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Comment: A simple message to travel agents – Thank You

Trafalgar chief executive Gavin Tollman sends an open letter to trade partners and says 2021 will be a time to shine and celebrate

A message specially for you, our vital and valued agent partners. ‘Thank You’.

These are two words you most likely have not heard very often this year, as we have been forced to apply all our energies towards simply surviving a generation-defining, industry-breaking period of time.

However, these two words are what I wish to express to you, with all of my energy and greatest sincerity.

Thank You, our vital and valued agent partners, who have done your utmost to stay focused and to stay hopeful during a year that has felt, at many times, desperate and endless.

Thank You, for your frontline perseverance and for your partnership.

Thank You, because together, we’ve future-proofed travellers’ dreams, so that when that day finally arrives and travel returns, which it will soon, we can move forward, together, and once again flourish.

Despite its challenges, 2020 for me will be the year I stopped to think carefully about the difference that we can, and do, make. Our life’s work in travel and tourism has been one of pride. It has been one of purpose. It is the energy and passion that comes from the joy of watching people celebrate the world around us, when we connect travellers to the places where their dreams are fulfilled, that drives us.

The greater travel community in which we belong plays a critical role in making millions of dreams come to life every single year – what an incredible role we play in making memories and bringing joy.

Re-evaluatung the future

This pause has offered me the chance to re-evaluate where we go from here, to do a proper reset and define how our industry will change after the pandemic. And now after nine long months the start of the administering of vaccines marks a vital catalyst to the restoration of what we love, travel.

As we do so, one of the great truths emerging from this year, is that there will never be a ‘return to normal’. Why is this the case? Because the seismic shift cause by the world grinding to a halt, and cutting off our ability to connect with one another, has fundamentally shifted not just the value of travel, but the values of travel.

As I looked forward into this new reality and captured my thoughts I had a powerful moment of clarity about the year ahead, and the crucial role you, our agent partners, play in the rejuvenation of our industry.

Firstly, cabin fever is rampant. Simply by speaking to past guests, looking at search trends or research itself, we know there is an enormous demand and desire of people to reconnect not just with their loved ones, but with new people, cultures and places. They want to travel, they have missed it, and they are longing to explore once again. But when the world reopens, we know that before restarting their journeys, what they are going to need from us, the travel community, will be very different.

Following the trauma of the last nine months, the world’s travellers will need support and guidance and reassurance to enable them to confidently get back out in the world. Much like getting back on a bicycle, it’s going to require training wheels, clarity around where they can go, what they can do and what the protocols are that need to be respected to be able to take to the open road and skies once again.

This is where is gets interesting. The value of the agent to inspire, recommend, guide, and help decide where and ‘how’ to ultimately go, will never be greater. Agents that listen, do and act on travellers core needs, will thrive. Those choosing to ignore will quickly find themselves out of business.

You cannot simply, at times, be a travel order taker. Travel intenders will be looking for your expert guidance, your advice and your knowledge. The role of an agent as an expert in our industry, has never been greater. Travellers will be looking to you to discover where they can take their hopes and travel dreams, how and where they should invest their hard-earned money, in a way that is safe and secure. They need to feel comfort and confidence that we will return them home, healthy and fulfilled, having enjoyed incredible moments and made memories to last a lifetime.

The needs of the individual

2021 will be defined by one critical call to action for the agent community. Now more than ever the individual needs of the customer will be greater than we have ever seen in our lifetime, in particular the need to help them understand what they don’t understand, so they can once more enjoy travel experiences beyond their dreams. This we know to be true.

They need you to help them feel confident that this year’s invisible crisis is being carefully managed and that the travel community is working together to make sure that the desire to travel is fulfilled in a way where they can travel worry free. And importantly, that through your guidance, expertise and understanding of their needs, that they can simply focus on the holiday dream, enjoy, be in the moment, without worrying about the details of safety that have so heavily been weighing on their minds.

Thankfully, a number of years ago we launched the Consultative Selling Process training programme that we continually evolve and update for our valued trade partners – for you. As we look towards the future, this represents a lifeline to success. It is here for you, supporting you to be able to focus:

  • First, on the customer: Asking insightful, instinctive questions to gain understanding of your clients’ needs. As they say every customer has a story, and it up to us to uncover their past, present and future travel desires.
  • Second, on the solution: All too often we dive into what we think a customer wants to know, but yet we have not asked the customer all the questions to know if that is REALLY the right solution for them, hence why point 1 is so important. We need to be asking the right questions.

Human engagement

The shock and grounding of the entire world this year has shifted needs, shifted motivations, shifted aspirations, with both new and returning clients. Finding the new questions and delivering the new solutions is your recipe to unlocking the new business that awaits. Only human engagement can do this.

2021 will take us into a new travel world with new travel opportunities, new perspectives and new needs. I would be remiss if I didn’t highlight the enormity of the following three key variables travellers are currently looking to ensure are addressed before they will travel:

  1. They want peace of mind that their wellbeing is taken care of,
  2. They want to have a great time when they travel, and,
  3. They want their hard-earned money to be safe when they invest it in travel.

In this regard and very importantly, the challenges of this year have inspired The Travel Corporation Family of Brands (TTC) to invest smartly, heavily and meaningfully into the introduction of wellbeing systems and specialised team members that make it easy for guests to forget their worries, keeping travellers safe, satisfied, and focused on their enjoyment. We couldn’t be more excited about connecting our travellers to their dreams once again.

This is a pivotal time for you, for the industry, and for our touring expertise. Together, it is our opportunity to shine and celebrate a great 2021 together.

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