Don’t let a ‘pine beetle’ problem undermine your business, says Sharon.

I am writing this as I sit on a very comfortable coach travelling on the Coquihalla Highway on the east side of the Canadian Rockies. What a view! What an environment! Unspoilt and untouched by human hands.

I catch a glimpse of a grizzly bear with her cubs, searching for salmon from the turquoise waters of the river and I can think of little that could be more idyllic.

The trees don’t look so large from down below but they are stunning. On this trip I’ve learnt that they only grow for around six weeks of the year and some of them, not much bigger than our Christmas trees, are almost 400 years old. In the midst of the vastness and beauty of the trees there are a few brown ones, which we’re told have been infected by the pine beetle and have died. A pine beetle is a tiny insect that can barely be seen, yet the devastation they cause is colossal. In British Columbia alone they have affected 62,000 square miles of forest.


My mind comes back to travel and how much damage the equivalent of a little beetle can do. One minute’s media coverage can ruin years of building a programme to a destination. One negative member of staff can ruin a whole team. And one disruptive passenger can change the course of a flight and ruin it for everyone else.

Over many years, most independent travel agents have grown their businesses slowly, focusing on care and customer service. We train our staff, forge relationships with our clients, understand their needs and ultimately build a great database of repeat customers who come back to us because of that attention we have paid them over the years. Our teams are our business, and our clients get to depend on our staff.

But things can change suddenly. If a member of staff decides to move on, the negativity can spread like the pine beetle. Indeed, disruption or negativity of any sort in an independent business can cause devastation. Talk of Brexit, for example, can stop a world of people from travelling – and agents can get caught up in the negativity, especially if their targets may not be reached.

Lightning recovery

So how do we survive a ‘pine beetle’ in the travel industry? Well, it’s simple. Nature has a clever way of fixing things. The weather in Canada is pretty cold for most of the year but it also has its share of rain and thunderstorms. One strike of lightning can start a forest fire and, guess what? It burns the pine beetle, the pine kernels crack open and spread to make new trees, and the circle of life starts all over again.

Do you see what I am getting at? Get rid of the negativity and understand that if we all gave up in travel every time there was an internal or worldwide issue that affected our, we would all have a very short lifespan. Go with the flow and you can find innovative ways to strike lightning in to your business and get it growing again!

Remember, you are in control of turning your business around.


Hat’s off to Air Canada

Air Canada really helped clients of mine this week. They had applied for their Canadian eTA in good time and had received a confirmation email.

Unfortunately, they didn’t notice their application was subject to further questions. A second email asking for more details went direct to my client’s junk box. It was only on arrival at the airport that they discovered their application had been unsuccessful. Step forward, Ann-Marie, an Air Canada supervisor. She made the clients feel relaxed, set them up with a new login and called the embassy on their behalf. It was sorted immediately.

Travel agents can’t apply for visas for clients. So hats off to Air Canada – that’s two new repeat customers!