Skift Take

Travel agents, sometimes called advisors, have seen many changes through the years, but the pandemic altered their profession in unimaginable ways. And that upheaval's not dying down anytime soon, with booking travel becoming more complicated and advisors seeing their roles as even more necessary.

Lynda Phillippi has ridden the ups and downs of travel many times during her 18-year career as a travel agent, and seen her profession go through just as many wrenching changes.

Then along came Covid. In a job that has been redefined countless times, through the rise of online travel booking sites, to mobile phones, to the collapse of storefront retail, Phillippi, an agent at Oregon-based agency Renaissance Travel, said the past two years have been like no others in how much her world has changed.

"What's shifted the most (in) post-pandemic travel — if we are even there yet — is how much more time it takes to plan, book, and get a trip successfully completed," said the 62-year-old Phillippi, who added she works the usual more than 40 hours a week, just in different ways. "We have to stay on top of destination requirements for vaccines and testing, and help clients arrange for those tests in many cases."

When travelers started preparing to get back on the road after the pandemic halted their planned trips, many of them turned to travel agents, or advisors as some prefer to be called, for guidance — returning in many cases to professionals who had lost ground to travelers choosing to book trips themselves and online travel agencies a tremendous boost.

The emphasis here? On the advisor part of the job.

But the increased consumer traffic is far from the only change travel advisors have seen in their profession in recent years. The metamorphosis is just a fact of life. They are being asked to play different roles to help consumers navigate an environment still replete with travel restrictions and constantly changing Covid regulations. And now, as this summer has laid bare, travel chaos at all levels.

Travel advisors are adapting in a changing travel landscape by providing expertise on previously unfamiliar scenarios and engaging in a different kind of counseling to customers. Think part-crisis manager, part-shrink.

Phillippi offers this: "An example is a family heading to Italy for a cruise. They want to see Rome for a few days, but they need a recent test to board the ship. Fortunately the hotel concierges are a great resource to assist clients during their stay but it's a conversation prior to booking to reassure the family that things will go smoothly — well, unless they don't. One positive test in the group and the family doesn't board the ship. Now what? What are the