Q&A With Travel Expert & AIV CEO, Mikael Audebert
April 16, 2020
We are travelers, NOT tourists. Traveling is part of our lives, and we know you miss it as much as we do! In the longer term, we will never stop being curious, and wanting to see and learn more about the beautiful world that surrounds us. Even in the most challenging times, some things…never change!
In today's Q&A, we feature our very own Mikael Audebert, CEO and Founder of Art in Voyage. If you've ever been on an Art in Voyage journey, you would have certainly gotten to know Mikael at some point, and you will know that what you're about to read is honest, heartfelt and based on a fountain of knowledge!
Many airlines are hurting, many may never recover. So it’s more a matter of how quickly we can get planes to take off again and borders to re-open. The way we board, fly and even get greeted at our destinations will be forever changed. I’d expect stringent sanitary controls on departure and arrival. I'm an optimist and also hoping to attend the birth of my grand nephew in Provence this June!
If we can see a decrease in cases over the next 3-5 weeks, we should be back online late May/early June. But it all depends on everyone doing their part, and it will be slow. We may not all agree with the process or the reasons behind it. At this stage however, it's pretty clear that until that curve “flattens”, authorities won’t reopen their borders, or airports.
They know they can’t fly, and they won’t cancel flights until the last minute. That way, they hang on to their cash as long as possible. You see, if YOU cancel, you basically forfeit your rights. If THEY cancel, they owe you a refund (per the U.S Department of Transportation rules. Don’t let them tell you otherwise).
Talk to your agent or tour operator. Confirm with them what they plan is to safeguard your payments. For instance, at Art in Voyage, we have a strong internal insurance coverage and escrow policies in place. We have been prepared for this type of downfall, mostly based on a recession scenario that was due to arrive soon)
Remember the little guys: In some instances, your payments were probably going to local suppliers and vendors. So if you can, instead of flat out canceling, agree to a new date, or agree to a credit for future travel. You will do your part safeguarding small businesses at your destination, and that’s a “feel good” moment.
If you're unable to travel and credit won't work, talk to your booking agent and discuss your options. Preferably, options that won't negatively affect you or the agent.
In doubt, please don’t hesitate to contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org - I am always happy to assist, even if you did not book through us.
However, we're monitoring destinations and airlines for specials that will more likely come out once it has become a little less “insensitive” to discuss travel. But yes, those are more likely coming.
That said, remember, getting a deal is a fantastic way to get back on the road. But more importantly, you will do something incredible for local communities at chosen destinations that have been decimated by the complete stop of the flow of tourists.
I’d say Europe will be on the list of huge sales, as much as 40% off for cities like Rome, Paris, London. Other destinations like South Africa, currently suffering from the shut-down and a collapsing currency, or even French Polynesia . Those will be offering special packages and think about these destinations if you are enjoying some “social distancing”.
Cruise companies will more likely offer huge discounts as well. Are you really ready to get back on a 5,000 passenger ship though? That will be the question. I'd favor smaller ships (Seabourn, Silverseas, Oceania) or even River cruises. If you are a cruise type of traveler, and have any doubts, we can assist with some guidance
(Little known fact: We do certain cruises too).
I have no doubt Italy and most of Europe will recover from this. It will take a while though. Your question is actually touching on a good point. New destinations will arise from this stronger, and there are those that favor less crowds, are more nature oriented and boast smaller accommodations.
Last but not least, we will more likely see a shift of guests’ reasoning when picking destinations. While there is very little proof the virus spreads slower in warmer temperature, we will see a shift in travel influence based on flu seasons at the selected destinations.
I believe we are seeing the end of this, through education and enforcement. Airlines already have this on their books but rarely enforce it. I think that airlines will start planning better for future scenarios - alliances, not mergers, may improve by sharing routes. For instance, 1 plane, 3 airlines sharing revenues. It already exists through code-sharing, but that usually happens among airlines of an existing alliance (such as Sky team). I see it been expanded to competing airlines.
I also believe countries that did not previously have travel consumer protection will look at implementing basic financial requirements for travel companies. Ss we did for banks after 2008.
Last but certainly not least, I expect many to start offering travel insurance as part of their packages. I know we are strongly considering doing so at Art In Voyage. This is a peace of mind many people want to have, yet often forget to act on, either because of its cost or simply because they feel invincible.
On our end, we will continue to promote facts, using professionals to make our argument that it is SAFE to travel. There will always be health risks when traveling abroad, or even at home as a matter of fact. But even more so when going to exotic destinations. An informed traveler is a smart traveler.
I personally believe the biggest fear will be related to the impact of closing borders or even refusing cruise ships access to ports. It has made them feel more vulnerable, financially but also logistically. THAT is the challenge we will have to face in the travel industry.
Yet, like for most things in life, people also have a short memory, especially in the era of social media. I'm confident people who want to discover the world and enjoy life will find a way to overcome these fears. Remember though, a good travel agent, a good travel expert will always advise you on places that make you feel safe. They will not force you into traveling to a destination that would bring sentiments of fear or concerns.
It may not immediately satisfy that urge to go somewhere, but building excitement is also part of the fun. In the process, you’ll give work to a travel agent who probably needs it more than ever.
Hope received, hope given!
There is plenty of material online to keep the dream alive. In the coming weeks, we will release incredible videos to learn more about several destinations we believe should be discovered.
It's also really exciting to see live streaming from hotels, galleries and destinations. A new favorite of mine, live daily safaris in the Kruger National Park! Embark on the Sunset Safari at 09:30 AM ET daily from the comfort of your sofa... click here to visit the WildEarth LIVE Youtube channel.
I am pretty certain in a few weeks, this nightmare will be all behind us and for people like me who can’t stay in place more than a few weeks, the world will be, all of the sudden, an even sweeter and more magnificent place to take on than ever before!
There is nothing, absolutely nothing more fulfilling than to witness that joy in someone whose travels have brought a new take on things. A new appreciation for people and very often, a new approach to their own lives. That’s what traveling does to one, and that’s why it will always be a part of what humanity appreciates the most.
Watch it coming back online sooner, and greater than anyone could imagine.