Verve interviews Caroline Clegg, marketing manager at Auckland’s boutique travel company World Journeys.
With international travel now off the menu under Covid-19 conditions, where does this leave the travel professional?
We’ve been through the SARS outbreak, bird flu, 9/11, the Global Financial Crisis and the 2009 swine flu pandemic – and bounced back remarkably well every time.Despite the effects of Covid-19 creating a whole new level of disruption to the travel industry worldwide, we have to remain hopeful.
So how are travel agents coping right now?
At present they are actually busy working to defer clients’ bookings to a later date, or in the case of cancellation, trying to secure them the best refunds possible amongst a maze of ever-changing terms and conditions.Our travel designers spend a lot of time tailor-making each individual’s itinerary, so it’s a very tough thing to have to undo all that good work, as you know exactly what the client will miss out on!It is however a very good illustration of the value of a travel agent – getting Kiwis home urgently prior to lockdown, going in to bat for refunds, we’ve done it all. We’re all in this business because travel is in our DNA, and we love making that happen for others too.
How about financially?
This is very tough time across the broader economy, and travel agents are certainly not exempt. Our company did have a specific “in case of emergency” plan in place so this was implemented early on to ensure we remain well placed to both service existing bookings, but also to be ready to deal with future demand.Wherever possible we are trying to encourage people to postpone rather than outright cancel, and some operators are offering ‘sweeteners’ if a booking is moved to a later date.
So where to next?
We are all awaiting a vaccine and the reopening of borders – we’re actually seeing some borders slowly beginning to open already!But ultimately, this is the perfect time to start planning.We all have a travel dream, so why not use this time to do your research, talk to your travel agent, and be ready for when the world opens again! There are some excellent offers available for travel in 2021 and 2022.
It’s also time to start thinking about making your travel count.For example, travellers on our African safaris are actually contributing to the conservation and protection of endangered wildlife and vulnerable communities.Our safari operators fund essential work such as anti-poaching, and provide communities with the security of employment.Without tourists, these pristine wilderness areas and their people would be severely under threat.
What can we look forward to?
The world out there is still an amazing place!I honestly believe in the power of travel to create connections between cultures and to grow our appreciation of the world we live in.We are anticipating some incredible deals being released over the coming months, with each destination as keen as mustard to get their share of travellers.We’re already seeing a very welcomed move towards flexible cancellation policies, price freezes, and the ability to book but not deposit until closer to the travel date.It just makes sense at a time when people are not ready to commit, but want to make sure they don’t miss out when all that pent-up demand returns.And it will return!