Travel in the New Normal, Part 4: The Importance of Choosing the Right Travel Suppliers
Updated: Dec 8, 2020
This is part 4 of our 4-part series on traveling in the new normal. To start with part 1, click here.
We are all navigating new terrain when it comes to traveling in the midst of a global pandemic. Even when the number of COVID cases flatten and decline in many places around the world, travel is still certain to look very different moving forward to prevent (as much as possible) any new “spike” in cases.
Throughout this series, we have been speaking of how difficult it is to predict travel right now - even for us, travel professionals. There is so much that changes daily in both international and US travel. Countries around the world have closed, opened, re-closed, and reopened borders many times. This has left travelers more than cautious about venturing into any type of travel, especially international. Travel is seen by some as too risky of an investment right now.
During this fourth, and final, part of our Travel in the New Normal series, we'll look at several aspects of choosing travel companies in this new normal - what to look for and what to avoid. The pandemic has hit travel companies hard...so hard, in fact, that many won’t make it through this crisis. In addition to suppliers’ economic health, it’s a critical time to know the flexibility policies of suppliers right now.
Choosing the Right Travel Suppliers
GlobeSage Travel is part of a host travel agency and travel consortium that keep us informed on our travel suppliers. We even have "preferred" suppliers that play well with us, so we can serve our clients more effectively. In most cases, unless specifically requested by a client, we stick to our preferred suppliers. This allows us better access to get resolution to the problems that our clients may face.
Being part of a larger travel community also gives us a wider perspective in discussion of the suppliers that might be declining in quality or stability. It's like our very own, but more reliable, review system.
When travelers are booking things themselves, they should keep an eye out in the news for companies teetering on or going through bankruptcy. They should also read the most recent reviews, keeping in mind that reviews are full of many different opinions and many of them are irrelevant or very personal. Travelers should seek out reviews that speak to the specific issues they are concerned about.
Most importantly, during this pandemic and beyond, travelers will want to familiarize themselves with the health and safety protocols, the fine print of their travel agreements, and the flexibility of bookings.
Your Health and Safety in Mind
As we've written about before, the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) has developed a safety protocol and stamp (certification). Many destinations have taken the necessary steps in order to secure this stamp. Other worldwide organizations and large corporate travel chains have developed their own safety protocols. Most companies will have those prominently displayed on the home page of their websites.
This is the time to pay attention to these new aspects of travel. Do they have touchless registration/check-in? What is the cleaning protocol? How full is their occupancy during this pandemic? Have they adapted their food services? What are they doing to keep guests safe? Are they thinking about the welfare of their staff/crew? What actions are being taken to protect them and protect guests in their interactions with one another?
Let's look at some examples of suppliers that we at GlobeSage are happy with…
Delta Airlines is the last major U.S. airline to still be holding middle seats empty for travelers (at the time of this posting). Nice!
Marriott Hotels was the first to release a health and safety protocol during the pandemic's early days. Impressive!
Enterprise Holdings (which includes Enterprise, National, and Alamo Rental Cars) has implemented a Complete Clean Pledge. Great!
Then there's one of our favorite tour companies, G Adventures, with their comprehensive Travel with Confidence program. Love it!
These are just a few examples of travel companies stepping up to the plate to keep guests safe and healthy. Travelers would be smart to pay attention, and travel agents definitely do!
Always Read the Fine Print!
In the past, we may have been tempted to just "accept" whatever terms are given to us when booking travel. This habit now has to change. Because of the pandemic, it is more important than ever that travelers look at the terms and conditions (T&Cs) of all reservations. We should be asking ourselves:
What happens if I need to cancel at the last minute?
Will I get a refund? A partial refund? A future travel credit (FTC)?
When is the deadline for a refund? For an FTC?
How quickly do I need to use my FTC? And can it be used for other types of trips with the same travel company? Or does the trip have to be identical?
How much do I stand to lose if "Mayhem" or "Murphy" come to visit me?
Is the risk so high that I should get travel insurance? (Read our blog on this topic here.)
Pay particular attention to these T&Cs as many travel suppliers have had to change their policies because of the pandemic.
The smart travel companies have become much more generous with their cancellation and change policies. They've had no choice. No one is able to concretely say when lockdowns and COVID spikes will let up in any particular destination. There's just too much uncertainty. So to encourage people to continue planning travel in spite of the unpredictable climate we're experiencing, companies have relaxed many rules. And there is great reason to hope that many of these relaxed rules will stay in place for quite some time.
For instance, who would have known that a silver lining of COVID was the elimination of change fees by every major U.S. airline? We couldn't have predicted it, but we sure did celebrate when we saw the news. Most cruise lines, which have really been under the watchful eye (and thumb) of the CDC have fantastic flexibility policies, like Royal Caribbean's "Cruise with Confidence" program. Another one of our favorite tour companies, Intrepid, has an excellent flexibility policy, and we would be happy to book these adventures for our clients without hesitation.
As people who eat, sleep, and breathe travel changes and updates, we know there are so many moving parts that can make travel seem intimidating. At GlobeSage, we do what we do because we want our travelers to feel as protected and informed as possible when they venture out into the great, wide, somewhere!
Together, we’ll get through this and continue to make amazing memories!
More from this Series:
Part 1: Navigating Future Travels