Time for a little initiative
Agent compelled to ‘give back’ to friends in the industry
JOE SCOTT is the president of Year Round Travel in North York, Ontario and he’s also the founder of the Travel Industry Global Workers Assistance Initiative (TIWGAI – www.tiwgai.com). In a question and answer session with Canadian Travel Press, Scott talks about the travel industry in a time of crisis and what TIWGAI is all about and why he launched it.
You’ve been in the industry for a long time. Have you ever seen anything that compares to COVID-19 and what it has done to this business? Can you talk about the impact of the global pandemic?
As a 35 year-plus veteran of our industry, I’ve certainly seen many changes. Our industry has survived many a crisis, including economic meltdowns, SARS, H1 N1, political upheaval, and probably most significantly, 9-11.
All of these calamities pale in comparison to the current COVID-19 pandemic. It’s truly the enemy you cannot see.
Due to the pandemic, all sectors of our industry were literally shut down. Cruise ships are in port. Airlines are grounded. Hotels have been shuttered. And borders are closed.
In the global environment where we all find ourselves now, people are fearful, and rightly so. Unfortunately, this fear translates directly to the travel business being literally devastated. Some people may be willing to travel in the near to middle term, however in a capacity driven industry such as ours there will not be enough demand to translate that into profitability.
It will be impossible for us to operate our businesses successfully until the pandemic passes or we find a reliable vaccine.
In the interim, we will see many businesses go bankrupt and tens of thousands of jobs will be lost.
Compounding these issues is the fact that we don’t have a “playbook” to reference. We’re all sailing in uncharted waters and the situation is still so fluid no one can make any solid predictions about the future.
This is an industry where people talk to each other … a lot. I’m wondering what you’re hearing from your friends and colleagues in the industry. What are they telling you? How are they managing during these difficult times?
One of the wonderful things about our industry is that we really are one big family. There is a lot of communication going on at all levels and we’re pretty much hearing the same thing everywhere.
Bookings have dried up and business is down significantly.
Some agencies are getting future bookings into 2021 and beyond, however the problem is that they won’t realize any commissions for these reservations for many months.
We’re all trying to be “market ready” for when business starts returning to normal.
There’s much discussion about non-refundable, added service fees for new bookings.
Many agents are still chasing unpaid commissions from tour operators.
All of us have significantly reduced our overhead as much as possible, and most companies have taken advantage of the government programs on offer including the interest free loan, wage subsidies and rent relief programs.
There is extensive lobbying going on with the Canadian government to extend these programs for the travel industry.
Now, I understand that you’ve launched a new initiative – the Travel Industry Workers Global Assistance Initiative. Maybe you can start by telling Canadian Travel Press’ what motivated you to launch TIWGAI?
Yes, I’m very excited about Travel Industry Workers Global Assistance Initiative.
How it came about was that after the first few hectic weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic things settled down.
I had some time to pause and reflect on where we were at, and I realized that our industry was in big trouble.
With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to spread globally I knew that due to the nature of our business there would be great hardship in store for us.
I felt so strongly about our collective plight that I was compelled to do something to help all the incredible people and companies that together make up our industry.
I needed to give back to an industry that has given me so much over the years.
It had to be an opportunity that would offer some immediate relief to the many who are struggling and this is why I’ve created Travel Industry Workers Global Assistance Initiative.
Can you tell CTP’s readers what TIWGAI is all about? What’s its purpose?
Yes, I always refer to it as “TIWGAI” since the real name is quite long.
When creating the name, I couldn’t really be happy without getting all of the words in, thus we use the acronym.
So, TIWGAI is a web based platform where travel industry workers can sign up as a partner and market travel themed T-shirts to their client base. The shirts have four main themes, the Consummate Cruiser, the Frequent Flyer, the Quintessential Coach Tourer, and the Rebel Road Tripper.
I tried to encompass all the core travel modes so we’d have a broader appeal to the traveling consumer.
The purpose of TIWGAI is threefold.
Firstly, it’s designed to offer an opportunity for travel industry personnel to earn some supplementary income.
Secondly, it offers a great excuse for the individual to reach out to their client base.
Thirdly, it has a charitable element to it whereby TIWGAI will donate one dollar to a relief charity for every shirt sold.
So, it’s really a Win, Win, Win!
How does the program work? Can you explain how other agents or people in the industry can get involved? Do they get paid? What’s the benefit for them to get involved with TIWGAI?
I’ve tried to make it as easy as possible for industry workers to use the site.
Basically, they start by going to the website, www.tiwgai.com.
On the home page, there is a link to become a partner.
Once they click on the link it’ll bring them to a screen with a brief overview of the benefits.
Next, they click on Partner sign up which will bring them to the terms and conditions.
Once they agree, another click will bring them to the signup page. They’ll then enter their email and a password and continue by clicking on create.
This brings them to a page where they fill out their name and address, once completed they click on the partner program link.
This will then generate three partner codes exclusive to the individual and automatically generate an email.
The email has more information on the site and also includes 3 PDF documents.
The documents include a professionally written “ask” letter, one with a gift certificate element and the other without a gift certificate element.
The third PDF is a sample of a gift certificate if they choose to use the gift certificate letter.
I’ve personally used the gift certificate document to reach out to my clients, people always love a giveaway!
The letter needs to be cut & pasted into their personal email and formatted properly as per the format shown in the PDF.
Also, it’s VERY important that they paste their URL partner code in the appropriate spaces highlighted in the letter.
I say very important because their client will click on the embedded code which brings them to the shirt shop.
If they buy, the code automatically recognizes the sale to the individual code.
Once that’s done it’s simply a matter of utilizing their email list to send out the letter.
Honestly, it’s somewhat repetitive, but rewarding in the end.
What I’ve also found quite effective, particularly with clients I know well, is to put a short personal note on top of the “ask” letter.
The site also has a DIY video.
For each shirt sold the partner will receive 33% of the pre-tax retail price of the shirt, or approximately $10.00.
I sold over 100 shirts in a week when beta testing the site.
The payout is by e-transfer in the middle of the following month the sale is completed.
So, if you sell in August, you’re paid in September.
The site is free to use.
There is no risk and no minimum obligation.
The agent can earn money, stay in touch with clients, and give to our frontline health care workers.
For those interested, how do they get in touch with you? Is there a presentation or video – seeing that we’re all watching a lot of video these days – about the initiative that people can watch to help them understand the program a little better?
I’m more than pleased to be available for any help or questions potential users may have.
I can be reached at (416) 499-1444 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Oh, and just to mention again, there is a “do it yourself” video on the site as well.
(To watch the video, go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pHRFWAGl4W0&feature=youtu.be )
I sincerely hope my industry friends will take advantage of this opportunity, there’s no downside and lots of upside.
Last question. Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the future? Will the industry be able to survive and recover from COVID-19?
Well I don’t want to be labelled a doomsayer, but I feel we must be pragmatic about the situation we all find ourselves in. We must all look realistically toward the future.
For sure the industry will survive, but there will be major consolidations once again very much like after 9-11.
Many companies will not survive this disaster.
That being said however, we are a very resilient group of people, we’re strong, we’re creative, and ultimately very adaptable.
Moving forward, I envision a very different travel landscape with more emphasis on independent travel, fewer airplane trips, more automobile trips, less demand for travel to urban centres, more demand for outback adventure type holidays and upscale luxury travel.
Travel after all is one of the most enriching experiences one can have in life and demand will return, albeit slowly.