No matter its size, location or length of time in business, every travel agency has been affected by the coronavirus pandemic. That includes very new agencies, like Kerri Dickson's Sapphire Adventures in Auburn, Wash.
Dickson originally worked in customer-facing positions in the financial industry until the summer of 2017. That's when the corporation she was working for in Seattle moved to Texas, and Dickson wasn't in position to follow it, especially as her husband works for a Seattle-based company.
She had an associate degree, but she decided to use the time to go back to school and finish a Bachelor of Science in business. She also went back with the mission to find a career she could really get behind.
"Finance, it's a great industry. I did well in it. It just wasn't my passion," she said.
She looked at both her competencies, especially the customer-facing skills she had, and what she was passionate about. As is the case with many others who have found their way to the travel agency community, that passion was travel.
In the latter half of 2019, she decided she wanted to pursue a career as a travel advisor, so she started researching. She affiliated with Nexion Travel Group toward the beginning of September 2019 and spent the fall getting ready to launch her agency in January 2020.
Just weeks later, the Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak was declared a pandemic, bringing most travel to a screeching halt.
"It wasn't what anybody [would] envision," Dickson recalled. "When you start out with something, it's like, 'OK, I know I'm going to have some things that I have to overcome and hurdles that will be there that maybe I didn't think about.' A worldwide pandemic was not one of the things that I thought about."
Dickson could have thrown in the towel and returned to work in finance, she said, but she is bullish on the return of travel.
She has spent her time during the pandemic learning about the trade, especially supplier knowledge, of which there is a vast amount. She is also working on her marketing and social media skills.
The silver lining for her is that, unlike more seasoned advisors, she wasn't faced with numerous client trips to cancel or rebook.
Dickson is optimistic about the return of travel, and she plans to be ready to assist her clients as soon as they are ready to book.
"I've been really impressed with, for the most part, how positive and welcoming people have been to this industry," she said. "I was definitely a little nervous getting into it. What we're dealing with now reminds me a lot of after 9/11. I know they're different, but there are a lot of similarities. It ended up being OK after that, and I'm optimistic that will be the case again."