Monday, March 28, 2022

Advisors' Creative Solutions for Getting their Clients Tested Before Travel

Image by Christian Dorn from Pixabay

"COVID-19 testing" has become one more point that travel advisors need to add to their pre-departure checklists for clients. It is one of many.  Avril Winkle, owner of Destinations Travel Services in Sterling, IL., was asked, how much more work does a single booking takes now, as opposed to pre-pandemic. She said, "Oh, my gosh, lots of extra hours of work."


COVID-19 testing has added another complicated layer to trip planning in 2022, especially with test shortages and difficult-to-predict turnaround times from labs. Though many believe shortages and delays are a short-term problem, testing before travel is likely here to stay for at least some time. Here is how a smattering of advisors is handling it.


Winkle talks to clients about what they are willing to do to travel and are split them into two main groups. One is fully vaccinated and boosted and likes the idea of destinations that require everyone to provide proof of negative COVID-19 tests so they feel as safe as possible. The other is not vaccinated, does not want to jump through hoops, and will probably end up going somewhere without said hoops to jump through, largely Mexico and the Dominican Republic.


In her area, the Chicago suburbs, tests are easy to come by. For clients who live outside that area -- perhaps in more rural, small towns -- she encourages them to make an afternoon of it and travel near her to get a test and dinner. "I always find a way around it, and, at the end of the day, if somebody wants to travel, that's just what they'll have to do," Winkle said.


Bernice Bakley, the owner of Huntley Travel in Huntley, IL., starts the conversation about testing early and ensures clients get appointments on the books a few weeks ahead whenever possible. "It's not something that's an afterthought," she said. In fact, at Huntley Travel, it has become as important a topic as to whether the client has a valid passport that does not expire in the coming months.


Justin Smith, president of the Evolved Traveler in Los Angeles, is advising clients to get a test at the airport before departure. In Smith's experience, it takes from one to five hours, and most airports with international service have testing available.


This is perhaps the most direct solution heard from Kim Gorres, owner of a Travel Leaders Agency in New Richmond, Wis. She does testing in-house. The idea came from a client who did lab work for the judicial system and added COVID-19 testing to the mix. She asked if it was something she could do from her office, and the answer was yes. She received equipment and training for several employees and, in early 2021, opened as a testing center, offering rapid antigen and PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) COVID tests and flu/antigen combined tests.


Today, Gorres said, testing is a full-time job for one person at her agency. About 35 tests are conducted each day, which equates to more than $5,000 a week in extra income. Moreover, it has another benefit. "Besides making a bit of money at this, we are also bringing awareness about our agency and have high hopes that we will have new clients because of this awareness and the service they are getting with the testing," said Gorres.

No comments: