How the job of a travel agent has changed in 2022 after the pandemic

  • Travel agent Melissa Miller Lonsk says travel agencies have taken on a new role.
  • Melissa Miller Lonsk was working in publishing when she decided to quit her job and go on a six-month world tour, launching her career.
  • She tells everyone to be prepared when they travel, as delays and cancellations can make vacations unpredictable.

Melissa Miller Lonsk can’t remember everything about the vacations she took as a child, but she can easily remember one specific detail: the name of the travel agency her family used to book their cruises.

Thanks in part to Sand and Sea Travel, Lonsk caught the travel bug early.

As a college student and after about 20 years working for a book publisher in New York City, he turned his attention to economic adventure, maximizing his exposure to new places. Lonsk stayed with friends in countries around the world, fueling his passion for different cultures.

And when Lonsk and her now-husband Seth got engaged in 2014, she asked what he would think if she quit her job and planned a six-month world tour after their wedding.

“I mean, I was half joking,” Lonsk said. “And he said, ‘Yeah. Let’s do it.'”

The prank not only launched the newlyweds on an adventure, including extended stays in Australia and New Zealand, but also set Lonsk on a new career path. Seven years later, she is a full-time travel agent. His company Vacation Curation operates as part of Tzell Travel Group, which he formed after making the career change.

Contrary to popular belief, Lonsk insists the industry is not dying.

“People think the Internet is going to end, but it’s just changing,” he said. “You want someone to help you sort through all the information. Yes, you can do it yourself, but knowing it’s been selected helps you not waste time.”

Agents can also leverage existing relationships with hotels, resorts and destination management companies.

In fact, the larger changes in the travel industry as a result of COVID-19 have created new opportunities for agents like Lonsk. In March 2020, he helped several clients get aging parents and other family members out of foreign countries and back home to the US.

More than two years after the pandemic, Lonsk’s access to a global distribution system that connects directly with many airlines, hotels and car rental services has proven useful for those facing a landscape of Unpredictable and understaffed travel.

“Ideally, now I can see that unfortunately your flight has been canceled or delayed and you’re going to miss your connection,” Lonsk said. “I can rebook in the system while you’re in flight. I don’t always have to wait on hold because I have a preferred line.”

Beyond managing the inconveniences of contemporary air travel, agents can also leverage existing relationships with hotels, resorts and destination management companies. Lonsk’s connection with Tzell gives it the opportunity to meet with vendors from around the world, and then tailor its offerings to the needs of its customers.

One of Lonsk’s favorite parts of the job is building relationships with clients and then helping them plan trips at different stages of life.

“For a lot of people, the first time they contact a travel agency is when they go on their honeymoon, because that’s going to be a really big expense for them,” he said. “Now, all those weddings from six years ago have young children, they go out and travel. I have some families with older children. I ask people to send me photos of their vacations so I can see how their families grow and change.” .

“I’m just telling everybody to be prepared.”

Mainly due to staff shortages in the post-pandemic world, almost everything from booking travel to processing paperwork to getting refunds takes longer. Flight delays and cancellations are more widespread. This can mean hectic travel days, missed tours and other costly issues, which Lonsk works to solve in real time for customers, who pay it a flat fee for services.

“I’m just telling everybody to be prepared,” he said.

Lonsk recommends looking for refundable fares, but reminds customers to check specific airlines’ refund policies before booking. Many policies have become more stringent.

But he remains optimistic and welcomes the opportunity to nurture travelers. He is in such demand that he occasionally has to suggest another agent to a potential client.

“When people come back and have a great time, it’s a memory,” he said. “Vacations are things you’ll remember. Like I said, I still remember the travel agency that booked our cruises when I was a kid. [I’m] contributing to it.”

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