After one year of this crisis, it’s still hard to give concrete travel advice, but I know the value of what we offer, says The Travel Snob, David Walker, a homeworker for Not Just Travel based in Nottingham.
One holiday booked six times, and I’ve still not earned a penny of commission on it yet. That’s six times the work for the same amount.
Did we think a year ago, when the cancellations hit, that 12 months on we would still be spending a large portion of our time rebooking and chasing suppliers for refunds while still explaining to customers that we don’t know anything in concrete as to when it will be safe, or what the restrictions will be?
How many of us could call ourselves experts about travelling in the pandemic? How could we, with things changing daily? What you say on Tuesday is out of date when you wake up on Wednesday.
In December, we all became fountains of knowledge about Covid-testing companies and which to use for a speedy turnaround before a flight. We knew which test you needed for where and how long before travel you needed it. Now, to be honest, I’ve forgotten all of that. There will be something else we need to prep-up on soon, we just don’t know what yet.
Showing our value
It’s bad that we know about as little now, a year on, as we did when Covid started. I feel just as uncomfortable talking to a customer about travel regulations, about where’s safe and where’s not, and if they have to quarantine on return, as I did in March 2020.
But despite this, I have seen the true value in what we do for our clients – even more so than usual – over the past year. Fighting, arguing and, on the very odd occasion, shouting at our beloved suppliers (sorry), all on behalf of our clients. I’ve discussed balance payments, the best times to cancel at no or very little loss and, more often than not, deposit refunds.
“Constant communication, and letting them know I’m here, has added much peace of mind. Even first-time clients, who have had a refund, will come back and spend with me.”
And because I’ve fully realised the value in what we do, I’ve become more confident in what I am presenting to the client, even if I am more expensive than, say, BA Holidays. I’ve explained myself and what I’ve done in a way that I doubt many direct-sell operators would.
As a result, I’ve gained a new breed of client: those that historically would not use a travel agent.
I’ve made even more of an effort building relationships with existing and new clients. Zoom has been instrumental in this: not hiding behind a pop-up Travel Snob banner, but welcoming them into my home and my life as they welcome me into theirs. Constant communication, and letting them know I’m here, has added much peace of mind. Even first-time clients, who have had a refund, will come back and spend with me.
Talking of building relationships, that’s not just been with clients. I’ve made a huge effort to get to know my suppliers. With furlough, and the dreadful situations many are in, it’s good to know they are on hand when we need them. A response late evening (or straight away) means we can get back to clients promptly, which makes us look good. I’m not saying I’ve had special favours on refunds, but having someone by your side has really helped.
“I’ve made a huge effort to get to know my suppliers. With furlough, and the dreadful situations many are in, it’s good to know they are on hand when we need them.”
As we reflect on the past 12 months, which have been dreadful for all of us, it also feels like we must almost be at the end now. Surely?
Me and Mrs Jones, we’ve got a (rebooking) thing, goin’ on
Back in March 2020, when we called Mrs Jones to give her the bad news that her holiday had been cancelled due to “this pandemic”, we told her “of course you can rebook for the summer”, and shifted it to August a few minutes later.
What little did we know then. Mrs Jones, who moved her week in Tenerife to a week in Croatia in August last year then had to change again to Turkey in October; Turkey was then switched back to Tenerife for New Year and, bless her, we then decided to rebook on her original March dates but this time in 2021.
She’s now agreed that if we can’t travel in August 2021, she’ll have a refund and buy a caravan in Wales.
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