Update: March 9, 2020 at 7:45 a.m. ET
As travel agents continue to field questions about coronavirus and its impact on the travel industry, American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) CEO Zane Kerby released a statement on the importance of educating clients:
Our message, summarized – every traveler and company has their individualized risk tolerance – that is tested in times such as this. Your role is to provide expert advice, point consumers to unbiased resources to weigh in their decision, and to provide maximum support to individuals and businesses regardless of what travel decision is made.
In your role as a trusted travel advisor, it’s important that your clients hear your voice directly as they sort through the deluge of information. In the coming weeks, we will provide regular updates on the latest information – but for now, see some selected resources below.
At a time of uncertainty and fear associated with the coronavirus outbreak, travel advisors and agents are looking for transparent advice from the most-trusted organizations.
Several travel agency-focused companies have shared statements, tips and advice on how to address the viral infection and its impact on the industry with clients.
AAA Travel said the best advice for advisors to give clients is to avoid hitting the road if they feel ill or have been told by a doctor to avoid travel due to a medical condition. The CDC shared details about who is most susceptible to the coronavirus.
The organization also said travelers considering taking a cruise in the coming months should be aware of the Cruise Lines International Association’s (CLIA) new screening policies and the enhanced illness screenings recently implemented by companies.
“Research is important to any traveler ahead of a trip. It’s no different with the coronavirus,” AAA Travel senior vice president Paula Twidale said in a statement. “Become familiar with the Center for Disease Control’s recommendations, consult your healthcare professional, talk to your travel provider about waiver policies and chat with a travel agent about travel insurance possibilities before making any decision.”
The Travel Leaders Group also stepped up to provide agents feedback on how to address coronavirus with clients. First and foremost, the group said to make sure travelers do not panic since misleading information can be shared too often.
In addition, Travel Leaders officials said advisors should remain as updated on the outbreak as possible to be able to answer the questions from clients about the impact on cruise lines, airlines and tour operators serving top destinations.
The group recommends clients purchase travel insurance for an additional layer of protection when hitting the road domestically or internationally.
“Our goal is to ensure that travelers have the facts when making travel decisions,” Travel Leaders Group President John Lovell said in a statement. “At the same time, we don’t want our travelers to avoid vacations or business trips because of misinformation. Our travel advisors are advocates and destinations experts who can offer tips, advice and insights. We encourage you to reach out to them when planning your travel.”
At Virtuoso, the luxury and experiential travel network has been monitoring the impact of coronavirus and consulting with its travel agency members and preferred partners.
The overall message: “Keep Calm and Travel On.”
Virtuoso officials said now is the most critical time for travelers to have an advisor to guide them through the process. At the end of the day, travel agents are the number one advocate for their clients.
The network has consulted with its 22,000 affiliated travel advisors worldwide to get their insights into what travelers should know as they assess their options, including trip changes and contingency plans.
“It’s important to give my clients all of the facts about their trip, their destination, and the policies of their travel supplier,” Virtuoso agency executive Amanda Klimak said in a statement. “I then help them make a decision about travel based on the facts. I also recommend they speak to their personal physician to discuss the risks based on their medical history. Then I let them know I’m here to help, no matter what they decide.”
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