Travel Agents

“What if it’s the loo paper saga all over again?” Virtuoso advisor pens passionate plea to consumers

It’s safe to say the travel industry has copped much more than its fair share of negative reporting and public outcry since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

From reports bashing cancellation fees to class-action threats over travel credit offers, agents and suppliers have had insult added to injury over and over again.

Sonia Jones, a Virtuoso travel advisor and owner of Sonia Jones Travel, has penned a clever piece to help the public understand the situation from a travel agent’s point of view by comparing a travel agency with a supermarket.

“I wrote it not just for me, but for all frontline travel advisors and agencies,” she told Travel Weekly.

“The travel industry’s side isn’t being heard and I thought this was an easier way for the public to understand our side.”

Here is what Jones had to say:

Before COVID-19, the shelves were fully stocked. You could have your pick of any kind of destination or experience across the globe.

Some items were harder to reach, and some more expensive, but really, you could buy anything you wanted.

Now, there is a global and national travel ban for Australians. The supermarket shelves are completely empty and there is nothing to sell – not even a bendy carrot or an out-of-date tub of yoghurt.

What’s worse, the customer service queue is out the door, with every customer returning trolleys full of goods that they bought earlier. And let’s not mention the field day that the media are having.

Supermarkets are everywhere on the news, but nobody’s asking the staff on the checkouts how they are coping with it all. They have been moved to the customer service counter, to try and sort out the best resolution for the customers, but the till is empty because is still no stock on the shelves.

The suppliers have promised to refund some goods in part or in full, but it could take up to four months for the payments to come through. Other suppliers – while they feel sorry for the customer – need to preserve their business and so are offering customers a credit instead of a refund.

Occasionally the odd supplier says, “too bad”, and gives nothing back. (FYI, the supermarket has those suppliers on their blacklist and won’t be using them post-COVID.)

The supermarket hears whispers about some local stock they might be able to get their hands on once the worst of the crisis is over. The trouble is, previously the farmers sold this stock directly to the customer, and some aren’t too fussed about involving a third party like a supermarket.

They’re not sure it’s necessary. They are used to busloads of tourists from overseas who stop by the farm and buy 65 per cent of their product from them, so they’re not sure they need a local supermarket to sell for them.

The rest of the farm’s produce they sell direct, such as to Bob and Mary down the road. Bob and Mary are used to driving over to the farm to buy from the farmer’s stall and would never think about popping to the supermarket to buy that product. Besides, they quite enjoy the drive to the farm. Sure, they’ve taken a wrong turn once or twice, but that’s part of the adventure, isn’t it?

There are also rumours that the supermarket might be able to order products from our Kiwi cousins across the ditch, but exactly when it will be available is anybody’s guess. It could be July, it could be October, it could be December! As for anything imported, I think it’s safe to say the supermarket won’t be seeing any stock until the new year… so those keen on pasta, tacos, sushi or a good curry will just have to wait it out and make do on a diet of Vegemite sandwiches and lamingtons for the rest of 2020.

The supermarket owners are worried about supply and demand when the stock does eventually trickle in, particularly on those goods that are rarer or come from more remote locations.

What if there is panic buying? What if it’s the loo paper saga all over again? Imagine waiting all this time to buy twenty rolls of lush Sorbent three-ply but all that’s left is a two-pack of Black & Gold wafer-thin one-ply?

If the supermarket had known you were interested, they could have popped a pack of Sorbent aside for you or called you as soon as the delivery arrived, before they had unpacked the pallet, because you’re such a valued customer of theirs.

So how can YOU help your local supermarket – er, TRAVEL AGENCY – out? As soon as they start stocking their shelves, reach out and see what they have. They might have a new way for you to experience somewhere familiar or a destination you’ve never heard of – even though it’s in your own state.

They might have a better rate, or more inclusions, or a two-for-one offer you didn’t know about. The travel agency might not stock everything that you want to buy, but why not check, in case they do have something you want?

By asking the question and connecting with your travel advisor, you are keeping precious dollars in our local economy, supporting small business, and allowing the travel industry to keep afloat in these extraordinarily difficult times.


Need to get something off your chest? We love hearing from you: editor@travelweekly.com.au

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