“You become the authority”: Here's what Bruce Poon Tip is saying about selling travel in these next few months

 

Expert advice, the kind that comes from a real, live travel agent, is something the online travel agencies (OTAs )just can’t match right now, adds Poon Tip. And expert advice is exactly what travellers are looking for for post-pandemic travel.

“All this complaining the travel industry has done for so long, about OTAs stealing business, going direct … this is the perfect opportunity for travel agents to engage customers with information and create a conversation. You know people who are starting to travel to destinations that are opening faster, you become an authority, and you give people that confidence. And having those conversations suddenly becomes a valuable source of connectedness that you have with your customers. You can’t get that from an OTA right now. So the OTAs are at a disadvantage.”

 

DROPPING THE QUARANTINE SHOULD HAVE BEEN DONE A LONG TIME AGO”

One agent asked Poon Tip for his take on where the Canadian travel industry is at this point in the pandemic.

While the eased quarantine announcement earlier this week was good news, Canada is still lagging behind the U.S. and Europe when it comes to reopening travel.

“We’re a bit behind. They’re opening up in the U.S. … we don’t have the amount of double vaccinated people [as they do in the U.S.], we had a strategy of getting single vaccinations. You can complain about the execution of how this format has gone … it’s put us back a bit but I do think we’re placed very well, if our government cooperates. I am constantly talking with groups of different CEOs from different industries and leaders within Canada, trying to communicate with governments about what we need to do. Dropping this quarantine is something that should have been done a long time ago.”

Poon Tip added: “The government seems to have no urgency, I think that’s our biggest problem. I think we actually stand to fare well as a country. Everyone wants to come to Canada, that’s for sure. I hear from all the operators all over Europe, I got calls literally for this morning. It’s going to be people that are vaccinated and I think it’s going to depend a lot on other countries opening their borders to double vaccinated or fully vaccinated people.”

 

DON’T CALL THEM VACCINE PASSPORTS”

Speaking of vaccinations, Poon Tip urged agents to drop the ‘vaccine passport’ term, and use ‘proof of vaccination’ instead: “Stop using this term ‘vaccine passports’. It’s a lightning rod, it’s a politicized term. Everyone in the travel industry knows we’ve had proof of vaccination since the dawn of travel … proof of vaccination has existed since [mass air] travel started in the 1950s. People are trying to make it something it’s not.”

As many in the industry have noted over these past 15 months, the ‘yellow book’ showing proof of vaccination for yellow fever has been in use for decades. Proof of vaccination is needed in schools too: “If your child hasn’t had their vaccinations, they can’t go to school,” noted Poon Tip. “Proof of vaccination will be a very important part of restarting travel.”

 

BOOK NOW – THERE’S LIMITED SPACE EVERYWHERE”

Poon Tip was also asked why agents should tell their clients to book travel product now for getaways in later 2021 and into 2022. Especially with travel on the radar for consumers in the U.S. and Europe, inventory is getting snapped up at a fast pace, a situation most Canadians are probably unaware of.

“At G Adventures we’re starting to see bookings return as more people get vaccinated,” he says. “Why should customers book now? There’s a few reasons. The first one is, there’s limited space everywhere. There’s going to be a tipping point and it’s going to I think it’s going to move very fast. I don’t think it’s going to drip, drip, drip like it has been up until now, I think there will be a tipping point where we’re going to hit those herd immunity numbers in certain countries and, you know, we’re going to have 70% of people fully vaccinated and travel is going to open, and you want to make sure you have space. That’s number one.

The second reason to get clients to book? The deals. “There’s lots of deals, there are deals, deals, deals, and we’re offering deals too.

Those deals aren’t just with tour operators like G Adventures, says Poon Tip. “The third reason is airlines. The airlines are desperate right now to get people to travel again and booking flights now is a lot cheaper than it’s going to be once they have a reasonable amount of traffic and they’re trying to get more planes up in the air.”

The flexibility on offer right now is also unheard of, he added: “We’re all offering unheralded flexibility that we’ve never offered before.”

Finally, there’s the need to support the travel industry. Says Poon Tip: “The last one, and the most important one, and the more compassionate one, is to support the travel industry. I mean, we love travel. And it’s not just about agents or operators or airlines. It’s all those people on the ground who need to need to start planning their lives … a lot of them are hanging on by a thread waiting for people to travel again. I got letters from people saying, ‘I’m putting a deposit down, I’m not even choosing a trip, I’m putting a deposit down to support you guys’. It was unbelievable how many people wanted to do just that, just to put a deposit down to support the industry.”

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