"Covid-19 testing" has become one more item advisors need to add to their pre-departure checklists for clients.
In fact, it's one of many. I recently asked Avril Winkle, owner of Destinations Travel Services in Sterling, Ill., how much more work a single booking takes now, as opposed to pre-pandemic.
"Oh my gosh," she said. "Lots of extra hours of work."
Covid testing has added another complicated layer to trip planning in 2022, especially with test shortages and difficult-to-predict turnaround times from labs. And though many believe shortages and delays are a short-term problem, testing before travel is likely here to stay for at least some time. Here is how a smattering of advisors are handling it.
Winkle talks to clients about what they're willing to do to travel and finds they are split into two main camps. One is fully vaccinated and boosted and likes the idea of destinations that require everyone to provide proof of negative Covid tests so they feel as safe as possible. The other isn't vaccinated, doesn't want to jump through hoops and will probably end up going somewhere without said hoops to jump through (largely Mexico and the Dominican Republic).
In her area, the Chicago suburbs, tests are fairly easy to come by. For clients who live outside that area -- maybe in more rural, small towns -- she encourages them to make an afternoon of it and travel near her to get a test and dinner.
"I always find a way around it, and, at the end of the day, if somebody wants to travel, that's just what they'll have to do," she said.
Bernice Bakley, owner of Huntley Travel in Huntley, Ill., starts the conversation about testing early and ensures clients get appointments on the books a few weeks out whenever possible.
"It's not something that's an afterthought," she said. In fact, at Huntley Travel, it's become as important a topic as whether the client has a valid passport that doesn't expire in the coming months.
Justin Smith, president of the Evolved Traveler in Los Angeles, is advising clients to get a test at the airport before departure. In Smith's experience, it takes from one to five hours, and most airports with international service have testing available.
Or, there's perhaps the most direct solution I've heard from an agency thus far: Kim Gorres, owner of a Travel Leaders agency in New Richmond, Wis., took testing in-house.
The idea came from a client who did lab work for the judicial system and added Covid testing to the mix. She asked if it was something she could do from her office, and the answer was yes. She received equipment and training for several employees and, in early 2021, opened as a testing center, offering rapid antigen and PCR Covid tests and flu/antigen combined tests.
Today, Gorres said, testing is a full-time job for one person at her agency. About 35 tests are conducted each day, which equates to more than $5,000 a week in extra income.
And it has another benefit.
"Besides making a bit of money at this," Gorres said, "we are also bringing awareness about our agency and have high hopes that we will have new clients because of this awareness and the service they are getting with the testing."