SEATTLE — Travel agents need to establish themselves as trusted experts during times of crisis, according to Jennifer Doncsecz, owner of VIP Vacations in Whitehall Township, Pa.
Speaking at Travel Weekly's CruiseWorld & Home Based Agent Show on Tuesday, Doncsecz told attendees to use PR to establish themselves as crisis-management experts when crises occur, like the sinking of the Costa Concordia.
Doncsecz, who often appears on Philadelphia's Fox affiliate as a travel expert, said it is important that agents “get the facts” and are not influenced by sensationalist news reports — about drug violence in Mexico, for instance.
Doncsecz suggested travel sellers do their own research and become objective sources of information, giving clients options to cancel or change plans but never pushing them into making decisions.
“Give them solutions,” she said. “Give them a game plan. Not knowing is scary. Tell them what they are going to lose, what they need to change and what you are going to do to help them.”
Doncsecz said people are reassured by statistics.
“Use charts, graphs, maps,” she said. “Send them the facts.”
Looking at Mexico, Doncsecz said, she shows clients that the problem areas are as far from the tourist zones as Miami is from Chicago.
If clients do change or cancel their bookings, she suggested that agents "spin it," establishing themselves as experts in crisis management.
“My company just moved seven destination weddings from Mexico to Jamaica. And we put it on our website and our Facebook wall. We wanted other people to know how we were working to help our clients.”
While losing a booking due to a crisis can be upsetting, Doncsecz said, the way the agent handles the situation might boost business in the long run.
“You move on, and hope your reputation carries you,” she said.
Follow Johanna Jainchill on Twitter @jjainchilltw.