Journey brokers anticipate the world to reopen from COVID shutdowns; right here’s how they’re staying afloat with vacationers cautious of cruises and flights
NORTHAMPTON – The DRI-Voyage, as the travel agency Martha S. Borawski describes it, is the travel option for people who normally like a cruise but won’t get on a plane in the foreseeable future – let alone a cruise ship at risk of coronavirus.
“It’s a three-night hotel package that you can drive your own car to, and I’ve got great deals on hotels and resorts in the Northeast,” said Borawski, President of Pioneer Valley Travel in Northampton, of the mini vacation concept she came up with in the pandemic.
She has been working in the family business for 50 years.
The DRI trip is an option for travelers who want to be in the middle of the pandemic and focus on destinations that are a two to three hour drive from western Massachusetts. This also applies to offers that she has concluded with motorhome rental companies for trips in the USA and after the travel restrictions in Europe have been lifted.
“I have a great price on a river cruise on the Columbia and Snake Rivers in May 2021. We are encouraging people to travel to Alaska in 2021, which I really believe will be a hot destination and there are so many wonderful ones Deals out there. Borawski adds.
She says she also speaks to groups about traveling to Portugal, and customers inquire about Alaska and say they want something exotic without leaving the US.
Borawski adds that customers keep telling her that they have postponed their trips until 2021, rather than canceling them. “I think there will be gangbusters again,” she predicts the travel business.
But does someone take the business?
The US Travel Association’s trade group recently said travel expenses are about 45% lower than last year. And the aviation industry is pressing Congress for another bailout to avoid layoffs.
“What’s wrong with the industry isn’t very good,” Borawski admits.
She has been traveling herself for the past few weeks and has taken one of those three day dry cruises to a Vermont inn where it was a relief to explore a busy little village and see new landscapes for change.
“People want to leave,” she says, “but they want to make it safe. Showing people that proper precautions are being taken creates trust. “
A lot is changing in the travel industry, including at Borawski.
In response, she has now teamed up with two other travel industry veterans. Barbara Burati, whose father founded Carroll Travel in Springfield many years ago before selling it, has brought her agency Burati Travel to its knees with offices in Avon, Connecticut and East Longmeadow.
Debbie Wilcox of Cruise and Travel in Turners Falls, who has been in the travel business for more than 36 years, is also part of the partnership.
The agreement enables the three travel agencies to combine back-office operations such as computer systems while allowing all three companies to retain their individual identities, explains Borawski.
“Hopefully that fits really well,” says Borawski. “We all see travel and the passion for travel the same way.”
If one of the partners decides to retire over time, they can transfer clients to the other partners.
COVID-19 and its disruptions have also pointed to the usefulness of a travel agent, Borawski adds. People who booked online, either directly or through third-party websites, struggled to get refunds this spring when coronavirus restrictions canceled trips. Some of these potential travelers came to the travel agents for help.
“(If you book online) there is no one to talk to,” says Borawski. “Were here. We are on site.”
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