Robin Cline Talks Post-COVID Travel and Starting a Travel Business in a Pandemic
A poll in January 2021 cited that less than 1 in 10 Americans do not plan to travel this year. Safe to say, with the pandemic tapering off and the world reopening, we are all excited to return to travel. As you look forward to summer and the travel possibilities it offers, we talked with our friend Robin Cline about her bold decision in early 2020 to pursue her dreams of working as a travel agent, and what tips she can offer for travel as the world reopens.
With their youngest child off to college, Robin Cline and her husband began to think about the next season of their lives and what it could hold. They’d owned a business for 20 years, but in the back of her mind, given her travel addiction, Robin had always wanted to be in the travel industry and so Cline & Co. Travel Consulting was born.
“I love doing itineraries, especially really different and unique trips––things that are really more experiential,” she said, “We talked about it and decided that that was a good next move. So, I decided to make the investment and go forward and all of that, and signed on the dotted line with my host agency, and literally two weeks later, COVID happened.”
Even at this worst possible moment to step into the world of travel, Robin was grateful for the opportunity to
ease into the career change, and says it prepared her better for where the business is now.
“In hindsight, I think it actually really turned out to be a blessing in disguise, because it gave me a lot of time to learn a lot of things I didn't know I needed to know.” She explained the surprising complexities of the industry. “I had always sort of done travel as a side hustle.... I've worked with some friends on travel and things like that, so it wasn't totally new to me, but a lot of the back-end office stuff was, and that took a little longer to learn than I would have thought. So it was good to really have that time to do that. It was frustrating at the same time, of course. I wanted to just jump in and start booking travel immediately.”
The benefit of the hesitation, however, was getting a leg-up for the flood of travel interest she’s seen now. She was able to find domestic properties she would not have known otherwise, and ease into property inspections in locations like Kenya. This has all prepared her for what she’s seeing now: a huge surge in travel interest, and limited options as a result.
“There is like, no availability in the United States,” she laughed slightly, “you cannot get rental cars out West anymore. You can hardly find hotel rooms. Alaska and dude ranches are completely packed full.”
With these domestic options filling up, there is much more opportunity for international travel. Something that, in this season more than ever, requires the services of someone with the skill and knowledge of Robin.
Her first piece of advice? Travel insurance: “If you're thinking about it, you should be researching it… a lot of people don't even think about it, but I think it's going to be even more important going forward in the future.” Aside from this piece to encourage security and confidence in travel plans, she also knows peace of mind in this season of travel means mastering the complexities of COVID restrictions and guidelines, which she passes along to her clients.
“I never dreamed I'd have to deal with all this. Everybody expects you to know all the answers to every country, and it takes a lot of research… It is taking a lot more time to get things set for people to go because every country has different rules and regulations. Some say you have to be vaccinated, some are saying as long as you have a negative COVID test, but like Kenya says 96 hours, Greece is 72 hours, Croatia says 48 hours,” she rattled off regulations casually, “they all just have different rules, so I have to learn all the rules to each country every time I get ready to book.”
Though it has added an entirely separate function to her job, Robin feels grateful for the opportunity to support travel plans in this way, and enjoys the idea that her job has become more needed than ever.
“I think travel advisors are becoming infinitely more valuable,” she explained. “Before COVID, a lot of the people had to go through all the issues of canceling and rebooking and credits and everything else, and learned the value of having somebody else to do that for them.”
When asked about location suggestions, she listed South America, Ecuador, and Colombia, additionally giving a special nod to Turkey. Her highest recommendation, however, is for safaris.
“If going on a safari to any one of the African countries is on your list, this is a really good time to do it,” she reported with strong enthusiasm. “Or get planning if you're going to do it in the future, because that’s a trip you want to plan in advance, but right now there's some availability!”
Whether an exotic safari is in your plans or a domestic adventure, there’s no better way to celebrate post-COVID opportunities than making a travel plan, and no easier way to do it than consulting with those who are up-to-par on all the complications post-COVID may bring. Traveling may seem tricky at the moment, but it’s very possible––and enjoyable––with the right guide.