The 'Monday Minute' is a weekly feature at PAX dedicated to highlighting the movers, shakers, leaders and rule-breakers in Canada's travel agent community. Wanna be profiled? Wanna nominate someone? Email firstname.lastname@example.org!
Name: Carl Henderson
Business: Tahiti by Carl (Travel Professionals International)
Where do you live? Toronto
How long have you been a travel advisor? About 20 years (and have the grey hairs to prove it!)
What is your specialty? Tahiti and luxury FIT travel
What has the COVID-19 pandemic taught you about yourself and the travel industry?
Oddly enough, I am in a good place right now with my business. The pause is giving me time to re-evaluate everything I have done in the past and think about changes I would like to make, work on updating my website, marketing plans and more. It's really allowing me to be more on the business rather when typically I am so busy in the day to day there is no time for this larger outlook. It has also been interesting looking at what suppliers are truly strong partners and which ones are not.
What has been your biggest challenge during the pandemic?
Adapting to the new role of Cancellation Consultant – working through cancellations, refunds, credits, rebooking, ever-changing rules. It hasn’t been an enjoyable practice and it's very time consuming work for no pay. Thankfully most of that is taken care of now so the days are brighter and happier with a few leads coming in now, too!
What challenges lie ahead as the travel economy gradually re-opens?
I think we have many and the biggest will be consumer confidence in the safety of travelling. Their trust in us as advisors. The airlines, hoteliers, transfer companies, country they are visiting. The unknowns of the virus and possible reoccurrence. There are so many variables. Everyone has their own risk tolerance so their travels will vary with their comfort levels but communication within our industry will be key!
What does the travel industry need to do restore consumer confidence?
Trust. It is all great for suppliers and destinations to talk about their cleanliness policies and partner with brands. But once people start to travel, if consumers don’t see these safety measures taking place, the negative social media could kill our industry – especially in the start-up phase. Consumers need to trust us and the suppliers to rebuild their travel confidence. And we can also use luck that we don’t get a fall resurgence and eventually a vaccine!
What other travel trends do you think may emerge from the COVID-19 crisis?
More flexible booking conditions. Pre-COVID, we were moving more and more to the trend of non-refundable fares on everything – flights, hotels, cruises, packages. However, I think to gain consumer confidence, especially in the beginning, travellers won’t want to lock in to non-refundable packages. Cancel for Any Reason Insurance policies are going to be good sellers!
What's one good thing that has come out of this situation?
Most definitely the time to focus on reorganizing and updating my business. I am an ideas guy and finally getting around to fulfilling those ideas I have and getting things done.
What advice do you have for travel advisors who are struggling during this tough time?
It is tough and we all have our ups and downs. Know that you are not alone if you are struggling. But I think we need to think of this slow time as a gift we have never had before. I am fully confident travel will come back (just not sure when) so enjoy this time to work on your business or spend time with a new hobby, learning a language – something productive and enjoyable. Time is the most valuable thing we have in life and it is limited, so try to enjoy it and use it wisely while we have it.
When border restrictions are lifted and the risk is low, where are you travelling first?
Tahiti. I am spending so much time working on my Tahiti business, I am teasing myself and itching to go! I had plans for a trip there in October and December which were both cancelled, so I need to get there on my own when I can!
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