
Travel agents have the task of building travelers’ confidence whilst providing solid COVID travel tips as they start to plan for the future. Agencies should consider how they can communicate with their clients in a way that shows this.
Another vital complement in post-COVID travel alongside trust is flexibility.
Travelers are worried about last-minute cancellations and changes that may affect their travel insurance policy. What if they test positive for the virus the day prior to travel? Or if the destination that was deemed safe suddenly changes status? Travel planners need to prepare contingency plans that cover all possible scenarios and communicate these with their clients.
Any travel agents that can offer flexible terms in case rescheduling or cancellation is required will prove popular with travelers. Travelers who are planning post-COVID vacations will also respond favorably to attractive payment plans.
Travel Agents Role
To recap, 2021 marks the year where the role of travel agents and travel planners is set to soar.
As travel reopens and starts to adapt, travelers will depend upon the support of the experts to ensure their long-awaited trips go without a hitch.
Travel agents have traditionally brought together strategic planning, problem-solving and savvy insider knowledge that make the most of a vacation. But in terms of post-COVID travel, they will also be expected to provide a level of emotional support and premium service.
Ultimately, the role of travel agents is now to stay on top of any challenges and streamline the travel experience for all types of travelers.