“I want to travel, but I’m scared to travel. Help me!”
That’s the new mindset of travelers, said Jana Tvedt, owner of Vibrance Travel Services, at a session at CruiseWorld titled “Your Role as a Health and Safety Advisor.” And of course it’s a travel advisor’s job to do just that — help them — but in a way that doesn’t increase the agent’s own liability.
In this new environment, the key is to “get through the Covid conversation as quickly as possible and to share the information in a way that’s authoritative, that they cannot question and that keeps you from getting into trouble,” she said.
Tvedt begins client conversations by always asking them about their vaccination status. “I can’t help you travel unless I know your status,” she tells them. “That’s the very first question.”
Then she takes the following steps:
Step one: Find reliable info and communicate it confidently
For an international traveler headed to Sweden, for example, the first question is whether Americans can travel there at all. For that information she Googles “U.S. Department of State Covid Sweden.”
The State Department site presents all the information in a consistent manner and in the same place, making it easy to find. On the site she clicks on the “Visit the embassy’s Covid-19 page” link, which takes her to the individual country’s site, where she looks up the entry and exit requirements. She cuts and pastes the information and sends it to the client with a note saying, “This is what the U.S. Department of State says as of 11/20/21.”
“That process takes 10 minutes — and then I’m done with the conversation,” she says. After that, it’s up to clients to follow up and make sure nothing changes before their departure.
Step two: Get travel protocols from travel companies
Go to the suppliers’ websites to check the individual requirements of any portion of the trip, such as airlines, cruise lines, resorts and tour companies.
Step three: Confirm the clients’ return plans
Confirm how the client will get back into the U.S. at the end of the trip. That information is on the CDC website. Again, Tvedt copies the information and pastes it right into the client’s travel documents.
Know the fine print
When it comes to testing prior to departure, travel advisors should be aware that requirements differ by supplier and destination; some require testing 72 hours before arrival while some require 72 hours before boarding, for example. Sometimes a client will have to test one day for the country to which they are traveling and another for the cruise ship. And be aware that urgent care facilities have one form for general Covid testing and a different form for travelers, so be sure to have clients tell them they are there because of an upcoming trip.
In the end, Tvedt emphasized, the key to avoiding liability is to quote the authorities rather than giving advice of your own. And in the documents say something like, “you are traveling during a pandemic, and things can change at any time. So be prepared. And be ready to stand in line and wait and wait.”
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