The Olympian Efforts of a Travel Advisor

Are you watching the Olympics from Tokyo this past week? It’s inspiring, isn’t it?

The Canadian women are rocking it – and we have the most decorated Canadian Olympian just getting her 7th medal in the pool last night. Go, Penny Oleksiak

It’s so amazing to watch the years of training, and dedication, get called into play for a moment in time. To watch and learn about the stories about these athletes from around the globe- from Simone Biles to Maggie MacNeil to Kaylee McKeown – all of those countless hours, trying to do their personal best, for very little (or no) money. All of that hard work – all for the love of what they do.

Sounds vaguely familiar to those of us in the travel world – at least these past 17-18 months.

Ok, I didn’t get up at 4 am, and drag my lazy self to a cold pool, again and again, or pushed my body to do maniacal twists for floor exercises or on the balance beam in gymnastics. And I’m no Maude Cherron (holy weightlifting – But I certainly know about all of the Herculean efforts us travel advisors have had to undertake for clients this past year. Maybe it’s the world coming together now. Maybe it’s the words from my executive team during our weekly zoom calls that each client’s holiday now takes at least 3x the amount of work. All of this during a year of tumult and upset, and having our beloved travel industry absolutely devastated. But our love of travel, and those of us in the travel world, keeps us going. And it certainly feels like Olympian efforts for travel advisors.

One of my travel colleagues said recently that as travel advisors, it’s like we’re suffering a little from PTSD after the past 17 months of cancelling and rebooking, and cancelling again. Maybe we have fallen off the balance beam one too many times. But we still keep getting back up.

It’s almost as if all of our years of training and expertise has been called into this moment of time, where us travel advisors are being called upon to do our personal best. As I’d said to a client this week, any travel advisor who is still working in the field after these past 17 months is the absolute best at what they do.

One thing we all know for sure is that our roles as a travel advisors, as we emerge from CoVid, has never been more complex.

Here’s a day’s tasks as I’d managed a client’s 3rd time re-booked France river cruise. These are just some of the things I was involved in this week (and this is typical of every client’s vacation I’m working on right now – I just typed this one up as I was creating a ‘check list’). Here’s an overview of what I’ve been doing::

· Validating clients’ passport and vaccine records (mixed doses), and reconfirming entry requirements for France, and then to get onboard the ship.
· Resourcing for client the CoVid testing requirements at each entry and then exit points
· Reviewing all changing entry requirements for Canadians to France, Germany, Belgium, etc, and ease of travel for flights (constantly changing since EU Commission’s recommendation to green light Canadians as of July 1st)
· Rerouting and rescheduling air with my international air desk to give clients the best combo of value and connections, allowing for probable lengthy airport lines and checks
· Reconfirming all details about changing Canadian quarantine rules (as of July 6th) for returning clients, and assisting clients with ArriveCan app
· Validating different country airport transiting requirements for outbound and inbound flights (constantly changing)
· Confirming and ticketing air, affixing proper passport names and dates of birth, bulkhead seat assignments
· Reviewing client’s existing insurance, reviewing Canadian government advisories about travel (especially updates as of July 15th)
· Contacting a Virtuoso hotel partner in Paris, arranging for client’s VIP experience, including private transfer upon arrival, and other negotiated bells and whistles (such as early check in, and arranging arrival tour), and checking whether they can assist with CoVid testing (given 72 hr requirement to board ship)
· Arranging for first-class TGV train from Paris to Avignon
· Reconfirming river cruise details and documents, after leveraging relationship with cruise line to rebook client on Burgundy to Provence after client’s Danube cruise appeared endangered again (because Hungary is still closed to Canadians)
· Readying all cruise documentation for clients, outlining inclusions and shore excursions
· Sharing with clients special “connoisseur themed” food and wine experiences of cruise
· Sending clients links to foodie shows and articles to help build their excitement (such as Anthony Bourdain’s “Parts Unknown” on Lyon, and articles on La Mere Brazier, Paul Bocuse, and Daniel Bujold)
· Confirming Lyon hotel post-cruise, and checking departing transfer, checking CoVid testing requirements to re-enter Canada
· Reviewing all with excited clients
· Starting to build electronic itinerary system for clients to keep all moving pieces together
And that was just in the morning!
So, why are you not working with an Olympian travel advisor to plan your next trip?