While most travel agents have been busy repatriating clients and working on refunds, one TravelManagers advisor was presented with a golden opportunity.
For Kerry Cleasby, the COVID-19 crisis started off the same as it did for most agents: she found herself busy repatriating clients from all around the world including a number of 18- to 20-year olds at risk of becoming stranded in Europe while on exchange.
“And all of them were incredibly happy to be reunited with their families back in Australia. A number of mums even joked that they had not realised my job was to make them cry,” she said.
Once the initial rush was over, her days were spent cancelling or postponing clients’ future travel arrangements, and processing refunds and future travel credits.
“I was starting to feel quite forlorn about ever getting back to creating holidays for my clients,” she said.
As you can imagine, Cleasby was over the moon to receive an email from a client who was previously booked to walk Spain’s Camino de Santiago in June.
Like most of us, the client was suffering from a bad case of cabin fever and asked Cleasby to begin work on planning a holiday.
“My client and her husband wanted everything in place so that they can quickly take off when the borders reopen,” she said.
“These clients love walking holidays and have significant experience in overseas walking holidays, but have not yet explored the many walking holiday opportunities on offer within Australia.
“They wanted to support their local PTM, and so asked me to tailor a ‘coming out of COVID’ walking holiday for them somewhere in Australia.”
Cleasby initially contacted Spicers Retreats, which she knew was about to launch a five-day walk on the Scenic Rim in the foothills of the Great Dividing Range.
“I particularly wanted to explore inclusions and options that my client would not be able to access if they had booked the experience online themselves,” she said.
On top of this, Cleasby gave her client several other choices, one of which was a driving itinerary along what is known as ‘Australia’s Most Instagrammable Road Trip’ from Perth to Esperance. With some help from Western Australia Tourism, her itinerary included an add-on walk known as ‘The Cape to Cape’.
“This turned out to be just what my client was looking for her – she now has a photo of the itinerary pinned to her vision board, and is eagerly waiting for the time when she can convert it to a real holiday experience,” she said.
According to Cleasby, COVID-19’s travel restrictions have made her clients reluctant to make a financial commitment on holiday experiences, so she has been working with operators to ensure her clients can rebook or cancel at no additional cost.
“All of my clients have been incredibly caring and generous as we’ve moved through this COVID landscape together,” she said.
“I’ve had a 25-year obsession with creating and designing holidays, and it feels great to be dipping my toe into those waters again.”
Cleasby has also been making sure she stays in touch with her clients on social media and by phone.
“It’s important to stay connected and stay relevant, while hopefully continuing to inspire their travel dreams,” she said.
“It’s heartening to find that most people really want to support small local businesses like mine – I’ve been quite overwhelmed by their messages of concern and offers of assistance.”
Featured image source: iStock/photoguns