“We’re Here To Support You:” What Virtuoso Advisors Are Telling Concerned Clients
Bruce Parkinson, Open Jaw
Virtuoso agents say that for those with a vacation booked in the coming days, weeks or months, some trepidation is natural. Fears of contracting the virus, or even being quarantined, are valid. Virtuoso agency owner Josh Bush agrees and says the biggest concern his clients express is not getting sick, it’s getting stuck.
Ultimately, choosing to go forth with travel plans is a personal call. But how do clients sort through the information to make the right decision? According to Virtuosos, these really are the moments when having a travel advisor is key.
Seamless trip planning and travel perks aside, an advisor is a traveller’s number-one advocate. Advisors have access to real-time information and can arm their clients with the facts needed to make confident decisions, provide informed answers to any “What would you do?” concerns, and handle the logistics that sometimes can’t be avoided, from last-minute flight changes to spring break contingency plans.
Virtuoso consulted with some of its 22,000 affiliated travel advisors worldwide to get their insights into what travellers should know as they assess their options.
“Right now, we’re letting travellers know we’re here to support them in making the best decision for their family and giving them the facts to help make that decision,” says agency owner Cristina Buaas.
Here’s what Virtuoso says its advisors are doing: They are not panicking. They’re staying positive, because this too shall pass. They’re carrying on with their own travel plans.
Most importantly, they are dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak by taking care of their clients.
Here is what they are telling them:
Protect your travel investment by seeking professional advice.
“It’s important to give my clients all of the facts about their trip, their destination, and the policies of their travel supplier,” says Virtuoso agency executive Amanda Klimak. “I then help them make a decision about travel based on the facts. I also recommend they speak to their personal physician to discuss the risks based on their medical history. Then I let them know I’m here to help, no matter what they decide.”
A travel advisor knows if or when airlines, hotels, cruise lines and tour operators have waived change and cancellation fees – and many have: “The entire travel industry is in uncharted territory now due to coronavirus,” says Virtuoso agency executive Mary Kleen. “As travel advisors, our current role is to listen to travellers’ concerns and provide the most up-to-date options so they can make informed decisions at a minimal cost.”
Base decisions on timelines, not headlines.
Buaas recently suggested a wait-and-see approach for a traveller planning to take her children to Greece this summer. The situation is evolving rapidly – if clients are planning to travel to Europe in JUN and the tour, cruise, or hotel has a 30-day cancellation policy, for example, they don’t have to make a decision until MAY.
“Our advisors have spent 60% of their time in the past week fielding questions about COVID-19,” says Bush. “Very few of those conversations result in cancellations, and that’s because the situation is so fluid and not definite. We are advising travellers to wait and see, especially if there is little or no financial risk to do so.”
Plan now, travel later.
“Travelling is meant to be fun and educational,” says Wallace. “If you’re going to be worried and anxious about your trip, find something that you’ll be comfortable with and enjoy. If that means you sit out travel in the short term, that’s fine. But while you’re waiting, look forward to the recovery, because it will come, and you’ll need to be ready to jump on that trip you’ve been drooling over.”
To avoid losing out on future travel opportunities, Wallace reminds her clients to start planning now. “Book 2021-2022 trips now, because everyone else is and you will have trouble finding space. Many travel companies have relaxed deposits, cancellation penalties and cancel for any reason waivers to encourage those willing to start thinking about the next window of opportunity.”
Bruce Parkinson Editor-in-Chief
An observer and analyst of the Canadian and international travel industries for over 25 years, Bruce uses the pre-dawn hours to prepare a daily news and information package to keep industry members up to date.