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Rethink, Revise and Reschedule: Travel and COVID-19

by Elyse Glickman

Apr 15, 2020

Photo: Mirko Vitali | Dreamstime.com

Travel Tips

Life is what happens to us when we are making other plans — the current situation with COVID-19 is perhaps one of the most extreme examples of the old adage in our lifetime. Even the best-laid plans will need a complete overhaul, and there’s bound to be expressions of disappointment, exasperation and some tears shed — and not just among the kids.


While family travel offers parents countless opportunities for teachable moments, the extraordinary circumstances of this pandemic will ultimately do more than deliver some powerful and useful lessons for kids in handling disappointment, emergency preparedness and taking health-related precautions. Parents, by the same token, will learn about the value of travel insurance, advice from a good travel agent and working greater flexibility into travel plans.


“I think the best thing to do right now is to call your travel agent and talk things out,” said Gabriella Ribeiro, founder and CEO, Trumarketing, a boutique sales and marketing firm that represents tourist boards, destination management companies and hotel partners. She also organizes newsletters and releases to keep travel advisors and agents updated on major news affecting the travel industry in profound ways to help them better serve their clients.


“I think any savvy travel advisor will be willing to go above and beyond to help you negotiate anything related to rescheduling and recouping any losses,” Ribeiro said. “Clients should remember that travel advisors cultivate and develop their relationships with their suppliers 24-7, and it is times like these where these relationships become more critical. If you purchased your vacation package, hotels and flights through an advisor, you will be better able to change, postpone or modify the plans in some way to make any financial impact or loss as minimal as possible.  Let your travel advisor be your advocate — that’s what we’re here for.”


Ribeiro acknowledges patience should be exercised when rescheduling since it will be hard to determine which destinations will be the safest zones a few months from now. However, she assures clients when the medical community in different countries regain control of the situation and start opening up for tourism again, advisors will be in a much better position to help clients re-plan and rebook their dreams. Furthermore, she suggests those nervous about certain destinations consult the World Health Organization to assess which countries are less affected by COVID-19.


“It’s not my job or any advisor’s job to sway a client in any particular direction,” she said. “The best thing I can do in my position is arm my clients with all of the relevant facts available about what’s happening at a destination as well as useful information and resources. My responsibility is to make clients aware of all of the options they have to make informed decisions for revised travel plans based on what’s best for their families. We’ve been through everything, including SARS, H1N1 and Ebola, and this is a key reason why it is important for travelers to build a relationship with an advisor you trust. Good travel advisors persevered by staying informed, being empathetic, and sharing knowledge with clients.”


According to Ribeiro, a good agent or advisor will use this situation as an opportunity to remind the public about why it is so important to buy good travel insurance. One analogy she used to explain the importance of buying a good travel insurance policy is to compare it with buying a warranty for an appliance or car. In most travel professional circles, everybody knows somebody who benefitted from investing in travel insurance and somebody else who suffered financially because they didn’t.


“The importance of travel insurance becomes relatable when we’re all facing a situation like the one happening now,” she said. “Even before COVID-19, however, travelers have experienced unforeseen weather and health events, mechanical problems with planes and other things that have ruined vacations. If anything, I feel that the silver lining in this crisis is that people will make wiser decisions going forward when it comes to planning trips and investing in policies that will protect the experience. We don’t want people to stop traveling because they are frustrated. When we can all travel again freely, I want them to know that with insurance they can have all the peace of mind that will motivate them to book or rebook their trips.”


As a mom, another thing Ribeiro can speak about is addressing the disappointment kids and adults feel when vacations need to be canceled. However, she points out that as most kids are resilient and aware of what’s happening around them, the disappointment will quickly fade “much like it does when you go to the store with your child and won’t buy him or her a certain toy or snack.” She recommends parents remind kids unforeseen things happen all the time and bad times will pass. The destination or experience will be there when it becomes safe enough for all of us to travel. This leads her to stress a truly good travel advisor will take the same approach.


“When breaking bad news to people or talking them through a rescheduling, I think it is best to establish common ground with clients rather than speak to them in an authoritarian or know-it-all way,” she said. “I like to suggest solutions based on what I have done in similar situations as a parent, and reassure them everything will pass in time. There have been personal and global situations come up before this where modifications and cancellations were necessary, and the best way to get somebody through this is speak to them in a way they feel comfortable with.”


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