Things are looking up for 2021, according to Debbie Fiorino, senior vice president and COO of World Travel Holdings' brands, including Dream Vacations, CruiseOne and Cruises Inc.
Many of those brands' franchisees and independent contractors have travel on the books for next year. Fiorino said a lot of that comes from rebookings and future cruise credits (FCCs) but that there are also a number of new bookings.
Like many others in the industry World Travel Holdings' brands have taken a number of measures to support travel advisors through the coronavirus pandemic. Monthly fees have been suspended, and learning events are being held virtually.
"We've also created a bunch of new marketing programs that are free, including a virtual travel guide that educates consumers about why they need a travel agent now more than ever," Fiorino said.
That guide has been helping advisors get in front of their clients, she said. A number of other softer marketing pieces, like crossword puzzles, have also helped to keep clients engaged.
Fiorino said the network of Dream Vacations, CruiseOne and Cruises Inc. agents hasn't decreased in size as a result of the pandemic. She said she believes some agency owners will choose to close or retire but that displacement has occurred at large online travel agencies or other companies with large call centers.
"My hope is that no one goes out of business anywhere, whether it's us or anywhere else, because there's so much business to go around," Fiorino said. "I hope the agent community stays strong.
"Travel agents, I think, are what's making the difference in all of this," she continued. "There is great opportunity in the future for people to realize they really need a travel professional based on what happened -- long hold times at call centers and other places that they couldn't get through."
Fiorino said she believes leisure travel will rebound with a great deal of pent-up demand. To prepare, she is encouraging advisors to do a few things.
First, do more training and learn about more products. It's something many advisors have told her they wished they had more time to do when business was booming, and now is the perfect time to settle into some training, she said.
She is also encouraging advisors to get in touch with clients, especially those with FCCs, making sure they know they can rebook with you.
Above all, she said, use this pause to learn and grow and engage with others.
"It's not just about travel," she said, "it's about becoming more of a fulfilled person so when you come out of it, you're a better leader, you're a better salesperson, you're a better person in general."