Travel Agents

Nothing but upside and opportunity for travel agents after COVID-19, says Bruce Poon Tip

Christian Fleetwood

Christian Fleetwood

The post-COVID-19 world could be very bright for the right brand of travel agent, according to G Adventures founder Bruce Poon Tip.

After a recent media Q&A webinar, Poon Tip told Travel Weekly he believes that on the other side of border closures and coronavirus-specific restrictions, there is a huge opportunity for entrepreneurial travel professionals.

“There is nothing but upside and opportunity for travel agents coming out of this pandemic,” Poon Tip told Travel Weekly.

“Number one, if you’ve actually been keeping in touch with your customers, during this pandemic, and are creating a dialogue and a conversation with your customers, and have been a source of information during a very uncertain time, and are supplying a genuine service to your customers—not just selling them stuff—then you’ll come out of this great, because your customers will have a new level of engagement and appreciation for the value that you offer them.”

Poon Tip believes that the pandemic gave travel agents the chance to create that conversation.

“It’s always our goal as people who own businesses to transcend what we do and to create a conversation with your customer that transcends the product you actually sell them,” he told Travel Weekly.

“It’s hard sometimes to create conversations with customers that just see you as one thing … you have an opportunity now to create a dialogue with your customers that you don’t normally get.”

With the uncertainty and variability of travel restrictions around the world, travel agents—who have navigated this complicated web since the pandemic began—have an opportunity to assert their worth by providing “travel services” as opposed to just “selling them a product”.

There will be financial opportunities on the other side of this as well, Poon Tip believes.

With figures floated during the webinar of there being between 50 per cent to 70 per cent fewer travel agents post-COVID-19, there will be fewer points of sale but the same demand for travel.

Of those travellers itching to get away, which G Adventures has found are more receptive, more open to experience, Poon Tip believes many will be “more connected to using a travel agent”.

Effective advertising and marketing would be critical to tourism’s recovery, Poon Tip added.

“We’re talking about how the opportunity can be greater for the travel industry, on the other side, and marketing is the one that can deliver that message, especially for tourist boards and countries that want to try to restrict or rebrand themselves,” Poon Tip said.

“I think a lot of them [tourist boards and countries] are trapped into the kind of cruise ship cycle of selling their ports … And they want to come out of this attract a more meaningful traveller.

“Marketing becomes instrumental in delivering that message.”

Poon Tip’s comments come as G Adventures celebrated the return of its operations, with more than 100 trips conducted by the wholesaler over the past few months.

It also comes as the G Adventures founder marks almost a year since the release of Unlearn: The Year The Earth Stood Still, an e-book penned by Poon Tip during quarantine in 2020.

Within the book’s 24 pages, Poon Tip called on agents to ‘unlearn’ a few of the more damaging traits of tourism, advocating for travel agents to promote being “contributors to culture instead of consumers”.

When asked what he believes was the most important thing for travel agents to ‘unlearn’ in 2020, Poon Tip said it was critical for them to stop perpetuating the cycle of “selling capacity”.

“They’re helping the cycle of selling amenities over destination. And it’s a trap.”

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