For Arlene Goldberg, owner of Action Travel in Solon, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are international. As a travel agency that books trips primarily outside of the United States with cruise lines and tour companies, the industry has come to a screeching halt.
Goldberg said her agency is still open, but the nature of the work has completely changed.
“We’re working remotely from our homes, but the biggest change is that we’re just canceling and rebooking trips,” she said. “It has consumed so much of our time.”
Why is it such an undertaking to cancel and rebook virtually every trip?
Goldberg said the rules and regulations change too quickly for airlines, cruise lines or tour agencies. But since her team works with many companies, it gets complex.
“They all have different rules as they are relaxing penalties and when customers can rebook or if they can get a full refund,” she said. “And sometimes it depends on if the customer purchased traveler’s insurance. For some, it doesn’t matter. Whatever they say at one moment could change again and then it could change again after that. Some clients want to cancel their trips altogether and want a refund. They then call us later asking where it is, but the tour companies and cruise lines are so backlogged, almost all of them are having to wait up to 90 days for their money back. It normally takes only five to 10 business days.”
For example, every Alaska Tours trip has been canceled for this season, which is through the second week of September. Goldberg said it doesn’t matter if it was a cruise or a tour as “all of those trips are gone now.” She added it is a similar situation for every cruise line.
Though a couple of employees were furloughed, Goldberg said Action Travel was approved for a government loan they applied for and the full staff will soon be back to work. But during the staff changes, Goldberg said employees relied on communication.
“Working from home has been very instrumental,” she said. “Being on the computer, you can see changes coming through and then you have to channel them to each agent that is working so they know what is going on. Since things are changing so rapidly, it takes up a lot of everyone’s time to make sure we’re all on the same page. So, we’re constantly updating and communicating.”
Goldberg wants the community to know Action Travel is available and ready to help. Customers can email an agent at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 440-248-4949 if they need to rebook or cancel.
“We just want everyone to know that we’re here and we’re not going anywhere,” she said. “We’re happy to book for the future or answer any questions on anything they want to know. We’re celebrating our 40th year in business, so I have to tell you this year is not only different, but the most challenging.”
Goldberg pointed out the travel industry as people know it won’t be the same.
“People will have to see what tour companies, airlines and cruise lines are doing to keep them safe,” she said. “Once they feel comfortable that they’d be safe, they’ll come back, but I do think it’s going to be pretty slow. But, we’re here for them however it is. We’re planning to be here when it’s all over.”