With Travel Agent Appreciation Month on the horizon, travel agents at the Los Angeles Tourism/Air Canada/Air Canada Vacations breakfast event in Vancouver earlier this week were on the receiving end of some high praise indeed.
The news coming out of LA is impressive, with Adam Burke, president and CEO of the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board, explaining that this year they expect to see a return of 92% of the 51 million annual visitors the destination welcomed in 2019.
And he was happy to stress that the LA is relying heavily upon the Canadian market to achieve these figures. After all, Canada was a massive pre-pandemic market for the destination, with some 773,000 Canadians injecting $404 million into LA’s local economy in 2019 alone.
As Burke succinctly put it: “Canada is critical to the recovery of LA. The only way we are going to see full recovery is to see Canadians coming back.”
“What you do now is more important than ever before”
Not only does Burke recognize the importance of the Canadian market – he also places the skills, knowledge and experience of the Canadian travel advisor at the very centre of the recovery of LA’s tourism industry.
“One of the most interesting trends of the last two years – one that has really elevated the role of both destination organizations and the travel trade – is that consumers are looking for trusted information, and they’re looking for a one-stop shop,” he explained.
“As a result, the role of the professional travel advisor has never been as important as it is right now. I would argue that what you do is more important now than ever before.
“I think you are all going to have a very important role in perpetuity, because people realize that going to a trusted source of information is the easiest way to find out what the current health and safety protocols are, what’s open in destination and – most importantly – how to get help curating their experience. They want someone who understands their motivations and someone who has expertise.
“So, if there’s a silver lining to the pandemic, it’s that it’s really elevated the role of how critical the travel trade is to our success.”
“You are the champions in this industry”
This enthusiasm and appreciation for the role of the Canadian travel agent was reinforced by Marigold Frontuna (general manager sales – Western Canada at Air Canada Vacations), and Edna Ray (senior key account manager – global sales at Air Canada) during the presentation.
“Never underestimate the value that you bring to the table,” explained ACV’s Frontuna. “So much has happened in the last couple of years, and it’s attending meetings like this one that will propel you and set you apart from your competitors.
“This is first-hand information that you’re getting from our partners, and having this information is going to give you that extra leverage and credibility over your competitors and online.”
AC’s Edna Ray was particularly thrilled to announce that the airline – which one year ago was operating just one cargo-only flight from YVR to LAX – is now not only back at full schedule out of YVR, but is also operating to LAX from a further three Canadian gateways: YYC, YUL, and YYZ.
“It’s amazing,” she smiled. “I’ve been travelling for about seven weeks now and I can tell you: Every flight is full.
“Phones are ringing and clients are coming back and it’s a wonderful time for you to reflect on the work that you do as a travel advisor. Clients have at some point in time booked online and they have learned a lesson: That they need you more than ever before.
“You are truly the champions in this industry. Don’t ever stop appreciating the amazing work you do as travel advisors.”