I'll start by saying I LOVE what I do as a luxury travel advisor. Helping fascinating people find ways to enjoy traveling the world is truly a fun way to make a living and brings a lot of joy. However, in these "covid-y" times, there are SO many things we as travel advisors need to be considering and dealing with on top of the "normal" challenges of pre-pandemic times. Our clients are trusting them to navigate this crazy world, and I speak for many travel industry friends when I say we are doing our best. But whoa, is our best even enough when so much happening is out of our control?
What do I mean by this?
Well, the "occasional" flight cancellation or schedule change has turned into a daily (if not twice or thrice-daily) occurrence. All of the time we spend researching the "perfect" options for our clients is essentially wiped out by the emails we wake up to informing us that XX Airline is no longer offer that flight between Rome and Los Angeles, or between LHR and NYC, or wherever my clients are trying to go after 18 months. This wouldn't be so bad, if it was just one airline changing their mind (and schedules) on what feels like a daily basis. I get that demand to certain destinations isn't what it used to be, but based on hotel sell-outs at record high rates, the airlines' decisions on route cancels feels haphazard at best. (Disclaimer: I am sure it's based on internal data I'm not privy to, but I know where my clients are trying to go!).
It's also no secret that luxury hotels worldwide are severely understaffed. Ask any General Manager of any luxury hotel and they will tell you this is their biggest challenge to meeting/exceeding guests' expectations in these pandemic times. I get that....it is the reality. But I, and my clients, are struggling to be okay with sub-par experiences and crazy-long wait times for responses from concierges and others who are paid to be efficient and helpful to high-paying hotel guests.
A scene in episode 2 of The White Lotus (The White Lotus - Official Website for the HBO Series) had me laughing hysterically because it hit way too close to home, and it was filmed last fall here on Maui which pissed off a lot of then "out of work" hospitality friends. Those same friends are now finding themselves overworked trying to meet the same demands the "staff" of the The White Lotus deal with on a daily basis. It's a funny show so far, and fun to watch if you're a fan of this particular hotel which is extremely well-run by personal friends of mine. My point? It doesn't matter if you're a Four Seasons OR a Hilton Garden Inn, the challenges faced by all involved are similar. And my clients who lean towards paying the high ADR's charged by luxury hotels are not happy about the limited version of services/staff that we probably all took for granted pre-covid. Things like housekeeping which is now "on request" at Hilton Hotels worldwide.
As someone who hears daily from clients at top hotels in places from Maui to Mexico to Mykonos and other spots slowly opening up, what clients really want is to feel as though their business is appreciated, not taken for granted. One of my favorite longtime clients recently emailed me apologizing for needing to cancel a trip that we'd planned for him over a month ago. He blew me away with his thoughtfulness and offer to cover all of my lost commissions and then some for the time he knew I devoted to this trip he's no longer taking. I'd "Grandfathered in" this client and had never asked him to pay a planning or cancellation fee, because 1) he's a super kind human 2) he's been a very longtime loyal client 3) he's sent me multiple referrals 4) I've not ever worried about him booking another trip in the future.
Despite the craziness of the world, a dose of kindness and gratitude goes a long way towards helping us all staying grounded and focused on what is most important (staying healthy, obviously, but returning to a more enjoyable life with fun travels as possible). Whoever your travel advisor may be, remember to thank them or maybe venmo them coffee $$ (!) as there isn't enough coffee lately when airlines surprise us with schedule changes. Ha ha, just kidding, I always have a pot of coffee brewing in my home office (aka kitchen with ocean views for tranquility-inducing peace of mind). But seriously, just be nice to whoever is helping you plan, reschedule, enjoy your travels because there's no longer an easy way to do any of this. There are new rules in place on the daily by every country, and in some places, you need masks and vaccine cards, in others you don't. It's a LOT to keep track of...and what's true today may change tomorrow so be prepared to roll with the changes.
Moving forward, it feels like flight cancellations and hotel staffing challenges will work themselves out and cease to be what we in the travel industry are dealing with daily as we strive towards helping our clients have the best possible travel experiences regardless of what's happening out there. Most of my clients are vaccinated and feel relatively safe traveling after a year of being grounded. I am of the same mindset, and as I prepare for a fun trip to San Francisco next week to visit with friends and clients and see hotels and eat great food (!), all I can do is tell myself to do like the Natasha Bedingfield song and know that we are "together in this" : (one of my favorite songs to come out of the pandemic: Together In This, Natasha Bedingfield (From The Jungle Beat Motion Picture) - Music Video - YouTube).
Have a wonderful week wherever you are, and know that we are all growing through these Pandemic times when all we want to do is travel and enjoy the world. #EliteTravel #WeAreInThisTogether #notyouraveragetravelagent