The COVID-19 pandemic has brought travel to a sudden standstill, forcing tens of thousands of travelers to either cancel their long-awaited vacations or return early. Phone calls started flooding airline offices, travel agencies and tour operators, and hold times have been excessive. As a result, travel advisors have now become “the top shining stars” of the travel industry.
Like many travel advisors, Teodor Mihail of Inspiring World Voyages, a member of Centre Holidays in Mississauga, Ontario, found himself staying on hold for hours in order to protect travelers who were traveling, as well as others who had upcoming trips booked.
Eleven high school students were in France, on a two-month exchange program organized by CERE Exchange. When the Canadian government announced they were closing borders, all the students eventually felt forced to return home. Teodor Mihail received a call from the program’s coordinator in Canada and immediately got on the phone. Despite the long hold time, he managed to get all the students home safely, and at minimal cost. Their parents were relieved.
Many travelers question “what’s the difference when booking through a travel advisor?" All travel companies sell trips at the same price. Some travelers say that, unless the travel advisor can offer a discount, it’s easier to simply do it online and avoid the hassles of calling someone and waiting for confirmation. Teodor explains that, in only a few words, the answer is “expertise, reliability, and no hassles in booking and managing your vacation”. The COVID-19 pandemic has proven that travelers need much more than just a simple ticket.
When one books directly with an airline or a company that is well-known in the travel industry, hold times on the customer line can be up to one hour. In the same time, when booking through a small business, one can get through to a travel advisor right away. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the amount of phone calls to airline offices and other top suppliers flooded faster than the downpour coming from a hurricane. When calling many airlines, one would get a message that it was not possible to be placed on hold. At that point, those who booked online were stuck. One would think that they have no choice but to book a new one-way ticket. Planes were filling up faster than ever, and new one-way tickets were priced at over $2000 per person. Many travelers ended up paying that much, as they had no other way to make it home, nor did they have anyone to assist them.
At the same time, those who had tickets booked with Inspiring World Voyages paid very little to change their tickets. The highest amount paid to change a return ticket, up to August 26, 2020, was CAD 278. Travelers were able to get hold of Teodor within one phone call. If no one was able to answer, their call was returned in less than one hour. Teodor assured them that he would work on it, however, it would take some time due to long hold times. He then did the work, and offered travelers the appropriate services to complete or reschedule their trip. The idea of one leaving everything in Teodor’s hands and doing other things until they got an answer made a big difference to over 90% of Teodor’s clients. Many of them were even apologizing “for bothering him and getting him to do all the extra work”. For Teodor, that was not “bothersome” at all. It is always a pleasure for him to help his clients, and make a difference in the experience of travelers who book through him.
When travel eventually gets back to normal, many sources say that an increasing number of travelers will be using a travel advisor. The nightmares that many clients had with online booking engines will hopefully create a shift in public opinion about travel advisors. Travelers will want the security that travel advisors provide.
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