Agents use local media to get their message out during Covid-19 crisis

|
Lynn Clark (left), a partner at Travel Leaders in Delafield, Wis., makes an appearance on the local NBC affiliate’s “The Morning Blend” program with co-hosts Molly Fay (center) and Tiffany Ogle.
Lynn Clark (left), a partner at Travel Leaders in Delafield, Wis., makes an appearance on the local NBC affiliate’s “The Morning Blend” program with co-hosts Molly Fay (center) and Tiffany Ogle.

As Covid-19 continues to spread, travel advisors are getting in front of local news cameras to discuss the virus and its impact on the travel industry. It’s also a way to talk about the benefits consumers get when they book with an advisor.

“This is our time to shine, and this is our time to be visible,” said Vanessa McGovern, co-founder and CEO of Mooresville, N.C.-based Gifted Travel Network.

“For years,” she said, “we’ve been crying that we’re not visible, and here is our opportunity to show in force, in really meaningful ways, how we’re literally saving people’s vacations and bringing home students on study abroad programs.”

In some cases, she said, the beneficiary wasn’t even a client, adding, “It’s amazing what travel advisors are doing under these circumstances.”

McGovern appeared on WCNC-TV in Charlotte on March 10, where she asserted that the entire industry has been affected and remains in “very uncharted, unprecedented territory.” 

She encouraged travelers to insure their trips. At the time of the broadcast, she was still planning to take a group to Paris and hoped that would inspire confidence in consumers. Unfortunately, European travel restrictions were announced the next day.

McGovern’s interview was of her own making. Travel industry representation had been missing from recent coverage, she said, so she wrote to the station offering herself as a source. The next day, a reporter was in touch.

Dave Hershberger, president of Prestige Travel Leaders in Cincinnati, got a call from local TV station WKRC, and Prestige has since participated in four interviews with the news station. He asked why all the sudden interest  -- Prestige hadn’t been on camera in some five years -- and the reporter said other agencies were not willing to talk.

“Now they know there’s a place they can go to even talk about difficult stories,” Hershberger said.

Lynn Clark, a partner at Travel Leaders in Delafield, Wis., already has a regular presence on “The Morning Blend,” a program on the local NBC affiliate. She pays to do a regular segment on travel. As her most recent segment was approaching, though, she felt she needed to deviate a bit. Up front, she talked about the virus and said advisors were there to help guide travelers through the confusion.

“The overall importance of being out there and talking about it ties into, really, the reason people come to us in the first place,” Clark said. “They come to us for information and guidance, and ultimately, they want to have confidence in travel plans and their travel decisions. They don’t feel confident doing it on their own.”

Michelle Fee, CEO of Cruise Planners, said she feels an obligation to be a voice for the industry. She appeared on Fox Business to talk about the pandemic.

Vanessa McGovern, co-founder and CEO of the Gifted Travel Network in Mooresville, N.C., being interviewed in GTN’s offices for an appearance on WCNC, Charlotte's NBC affiliate..
Vanessa McGovern, co-founder and CEO of the Gifted Travel Network in Mooresville, N.C., being interviewed in GTN’s offices for an appearance on WCNC, Charlotte's NBC affiliate..

Cruise Planners is providing talking points, media training and advice to its advisors, Fee said, so they can “be a voice in their communities.”

Even so, one frequent local media contributor is not doing interviews at the moment. Jennifer Doncsecz, president of VIP Vacations in Bethlehem, Pa., has turned down several prerecorded interviews for two reasons. The most important, she said, was a concern about how they would be edited, and the other was that information might be out of date by air time because the situation has been changing so rapidly. 

Instead, she recorded an informational video for clients and posted it to the agency’s Facebook page. It had nearly 5,000 views as of last week.

But for those who do want to contact local media outlets, McGovern offered encouragement.

“All you have to do is send an email, raise your hand, speak from your heart, and they are going to listen,” she said.

Erika Richter, ASTA’s director of communications, said the Society has received a “near-constant barrage” of media requests as Covid-19’s spread has unfolded. 

She often floats requests with a closed Facebook group, ASTA Press Inbox, which has close to 600 advisor members. She also sends leads to consortia communications teams, who are well positioned to direct news outlets to the right advisors.

On a recent ASTA webinar, Dina Ruden, senior vice president of communications and public relations for Travel Leaders Group, offered some tips to advisors who might be interested in working with the news media.

First, she said, read up on the latest information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security.

It’s important to acknowledge, Ruden said, that there are concerns related to travel and that the decision to travel can only be made by individual travelers. 

Talk about the importance of travel insurance, she advised, and emphasize that advisors are seeking assistance from the government to keep working and serving customers.

Ruden also encouraged agents to talk about the value of advisors and to emphasize why they are the consumer’s best advocate, something with which McGovern agreed.

“This is the time to tell that story,” McGovern said. “This is our window to show the consumer why it’s so important to use an advisor, and we have this opportunity, and we absolutely all need to embrace it.”

Comments

From Our Partners

2020 Yalla Tours Webinar
Expo Dubai World Fair, Cuba, Egypt & More with Ronen Paldi of Ya’lla Tours USA
Register Now
Sandos_Hotels
Sandos Hotels & Resorts
Read More
2020 Kaanapali Beach Hotel Webinar
Exciting News at Kāʻanapali Beach Hotel
Watch Now

JDS Travel News JDS Viewpoints JDS Africa/MI