Jenn Lee: Travel advisors' dirty little secret

Jenn Lee is vice president of sales and marketing at Travel Planners International.

There's a dirty little secret that thousands of travel advisors are carrying around with them.

There is shame attached to it. It's a thing.

It's a thing we need to address openly and immediately.

It's a thing that I am sure many will be angry with me for bringing up.

It's a thing that if we don't come together, we stand a chance of damaging our industry and the fine folks that have dedicated their livelihoods to it.

Increasingly, I've had a variation on this conversation:

Travel advisor: "Please don't share this, but I am super excited, I'm having success with new bookings."

Me: "Congratulations! I would love to hear what you are doing. More importantly, why are you keeping this a secret?"

Travel advisor: "Well, when I started sharing with my fellow travel advisors that my (fill in the blank: Zoom meeting, Facebook ad campaign, email marketing) was producing sales, I began receiving messages from those in the industry saying, 'I can't believe you are promoting travel right now. It's irresponsible!'"

Ummm … I'm sorry, what?

How has success in booking travel turned into a dirty little secret to be ashamed of?

• Related: Should we vacation now? Advisors say 'travel shaming' is on the rise

The advisors who are booking travel aren't blind to the fact there is a virus out there, and that there are prohibitions on travel to and from certain areas of the world. Or that these restrictions may be prudent, reasonable and sensible. My argument isn't with governments or mandates about wearing masks on airplanes. We need to abide by the rules.

And it's important for us to educate ourselves about the risks of travel at this time -- how those risks are being mitigated (or not), and share that information with clients.

But we can also share the rewards of travel, and then let the client decide.

Travel advisors and agency owners launched their businesses because they saw the power travel offers to the world and were moved to take this passion and turn it into profit.

More from Jenn Lee

We in the travel industry have worked for years to make sure consumers understand that it's in their best interest to rely on travel advisors for the best possible travel experiences. Our advice is expert advice.

And, happily, many consumers have come to understand that.

Whether you talk about a weekend getaway in 2020 or a world cruise in 2022, we must keep talking about travel. We cannot give up on our industry or be ashamed of sharing our passion!

We know our industry partners are just as concerned as travel advisors are about your client's health and safety. And many destinations, resorts, national parks, amusement parks, cruise lines, riverboats and airlines have been working overtime, at great expense, to hire advisory panels and design protocols with the goal of ensuring that when their doors are open, they've done the necessary work to make it a great and safe experience.

The fact is, people are booking travel. In fact, some travel advisors are traveling themselves -- spending the little money they have, putting trust into their travel partners and returning home to provide first-hand accounts for clients and fellow advisors.

Consumers are, of course, looking to you to do your homework, and if you have, they'll trust you when you say, "I know our industry, and if this place says, 'we're open,' you can believe they've taken steps to protect your health. Let me answer any questions you may have. And be aware the situation may become fluid and things may change. But I'll be with you every step of the way."

That's what a travel advisor does.

But if bookings are made and advisors just keep it to themselves or feel it's shameful rather than a success to be shared, we limit our overall impact. And it's not just consumers who lose out, but your fellow travel advisors and the industry are hurt, as well.

We need each advisor and agency owner to keep moving forward. Post your pictures, market with intent, advise with facts and help our world come back together. You are fighting for us all.

For those travel professionals who are uncomfortable traveling or booking travel right now, that's ok. Let's celebrate and cheer on those who are carrying the torch for the industry. They're in a different place, and that's a good thing. It doesn't mean they're irresponsible. It means they're aware there's a wide spectrum of risk tolerance, and if an advisor responsibly presents information to a client, and the client weighs the risks and rewards and chooses to travel, nothing shameful has occurred. Everyone involved was an informed, consenting adult.

The public is looking to us -- to you -- to keep the passion for travel alive. If they're not ready to travel now, at the very least give them something to look forward to.

Let's keep moving fiercely forward together.

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