We recently caught up with our Operations Manager, Julie Hamstead-Wallis, to find out what a day in the life of a travel consultant looks like during the pandemic.
Julie has been letting us know how the operations team have been ensuring all our travellers know their entry requirements, isolation, quarantine, testing, passenger locator forms and visa requirements pre-trip by using our great new Passkey product and the indispencible Traveller Toolkit.
Tell us a little bit about yourself
Hi, I’m Julie Hamstead-Wallis, I am the Operations Manager here at Gray Dawes Travel and I look after the business travel consultant teams, customer service and out of hours within the Operations department.
I’m originally from Canada and have worked in travel in both the airline industry and business Travel sector for the past 20 years.
If I am not helping our clients book or amend their travel then I’m travelling myself; or at the very least planning my next adventure as I’m addicted to visiting Las Vegas and cruising around the world!
What are your main responsibilities?
As Operations Manager my role can be extremely diverse and varied most of the time.
Part of managing a team of business travel consultants is making sure myself and the department are following polices, processes and procedures while ensuring our clients receive a seamless service 24/7, 365.
Whilst my role has changed somewhat in the last 14 months, my key focus is still staffing levels, productivity and providing an outstanding service to our customers.
How would you describe a typical work day?
Every day is very different but each day will include some form of training staff, communicating supplier information, ensuring we offer cost effective creative travel solutions and communicating travel industry news internally and externally.
I support our business travel consultant teams day to day and assist clients booking both simple and complex travel arrangements. However, due to the pandemic I have found that client requests and internal communication is ever changing, which is why I’m making every effort to keep focused and stay ahead of the game!
How has your average work day changed since the beginning of the pandemic?
My day has changed drastically over the last year. The customer demand for travel is still high, so the booking travel part of my role has stayed the same, however the complexities around each reservation are vastly different than those of 20 months ago.
As travel is starting to open up, albeit slowly, we go to great lengths to inform each client of the entry requirements, isolation, quarantine, testing, passenger locator forms and visa requirements that need to be sourced for their intended trip. That’s done either by myself or one of my team.
The introduction of the UK’s traffic light system is a great place to start when we book a client’s trip. However, we re-check all requirements due to multiple travel entry and exit changes on a daily basis. Travel has always been complex, but it is so much more complicated now with the ever-changing restrictions, airline cancellations and hotel closures at last minute. But both myself and the team are striving to continue to make the process as simple as possible for our clients.
What changes/training have the company introduced/provided such a tech or procedural to help you in your role?
We have started using a Covid app through our flight system which gives us travel requirements for specific countries.
We also use our own in-house Traveller Toolkit. It’s a very detailed tool which includes destinations status checkers, traveller checklists, virtual trips, helpful articles and much, much more.
We’ve also just launched a brand new product PassKey, which helps support business travellers with information on travelling into Europe for business post-Brexit, including letting them know what visas they may now require.
We are always looking to ensure we have the latest information, therefore we work closely with our suppliers to make sure we keep our clients updated with the latest changes from the travel industry. This could be anything from waivered change and cancellation fee’s to hint’s & tips when booking overnight accommodation.
We’re always engaged with further supplier training with staff uptake on a weekly basis which is certificated and reported in our HRM system. We have introduced a company check list for all travel types, where our new technology applications ensure we are covering all bases before and after our clients trips take place.
How are you helping clients use their credits/vouchers from cancelled or amended bookings?
As all airlines now have a flexible booking policy, albeit at varying levels, we are starting to see a decline in cancelled bookings.
But for those who have previously been rewarded refund ‘vouchers’ by airlines we are assisting them by using these as part or full payment towards new bookings.
You’re currently working from home – how’s that working out?
I guess like most people, I’ve had to adapt to a new routine. But I’m lucky to have space for a dedicated office and our IT solutions all work seamlessly, so it means I can constantly keep in touch with colleagues via Zoom or Teams. Of course, it’s not the same as being in the office, but we all keep the camaraderie going. The exciting news is that we’re starting to open up the Gray Dawes offices this month, so it’ll be great to see everyone in real life again!
To help you navigate the changes of business travel, we’ve created the brand-new Traveller Toolkit. This invaluable online resource is packed full of easy-to-use guides and checklists for every stage of every journey. We detail exactly what you need to know and do before, during and after your trip.
You’ll also find innovative and interactive virtual trips, which walk you through each step of being at the airport, on the train and in the hotel. You can even check the travel restrictions and health status of your destination with our comprehensive COVID-19 Country Tracker, updated five times daily to ensure you have the very latest information to help keep you and your travellers safe.
Travel is changing. With common sense and a good TMC behind you, travellers can have the confidence to once again take to the skies. It’ll soon be back business as (un)usual.