TravelManagers Finding New Opportunities in COVID World

TravelManagers Finding New Opportunities in COVID World

Personal travel managers (PTMs) thrive on the sense of satisfaction that is derived from matching clients with rewarding holiday experiences. With international travel temporarily ruled out thanks to Coronavirus, many PTMs are instead focusing on the experiences available within their own state borders.

Melissa Loynes, who is TravelManagers’ representative for Carrum Downs in Victoria, is using the current situation as an opportunity to launch ‘Secret Stays’: a range of mystery weekends that match her clients with unique, immersive experiences in different regions of her home state.

“We all need something to look forward to in these crazy times,” she explains. “I wanted to create something special and surprising that would deliver that amazing, refreshing, recharged and inspired feeling you get when you arrive home from a great time away.”

The concept behind Secret Stays is simple: Loynes’ clients specify their preferred dates and approximate budget, how far they are preferred to travel and how inclusive they would like their stay to be. They can also choose from a range of themes including Beach, Bush, High Country, Lakes & Rivers, Wine Regions or Food, or they can opt for a surprise.

Melissa then uses that information to design a unique holiday experience that is tailored to their individual choices.

“All the decision-making, researching and stress is removed from the experience,” she says. “I liaise with local tourism and hospitality operators and with the properties to ensure that every last detail is taken care of. The result is a unique, immersive time away that’s filled with personal touches I know my clients will enjoy.”

Melissa contacted a variety of properties through Victoria, explaining her concept and the sort of experience she wanted to deliver to her clients. She says ensuring that participating suppliers understood how she wanted her clients to feel after their stay was crucial to its success.

“A lot of small domestic tourism operators are feeling the pinch right now, so I’m happy that ‘Secret Stays’ is helping them too,” she adds. “Everyone takes their social distancing and hygiene requirements very seriously, so I know that my clients will feel safe and comfortable in supporting them.”

With the greater Melbourne area currently under Stage 3 lockdown, Melissa’s clients will have to wait a little longer before they are able to take advantage of the array of experiences she has lined up. Although her focus has so far been on Victoria-based experiences, she is hopeful that before long she will be able to expand her concept into other states, beginning with South Australia, Tasmania and New South Wales.

“I’ve had people begging me to start looking into Queensland and I am thinking about how I could take the idea internationally when the time is right,” she reports. “For now though, my heart and soul are in Victoria, supporting the local tourism industry which has been hit hard in the last year – first with the fires and now with Coronavirus.”

According to Melissa, her clients are delighted with the new concept. Despite a relatively low-key launch on social media, she has been inundated with enthusiastic interest: “I had nineteen enquiries in the first week of July alone.”

“I mainly promote the experiences via Facebook and Instagram, using teaser advertisements to provide just enough enticing details about the properties, and I’ve just completed work on my website.”

TravelManagers’ Executive General Manager, Michael Gazal, is quick to praise the initiative shown by Loynes in creating ‘Secret Stays’.

“There’s no doubt that this is a tough time for the travel industry. Our National Partnership Office team are committed to providing PTMs with as much support and assistance as they may need –helping to identify previously untapped opportunities and putting those ideas into practice.”

For Melissa, Coronavirus has been an ill wind which has delivered up a new concept that she is highly motivated to pursue, even after the world resumes normal service.

“My heart feels happy, excited and full to be creating great experiences for my clients again. I truly believe this is just the start of this amazing adventure. I’m so excited to see where it goes. This isn’t just a temporary COVID-19 opportunity to reinvent myself. This is for keeps.”