In the best of times, travel advisors have relied on Facebook groups for support, advice and the sharing of ideas.
But in the age of the COVID-19 pandemic, these groups have become even more vital to agents’ businesses – not to mention their mental health.
“If it wasn’t for one very special colleague Facebook group where we can be very open with each other, I swear I’d be looney toons by now,” said Becky Lukovic of Bella Travel Planning, an affiliate of Travel Experts. “The moral support has been incredible and a lifeline on those days where I just want to hide under the covers. There’s just something about having the support of those who are going through the exact same thing you are. You know they feel you. You know they get you.”
On a similar note, shortly after the beginning of the pandemic – March 21, 2020 – Sharon Campbell of Bespoke Travel Group launched the private Travel’s Got Talent Facebook group – for “fun and not for business,” she said, adding that the group now has more than 2,600 members.
“The idea and reason why I created this group last year was that I needed an outlet and an escape place from the stress and frustrations that were not COVID- or business-related,” Campbell said. “I needed a group for fun and laughter – even if it was only for five minutes at a time.”
The group, she noted, has been a lifesaver of sorts.
“For myself and for many travel advisors, the group has been a welcome escape and kept our sanity throughout the last 12 months that I honestly have to admit have been the most disappointing and frustrating months of my entire 30-year career.”
Holly Lombardo of Holly Lombardo Travel Co., an affiliate of Travel Experts, is part of a Facebook group of Travel Experts agents in the Southeast region of the U.S., which said has served as a lifeline of sorts.
“I could share my feelings of sadness and fear. On days where I may feel down, there is always someone in the group who is having a good day and lifts my spirits that this too shall pass,” she said.
“The biggest contribution this group has made is helping me to keep up with the pitfalls of planning travel in the environment of COVID – from ever-changing entry requirements to client feedback.”
She added that the group has also prompted her to reassess her operations, which “includes terms of service and online secure credit card authorizations for each and every charge.”
Similarly, Lukovic, who considers herself a savvy businesswoman, has “been compelled to take a deeper look at some of my practices, marketing efforts and business structure through conversations I’ve had with other equally (and perhaps even more) savvy business people in the travel industry.”
In Lukovic’s view, it’s imperative to seek out groups targeted to an advisor’s specific needs, business demographics and expectations. “Some of the general groups didn’t give me enough return on my time investment and I left,” she said. “To have a successful industry social group, there needs to be some give and take. Ask for help and also give help.”
During the pandemic, Ashley Morris of Alpaca Your Bags has found membership in smaller groups extremely helpful. “ I have a small ‘mastermind’ type group of eight agents that I really trust,” she said.
“This group is my saving grace on some days. We share wins, tips and things to look out for. It’s a tight group of agents and I wouldn’t have made it through COVID without them.”
Tracee Williams of Destinations is a member of several groups that focus on COVID-related issues. “One group focuses on ‘Community over Competition”’ in discussing different topics, such as verbiage to use when discussing COVID policies with clients,” she said.
“Another group focused on visiting resorts and giving fair and truthful reviews of the hotels, their restaurants and the foodservice, as well as their cleaning protocols. Once again, lots of discussion about resorts who were easy to work with for rebooking’s, and which ones were not.”
The groups she is most partial to are those that offer emotional support.
“My personal favorite groups were the ones who were lifting each other up each day, with success stories, words of encouragement, sharing pictures daily of where we were going to visit when things opened back up, and some colorful memes and language on occasion,” she said. “These communities have stuck together, and we all helped each other through it. We are all still standing, and I have some new life-long friendships.”