A wise fellow Trafford Woman in Business* said recently that over these past months “everyone has realised they need an accountant and a travel agent”, well then who better to have as my client focus in this Summer edition than Catherine Mackey, Urmston’s own Travel Counsellor.
Catherine is your woman if you want to book a hassle free holiday.
I asked her a few questions about what she’s been doing for the last 3 months and as a travel expert who has already travelled a lot, where would she go if she could go anywhere right now.
1. How have you been coping during lockdown?
The past three months have been a challenging time for all of us at home and at work. By the end of February, the impact of Coronavirus was starting to affect travel on a global scale. As March progressed more and more countries closed their borders, and FCO travel advice was changing hourly, leaving many people's current and imminent travel plans placed in jeopardy.
My immediate concern and focus were my clients who were overseas and becoming being rapidly impacted. I worked alongside my wonderful Travel Counsellors 24/7 duty office, working to find a way to get them all home with the minimum amount of stress (to them, not me!).
Calling customers who are in their ‘holiday bubble’ and advising them that they need to return home as soon as possible is not something I ever want to have to do, but I did breathe a huge sigh of relief when my last customers returned home, safe and well, from destinations including long-haul clients in California, Las Vegas, Mexico, and India.
2. Once they were all home, what was next?
My attention then turned to those due to depart later in March and into April and May. I spent many hours speaking to my customers, advising them of all the different possible scenarios as well as continuing to provide up to date and accurate travel advice.
This advice was, and still is, constantly evolving as the world's countries and respective travel industries do their best to navigate their way through this unprecedented situation in the best way they can for their employees and customers.
With official guidance and supplier policies changing frequently, I haven’t always had the answers right away, or been able to give the answers people are wanting, but I have always been accessible and always at the end of the phone, message or email - which is something that many parts of the travel industry have certainly struggled with.
In my office I have been monitoring every single supplier policy daily for every one of my future bookings, providing advice not only to my own customers but also those that have not booked with me struggling to get answers elsewhere.
I take pride in the fact that I am always available to speak to you and I am still happy to provide any advice to anyone who is having a hard time contacting their providers and help as much as I can.
3. How has your working day changed?
For me, my working day has not changed dramatically (apart from now having my husband and three daughters under my feet all day!) as I work from home anyway and am able to continue to be available to my customers as usual.
I’ve been working tirelessly to keep my clients informed with clear, honest, fact-based advice, and be as caring as I possibly can, understanding that people's work and financial situations are also impacted, not just their holiday.
Where possible I’ve moved final payment dates, reacted quickly to re-arrange bookings and refunds, trying to be as proactive as I can.
I’ve re-scheduled family holidays, honeymoons, school trips, cruises, and more.
I’m so happy for my clients when their travel dreams are still there to look forward to, where moving to new dates has been possible.
For my customers who have bookings in place over the next few weeks, I am working closely with them, exploring the different potential scenarios, and doing everything I can to get the best outcome for them.
I also continue to work with those whose travel plans have been cancelled to arrange refunds, or a financially protected credit note if they prefer.
Cash refunds are frustratingly taking much longer than everyone would like, but this is simply down to the physical strain that the industry is under, and not an underhand tactic as some people assume.