Jamie Biesiada
Jamie Biesiada

While the ongoing coronavirus crisis has put a stop to nearly all leisure travel for the time being, some travel advisors are using the time to put the pieces in place to shift from being primarily cruise sellers to adding some different types of travel in the mix.

Jack Richards, CEO of Pleasant Holidays, said a number of advisors have completed (or are completing) the Pleasant Pro Academy since its launch in late February.

By the middle of May, Pleasant had seen more than 2,100 graduates become Pleasant Holidays specialists, with more than 500 still in the process of getting certified.

"Now the interesting part of that is that several of these are what we call cruise-only or cruise-focused agencies who have decided to diversify their portfolio into the FIT side, land side, which I think is very well-advised," Richards said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's No Sail Order has forced cruise lines to cease operating until mid-July or until the Covid-19 coronavirus is no longer a threat to public health.

Richards said Pleasant Holidays is hoping for a quick return for the cruise market but that travel advisors diversifying their portfolios is a smart idea; the No Sail Order has already been extended, and it could happen again.

Richards said he believes the academy is seeing such high rates of advisors taking courses because they are stuck at home without much business to do.

"I don't think we would expect to see the same numbers in a normal business environment," he said, "but we're going to capitalize on what we have."

Managing expenses

Meanwhile, outside of applying for sources of federal aid, expense management is one of the key things that will help travel agencies hang on through the crisis, according to Jack Mannix, founder and principal of Jack E. Mannix and Associates.

"Even if it's a relatively small expense, it's something, because right now your goal has to be to hang on from a cash standpoint, and there aren't that many opportunities to generate income," Mannix said. "That's why the expense side is so important."

For agencies with employees, that might mean laying off or furloughing employees, Mannix said. 

All other expenses, including things like franchise fees, should be negotiated, Mannix said.

Many travel companies are proactively offering travel advisors breaks. For instance, the host agency Travel Experts, like many others, has reduced its monthly fees.

One of the biggest benefits of expense management, Mannix said, is that the results have a nearly "instantaneous benefit to your bottom line."

Jeri Clausing contributed to this report.

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