Our industry is facing a tremendous crisis, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Airlines, hotels, tour operators and so on are closing…
Some airlines are closing, and others are laying off workers as they are parking their planes. Hotels are temporarily closing worldwide, tours & activities companies are also closing, or at least suspending operations, rent-a-car companies doing the same, and this list could go indefinitely as people are now realizing that tourism is the most consequent industry in the world, as it is a turning wheel for most industries, that are not tourism-related.
A lot of people calling airlines & OTAs
The result of this whole mess is a lot of people calling airlines & OTAs to ask questions, exchange or refund their flights. This huge influx of calls is causing those big players to struggle, leaving people with hours of holding on the line, and even disconnecting them with no answer at all. We can even see that airlines & OTAs started asking their customer to don’t call them, as they can’t handle this volume.
Poor customer service
This is causing a generalized poor customer service perception on those big players, by their customers in distress.
With the evolution of technology, being able to search and book for your next holiday online is now available to anyone 24/7, fully autonomous, without any human interaction. This leaves us with some large airlines and OTAs who have a huge IT department to ensure that everyone that accesses their websites has a stable connection and is able to have a great UI/UX, and very few actual travel agents who know how to handle the exceptions that can’t be offered online. Or deal with customers in distress.
People want to speak to someone
In crisis situations, such as the present one, or the ash cloud some years ago, no one wants to send an email to the support center and wait for a reply. No, not at all! What people want is to speak to someone and ask all the questions that they have, and eventually cancel or exchange their bookings. And, as said in the beginning, these large players don’t have the capacity to handle this huge influx of calls.
Travel agents offer personal contact
That’s where the brick & mortar travel agents come to play, as travel agents offer personal contact, a personal experience, the support will be likewise. So, if you had a personalized service when booking your holidays, you’ll get the same service when asking for a refund or exchange in that booking. Or when asking assistance when you’re in distress during your holidays. That’s why travel agents are so valued in crisis situations, and so undervalued when everything goes well. It’s like any kind of insurance, you never need it until you need it, and then if you don’t have it, you’re screwed. This is not the only added value of using a travel agent, but this is the one which is being highlighted now, as so many people are in need of assistance with their booking, the ones that made it through a travel agent are the fortunate ones who are relaxed because they know that their travel agent is taking care of them.
Don’t remember this only when crisis knocks on your door. Travel Agents have a great added value to our industry, let’s give them the value that they deserve!
Let’s save tourism together, with the help of our dear travel agents.
On another hand, I’ just like to remind you of the numerous campaigns that are happening asking you not to cancel your bookings, change the dates. Let’s save tourism together, with the help of our dear travel agents.
Article by João Taborda, Head of Sales @ TTS