Worst Year Ever!
Agents more than ready to move on, forget 2020
Two veteran Toronto travel agents have bid an ‘unfond’ farewell to 2020.
Last year was seen as a punishing year for those in travel and the travel agency community certainly wasn’t spared from the economic fallout of coronavirus.
“I think that this (2020) has been the worst year in the history of travel agents,” says Ethel Hansen Davey of Uniglobe Enterprise Travel in Toronto. “Selling travel during a pandemic when the citizens of our country are, rightly or wrongly, urging the government to close our airports, when there are daily changes to the protocols in destinations and for returning home, and when vaccinations are a little slow in being administered – it has been hell for travel agents and tour operators and airlines and hotel and resort chains.”
“Personally, I believe that until summer there will be no upswing in our industry.”
Fellow Toronto agent Roger Boyajian of Sevan Travel says coronavirus has already forced some of his colleagues to close their doors permanently and adds that some officials don’t seem overly concerned about the travel agent community’s plight.
“The year 2020 was a disaster for the travel industry,” he says. “Many travel agencies familiar to me could not survive the pandemic. It seems to us that we’re at the bottom of the list for assistance required to weather the damage caused by COVID-19.
“I am not too enthusiastic for 2021. Unless people are vaccinated and the situation is stabilized, we will not be able to return to normal.”
Boyajian says the pandemic is taking a toll on the economic, physical and mental well-being of agents, a toll he warns isn’t likely to end in the near future.
Hansen Davey in turn says she tries to remain upbeat during the current tough times, confident that once the pandemic is brought under control the “floodgates will open” as people who went for a long period unable to travel will once again be eager to explore the world.
“This is an unprecedented time in the world, not just in our industry,” she says. “We all need to pull together, support one another and trust that this too shall pass.”
Rudolph Nareen of Toronto’s The International Institute of Travel – which trains people who want travel industry careers – says 2020 was “devastating” for travel agents and expressed sympathy for agents who have “spent more time solving clients’ issues at no additional fees, creating additional stress on agents” during the pandemic.
He isn’t now booking new international trips, wary of unexpected changes to COVID-19 restrictions.
“I believe the first nine months will be uncertain and that can cause many disruptions in travel arrangements,” he says. “I am optimistic on the last quarter of 2021 and forward. If the virus is not contained fully, I think government regulators will find a balance ground on restrictions to allow consumers to exercise their wish to travel.”
“I believe the travel industry in 2022 will be stronger than ever, I can’t wait to be on a river cruise.”
Meanwhile, Hansen Davey says it’s important for travel agents to soldier on during these tough times.
“We have an incredible industry and we should do everything that we can to promote destinations to our clients so that when the time comes to travel safely again they’ll have many options to consider,” she states.