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Voices From The Crisis: Travel business enters choppy waters

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Given what she does for a living, Aiste Stanley is surprisingly upbeat.

“I feel more situated today than a few weeks ago when everything started,” says the owner of Millsboro-based Trabeona Travels, which creates customized experiences for clients. “I got all my clients home and everyone who was scheduled to leave in March cancelled or rescheduled. We feel very lucky that the airlines, cruise lines, and tour companies didn’t charge change fees and offered future credits and vouchers for future travel. Nobody is losing money on their vacations.”

Stanley says it’s “kind of quiet for me right now since everything is either scheduled or cancelled.” None of her clients are traveling in April or May and she’s not getting any new inquiries. Some clients are holding onto their credits and while some are rescheduling as early as October, most are looking at 2021, and her June 2020 travelers are “cautiously hoping they can go.” The ability to survive – if this goes on for an extended period of time – depends on well prepared you are and how well you manage your finances and business.

Aiste Stanley in Gallaway Ireland | Photo c/o Aiste Stanley

“Most of us live off commissions, so this has been huge,” she said, adding that she did put plans to hire someone on hold. “I’m a one-man shop so I didn’t get hit as hard as the larger agencies. That may not be the case for people who are living paycheck to paycheck.”

Stanley, a member of the 2019 DBT 40 class, is putting her “downtime” to good use, working on obtaining her Adventures Travel Specialist certification; taking time to do strategic planning; working on creating marketing flyers for different destinations (so she doesn’t have to pay a vendor); reinforcing relationships with existing clients; and creating blog posts about destinations.

“One thing I learned is that in times like this, my clients were happy they booked with a travel agency because I was the one sitting on hold for three or four hours cancelling travel arrangements,” she said. “Most of my business is referrals and I think the ones who work with travel agents during these times will tell the others because they see the value. The trips I do cannot be booked on Expedia and Booking.com so I feel that I’ll come out of this OK.”

By Peter Osborne

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