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Despite spending more time in front of screens, travel advisors have mixed feelings about the effectiveness of virtual communication, according to the latest survey from TravelAge West, part of its Need to Know research series.
More than 350 advisors responded to the survey and just over half (51%) say they have used a virtual platform such as Zoom to engage with clients, but only 23% are likely to continue to use these platforms once the COVID-19 pandemic is over. Most advisors (42%) feel virtual communications are less effective than email or audio calls, while only 27% think they are more effective and 31% sees no difference.
“Using virtual platforms has been a great way for me to remain in contact with my clients, suppliers and colleagues during this time,” said Leslie Wahlgren, a travel advisor with Plaza Travel in Woodland Hills, Calif. “It allows me to still feel connected in a way that email and audio calls do not. For that reason, it will be a platform I continue to use when necessary.”
While virtual platforms might not be preferred for client communication, the format does enjoy popularity as an educational tool. Sixty-four percent of advisors say they have attended a large-scale virtual event (such as a conference, a town hall or a webinar) since the pandemic started, and nearly all (93%) feel either very or somewhat satisfied with the experience.
However, 71% of respondents believe that virtual events are still less effective than in-person gatherings.
“Human connection allows us to relate, listen, value and thrive with and for those around us,” Wahlgren said. “So personally, while useful, these platforms will never replace actual one-to-one meetings with clients and suppliers. They will never replace the energy and excitement felt at large events. They will never replace the feeling we get from a smile we recognize and that hug that comes along with it.”
In general, most advisors (63%) spend one to five hours per week engaging in virtual professional development content, and nearly two-thirds (64%) say this is more than before the pandemic started.
The increased use of virtual platforms has led to an overall rise in working hours for advisors. Only 20% report that they stick to their regular office hours, while a similar number (15%) say they conduct business calls and meetings after hours very often. The other 64% extend their working hours often or somewhat often.
“Need to Know” is a weekly research series from TravelAge West that tracks the responses of advisors as they relate to various travel trends and topics. This survey recorded the responses of 370 advisors across the U.S. Click here to see more Need to Know stories.