The global cruise crisis surrounding the coronavirus pandemic hasn’t waivered the confidence of clients of CLIA’s 2019 Cruise Consultant of the Year, Robyn Sinfield of Home Travel Company.
The award-winning travel advisor says her experienced Tasmanian cruise clientele are booking voyages for 2021, primarily for high-end product such as the ‘cruise bubble’ proposition offered with Silversea Cruises’ Silver Muse between Sydney and Auckland in January.
Sinfield (pictured) told LATTE domestic travel is in demand for warmer locations in Queensland for potentially August and September at Hayman, Qualia and Spicers. There are also some great deals in the market in Sydney at hotels including Park Hyatt and Four Seasons (including Virtuoso exclusive promotions), however, that potential travel all hinges on the reopening of the Apple Isle’s borders which are currently closed to interstate travel.
Those travel restrictions are in place at least until 31 July (plus there’s the possibility of the state lock-out being extended by the Gutwein government further due to the latest surge in COVID-19 cases in Melbourne), so until then clients are booking escapes within Tasmania.
“It’s the only surety we have right now,” Sinfield said.
Luxury properties such as Macq01 in Hobart, Saffire Freycinet, Cradle Mountain Lodge and Quamby Estate are among the ‘go-to’ locations. Sinfield says there are no apparent trends in bookings as yet, with domestic travel likely to be the bread-and-butter business from now to Christmas. The only potential for international travel lies with the local ‘travel bubbles’ (trans-Tasman and Pacific) if they get a green light.
“But sadly the largest portion of our business, the summer Northern Hemisphere, I don’t see much happening with our client base until early July, next financial year,” she said.
A large percentage of clients who had their travel arrangements suspended remain coy about rebooking and utilising their vouchers and credits, as they “wait to see what is happening with our borders.”
Home Travel Company continues to engage with its clients through its weekly newsletters to split audiences – travellers and cruisers – promoting destinations within Australia and New Zealand, such as close to home sailings like the recently announced Ponant itinerary from Melbourne to Fremantle operating in March 2021, and Darwin to Cairns sailings via Papua New Guinea. The home-based agency is also sharing information from within the industry, explaining how the refunds process work and how to best take advantage of credits.
Sinfield, who was the inaugural winner of the Avis Travel Agent Scholarship 23 years ago, suggests that the industry needs to amplify its message to the travelling community to book with an experienced and trusted advisor, versus overseas online businesses.
“It’s more appropriate to book with a well trained, travel advisor – rather than spend their money online with companies that are not local,” Sinfield said.
That was the message the 2019 NTIA finalist (for Best Mobile Travel Advisor) pursued with the Tasmanian government last week. During a Tasmanian Small Business Government session, Sinfield called for support from Minister for Small Business, Hospitality and Events, Sarah Courtney.
Sinfield tasked Minister Courtney with establishing ways to communicate to Tasmanians the message to ‘buy local and be supported locally’.
“As travel agency owners we have supported the communities over many years, and now it’s time to pay back to us.”
Sinfield said it was a very proactive meeting and a key starting point to share that the COVID recovery can begin in your own backyard, that it’s no more expensive to deal locally and that travel advisors often have more inclusive value-added offerings.
Lead image credit: Fauxels from Pexels