AT 84 days in, we’re seeing an easing of restrictions for South Africans. The opening of our borders still remains our greatest opportunity for recovery and we have to wait for that, but all these small steps reinforce the hope we all carry and the determination South Africans have in getting our economy working. And, to be honest, it will be nice to have a haircut.
Travel agents have posted some very heart-warming stories in social media pages recently. Customers telling them to hold the refunded money as a deposit for their future plans, random acts of kindness to keep businesses going because those customers see the value of the agent, and many more. But for some reason we keep those beautiful stories within our closed Facebook groups.
The other stories that get good coverage and go viral are those random ‘letters to the editor’ of mainstream media. Recently a disgruntled Durban passenger whose trip was cancelled by an airline owing to the SA lockdown, took up his pen. The gist of the story was… now the ‘Travel Agent’ is refusing him the refund and offering him a voucher as an alternative. Really?
If I recall, when the prospect arose of countries posing lockdowns, late February, travel agencies were inundated with passengers seeking their assistance to get family back home. Many of those emergency changes were for tickets not originally booked by the helpful travel agent! The offshoot of that was an overwhelming appreciation of travel businesses and the individual consultants within the industry.
The question I have is this: How can we leverage that good name, particularly now when airline refunds and cancellation policies are becoming our problem and undermining our reputation?
Now, more than ever, travel agents must have a digital profile and a compelling presence on the various social media platforms. Posting your suppliers’ offers on Instagram is clumsy and not likely to be read. Use that space to promote your brand, your people, your values and most of all, tell your story.
Leisure travel will always be aspirational, but this pandemic has made travellers jittery; they’re cautious about being infected and affected by situations they have no control over. This is your opportunity to clear up any ambiguity before, during and after their trip.
Perhaps this message needs to be recited at every point of contact. “My part of the deal is making sure the booking you make suits you and you’ll pay me for that. The airline’s part of the deal is getting you there comfortably and safely and you’ll pay them for that. Whoever doesn’t deliver is liable for your refund!”
Robyn Christie doesn't need much introduction to the travel industry having worked within it for many years, but her more recent venture into her independent role saw the launch of Robyn Christie just saying... A keynote speaker, a consultant, a content producer and a pandemic survivor, Robyn is having her say!