Skift Take

Travel agencies need to develop more strategies to tackle advisor burnout. They can't afford to lose more advisors because they've struggled to fill roles since the start of the pandemic.

The pent-up demand for summer travel has sparked a boom in business for travel advisors, whose services were already in high demand due to the pandemic driving more consumers to seek guidance before booking trips.

But the increased workload is leading many travel advisors to feel overwhelmed, with a recent survey by TravelAge West revealing that 52 percent of such professionals are suffering from burnout. Industry executives also acknowledge that labor shortages are contributing to a large-scale sense of burnout.

“Yes, there have been a lot of overworked (and) underpaid conversations in the last few years. Especially at the beginning of the pandemic where our advisors were working tirelessly to get clients home or refunded while not actualizing income,” said Joshua Bush, the CEO of Pennsylvania-based Avenue Two Travel.

“We have gone from no business to being overwhelmed with demand and little inventory to sell. There has been some serious whiplash of going from zero to 100 miles an hour and it has sucked the joy out of the industry.”

Sarah Kline, the president of Maryland-based agency Time For Travel, said she’s never felt so burnt out and overwhelmed as she does now. Her company has already booked five times as many trips this year as compared to 2019, and she believes a staffing shortage is exacerbating the widespread frustration.

Many seasoned agents left the business during Covid,” she said. “I’m forced to hire assistants and train them.”

The sense that consumers have greater demands of travel advisors is also contributing to their aggravation. The TravelAge West survey found 56 percent of advisors believe customers are more demanding now than they were prior to the pandemic, with industry professionals reporting that clients often have unrealistic expectations. Kline admitted that, despite the widespread easing of travel restrictions worldwide in recent months, navigating the maze of Covid protocols has been stressful.

“We still have to help people deal with the rules, testing, etc.,” she said.

So what can the industry do to prevent travel advisors from feeling a sense of burnout? Bush recommends updating global distribution systems, which he believes would speed up work for advisors. He also believes agencies should work with advisors to help them manage their workloads.

“The ability to delegate work and share the load is what sets successful advisors apart from the burnt out, unhappy ones,” Bush said. 

Meanwhile, Kline called for companies such as hotels and tour operators to hire more staff to make work easier for advisors.

“All aspects (of the travel industry) are short staffed — hotels, airlines, group departments, and wedding teams,” she said. “Responses (and) contracts are taking longer.” 

Bush is optimistic travel agencies can help their advisors overcome feelings of burnout, citing steps Avenue Two Travel has taken to provide its employees more support — such as holding regular meetings to check how staff is faring. However, Kline doesn’t see the problems causing burnout improving anytime soon.

“It will get worse before it gets better,” she said. “Once (the U.S. government) drops (the) return testing (requirements for Covid), the flood gates will burst.”

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Tags: travel advisors, travel agencies, travel agents

Photo credit: A feeling many travel advisors have experienced recently Getty Images