Perspective and Lessons Learned through the COVID-19 Pandemic as a Travel Professional
An Interview by Andy Ogg, CTIE, Co-Owner – Travel Professional News
First off, thank you very much for the time today and joining our fantastic Travel Professional NEWS readers!
Would you mind sharing a bit about yourself and your Agency with our readers? Where are you located? How did you become a Travel Professional?
I born and raised in Tiberias, Israel. Very small town in the northern part of Israel, I was 21, never owned a passport, never left the country, being a travel agent wasn’t even something I knew existed.
I was looking for a way to save money for college, started working at small hotel as a front desk agent and got introduced to the industry, one of my guests that came to check in was an agency owner, I guess I somehow impressed him and he offered me a job.
I still remember my job interview, we were negotiating how long my contract would be, I wanted to stay for 1 year so I could start school, he insisted on 2. I ended up staying for 10 years in that company and then venturing on my own and opening Memories Forever Travel Group in 2009.
Our small home-based agency has been growing ever since with 13 independent agent, most of them in North Jersey.
How long have you been in the travel industry? How long have you been running your Agency? Do you work with a Host Agency? If so, which Host Agency?
2020 is my 20th year in the business and a year we will all remember for a long time and memories forever will celebrate 11 years on Sep 27th, which is my wedding anniversary as well.
In 2013 we decided to join Travel Planners International as our host and we have grown with them quite a bit since then, I am truly happy for that decision and that I was able to find a host that will listen and adjust to our needs.
2020 started off with a bang with WAVE season followed by the COVID-19 pandemic. What a year it has been already! Can you share a bit about how the recent situation has affected your business?
We finished 2019 as a record year and 2020 was even better, at least the first month or two, we had millions on the books already and… we just went from working 250% to pretty much 5%.
We of course try and assist everyone that has a future or cancelled reservation but for now, people are still not ready to travel yet.
With cancellations (hopefully) behind you, how are you spending your time during this time of Travel Bans and “stay at home” warnings?
I’ve always been involved in the travel agent community trying to help other agents and share my knowledge and since I had “some” free time on my hand I decided to take it to the next level.
I noticed many agents were struggling with questions about airlines, changes, cancellations, charge backs – so I picked up the glove and started running live sessions, answering questions, explaining guidelines. It then expanded best practices and sessions with suppliers such as insurance companies, land and cruise providers and many more.
The responses i am getting, the encouragement and knowing that I am helping this amazing industry in one of it’s darkest times is pushing me to invest more of my time and efforts.
Our group is reaching 4000 members and have over 500 views and interactions on our page, I am happy that I can make a difference.
As an experienced Travel Professional, do you have any advice or tips for other Travel Professionals during this challenging time?
Use the time to educate yourself, plan for tomorrow because it will come and people will travel again, we stayed home way too long.
Join and interact with other agents, you are not alone, whether you are in your first year or 40th, selling 50K a year or well over a million we are having the same problems right now.
Share your problems, share your knowledge, we all in this together.
We know that in this Industry, we are stronger together and it has been shown time and time again through the COVID-19 pandemic. Can you share a few suppliers / partners that have truly helped you and your clients in this challenging time?
Our suppliers were trying their best to handle the unique situation that no one was really ready for, phone lines and websites crashed, polices were changing by the minute and I think that without my fellow agents sharing their experiences and successes we would probably still be on hold right now trying to get results.
So I wanted to use this opportunity and thank everyone that took the time of their busy day to respond to a post and assisted their fellow professionals
Through these times, we all learn a lot about ourselves and our businesses, can you share a few things that you’ve learned through this current pandemic either personally, professionally or both
Wow, I thought I was bullet-proof and that my business will just keep on growing, this was never something I have even considered to be a possibility.
I am used to being in control deciding where my business and life will take me and now, everything is just out of our control, so we take a step back, spend more time recalculating and planning.
We will be ready!
Before we conclude, I personally want to thank you for your time and information shared today. We appreciate your involvement in our publication!