Let’s face it, Goldring Travel has been traveling…and traveling a lot over the past year. In fact, on June 7, 2022 I am flying to Athens, Greece to join the Windstar Star Pride for its post-stretch and refit nine-day Inaugural. And that is followed by my flying to Ponant’s true luxury expedition ship, Le Commandant Charcot on June 26, 2022, for a Svalbard expedition. And those are only my soon-to-happen journeys!
There are a few reasons why I have been traveling so much and they go far beyond my love of travel, as I will discuss. But the question that obviously follows is, “If you aren’t in the office, how can you possibly properly service your clients?” I mean Goldring Travel prides itself on being extremely proactive and responsive when it comes to its clients’ needs and desires. We respond in hours – if not minutes – and delays of a day or more almost never happen.
This is both a simple and not so simple answer. So let me start with the proposition that my staying in the office actually undercuts my ability to properly service my clients! Huh?
The first reason is Opportunity! Even with the waning of Covid severity (it is still here, but able to be lived with) there are many ships and tours which are operating at far less than full capacity. The cruise lines and tour operators can let all that space go empty or it can use some of it to market to top selling travel advisors and journalists. (I qualify as both!)
The second reason is Education (for me and, following on, my clients)! It is one thing for a travel advisor to tell you what he or she thinks she knows about a ship, itinerary, or expedition based upon what is read or pitched. It is a whole other thing when your travel advisor has actually “Been There and Done That”. I have found that my ability to provide personal insights as to not only a cruise line…not only a ship…but every aspect of the experience…is a huge assist for my clients. Insights not just generally about Antarctica or Istanbul, but with specificity as to what you – personally – will actually want to see, how to see it, and what else to expect makes decision-making and planning far more relevant and easy. Cutting through the hype and marketing ploys is a necessary evil, but it must be done.
Let me give you an example: Expeditions are the newest “big thing” in travel. I could tell you why each company claims its ships are wonderful, but actually getting on them allows me to live their experience and let you know what works and/or doesn’t work. I have been on the Seabourn Quest (as a soft-expedition experience) and the Scenic Eclipse. I will soon be experiencing Ponant’s Le Commandant Charcot and Quark Expedition’s Ultramarine and in January 2023 the Ocean Endeavour (more on that Antarctica expedition to come shortly!) I already can see things that I never would have thought mattered as much as they do…and, of course, those things that don’t. I will know more by the middle of July and even more by mid-September. So I will be able to compare and contrast them with far more information than most travel advisors. (And I will be able to discuss other expedition ships, such as the Seabourn Venture and Pursuit with more analysis although not being invited on.) Providing this to Goldring Travel’s clients will assure you are making the right choice for you.
The third reason is Motivation! I know that one of the biggest concerns people have about traveling internationally is, “How the heck do you do it?” There have been so many conflicting and ever-changing rules and regulations. And then there is the issue of when and where are masks required and how they really affect your journey. And, of course, the long list of What-Ifs including “What if my antigen test before I return to the US is positive?” By my traveling to various locations over the past months (Caribbean, Greece, Alaska, Iceland, French Polynesia, Antarctica, and more) I have been able to make the unknown “known” from airline flight changes to pre-departure/on arrival testing, mask requirements, isolation due to close contacts, pre-return testing and more. In each of my journeys I have encountered different protocols and issues. (Heck, I even experienced quarantine!) but in each journey I have had amazing experiences. And that has helped motivate my clients and readers to get out there.
The fourth is Marketing! Yes, Goldring Travel does market itself, as every business should. I have the ability to personally discuss literally hundreds of destinations, dozens of ships, untold numbers of hotels, airports, etc. And, as I have done since the beginning of my travel career, I believe that being an actual expert garners respect and generates business (rather than paying to say you are – like being “a Virtuoso agent”…which for many – but certainly not all – travel agents it just means you or your agency paid a lot of money to say that, but it has no bearing on what you actually know). But not one-time business, but a lifetime of loyalty!
Now back to “With all that travel, how could I possibly properly service my clients?” Let’s start with how I did it 20 years ago and it will eventually make sense. “Back in the day” (Does that make me old?), a ship having Internet – even very slow internet – was a rarity, and where it did exist it was very expensive. Mobile telephones existed, but the cost – especially internationally – was expensive. (Remember being charged 25-50 cents per text…and how few actually used text?!) Yes, I had my own satellite telephone for when I was at sea, my mobile telephone with international access (not all mobile phones did at the time CDMA was popular in the US, but wasn’t not used in Europe – which was on the now ubiquitous GSM), and ways to find internet access whenever we were in port (usually through an internet cafe).
Obviously, being “there” for my clients was a challenge and expensive…and not nearly as efficient as it should have been. But I had to do what I had to do even though due to technology limitations and time zone differences instantaneous communications were lagging…at least by Goldring Travel standards! However, my travels were not nearly as intensive as they are today, so the impact of these inefficiencies was not as great.
Over time things became a bit easier with ship internet – albeit still slow but getting faster and less expensive – improving (though “always-on” wasn’t an option), international plans for mobile telephones becoming available and reasonable, and local cafes and restaurants began providing internet for their customers (though internet cafes were still popular). And, of course, mobile telephones were becoming more sophisticated…but weren’t yet a reasonable substitute for a laptop while traveling. And, thus, there was still the problem of receiving inquiries and responding immediately.
And then the Internet and the use of Mobile telephones became engrained in everyone’s daily life. So the need for immediate access was not limited to Goldring Travel having it, but everyone having it! And with the speed of internet provided on cruise ships and on mobile telephones significantly increasing the complaint now is not that a photo takes 15 minutes to upload, but rather the ability to stream videos or hold a Zoom meeting is frustrated.
Now, “always-on” internet on ships is omnipresent. High-speed internet both on and off the ship is present almost everywhere. (I use T-Mobile so I usually have seamless telephone and solid internet service virtually worldwide.) Internet calling and voice mail are available. (I use Vonage), iMessaging allows texts to flow with or without mobile service. Add to that the vast improvement in one’s ability to log onto an office computer from anywhere in the world…if you need to. But even that has been less necessary as most data is not actually stored on that computer anymore, but in the “cloud”.
The concept of having a “remote office” existed before the pandemic, but the normalcy of it coupled with the rapid advancement of technology to support same has made it incredibly efficient.
There is one thing that can present a bit of an issue: The personal conversation; not emails or texts, but actual conversations. Oh, it isn’t the technology. But rather the time zone differences! That is something that I just don’t have a solution to…other than getting up very early or staying up very late as required. In reality, that is not a serious issue. Not when offering the best in class service!
This article started out discussing the perception of there possibly being service issues when Goldring Travel is traveling. While if one thinks back a few years, travel did present some logistical issues and made the providing of excellent service a challenge.
But times have changed. Remote working is now a very viable and, dare I say, a necessary part of being a top travel advisor. Being glued to a computer screen reading about someone’s opinion about a destination doesn’t compare to the knowledge gained by actually being there!
It is hoped that it is now more obvious that the potential for service issues (not providing clients with the best firsthand information about their journey and doing it promptly) arise more so if Goldring Travel didn’t travel as much as it does!
So with that: You Know How To Reach Me!