There’s a quote by Canadian poet and songwriter Leonard Cohen that, while perhaps overused, is nonetheless true. “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” And 2020 is pretty cracked.
But there have been some pretty stunning moments that have come out of the devastation caused by the bushfires and pandemic.
As those in the travel industry wait as their incomes hang in the balance of an unseen enemy, Travellers Choice members have shared how their clients are showing their support in some pretty mind-blowing ways.
Chris Watson Travel in Tamworth, for instance, received a call this week from a loyal corporate client to say that instead of giving staff a traditional end-of-financial-year bonus, they had decided to instead pass out travel vouchers.
"They ordered vouchers valued at a total of $15,000," says owner Watson.
"And the only stipulations are that they must be used at our agency and spent to support an Australian destination.
"I was blown away. It just shows that other people, other business operators, understand how COVID-19 is impacting us, and that they are thinking about what they can do to support small businesses and the broader travel industry."
Alison Nichols from Middletons Travel in Port Pirie was even more surprised when she rang two clients to let them know that a tour package they had booked had been cancelled.
"Instead of asking when they would get their deposit back they told me they'd already withdrawn the balance, just in case the tour went ahead, and they offered to hand it over, if it would help my business out," says Nichols.
"It was an amount in excess of $45,000. I had to explain that the money would sit in a trust account and we couldn't use those funds to prop us up. We've had other clients offer us chocolates and plenty have popped their heads in to see how we are going, but this offer certainly took me back."
Richard van Schouwen from Kawana Waters Travel was similarly surprised when one long-term customer rang and asked if he could help by gifting the agency $50,000.
"I told him we were fine but he has returned several times to repeat the offer, and make it clear that he wouldn't want us to pay the money back," says van Schouwen.
"We have had two travel agencies within 100 metres of us close and he's adamant he doesn't want to see us shut as well."
"I wasn't completely shocked because I know he's a very kind person who helps others and does a lot with charities. Nevertheless, I was still overwhelmed by his generosity. It certainly shows that the connections we forge with people can go well beyond simply providing a service."
Travellers Choice Managing Director Christian Hunter says there have been plenty of other examples of customers offering various forms of financial assistance, including many who have insisted their agent deduct a processing fee for organising their refunds.
“Acts such as these bear witness to the fact that even in the most stressful of times people are capable of empathy and altruism,” says Hunter.
“But I think they are also encouraging for the entire travel industry because they reflect what I believe is a genuine desire among many Australians to do all they can to help local travel businesses thrive once travel restrictions are eased.”
For more information on Travellers Choice please visit www.travelagentschoice.com.au.
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