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Sheree Mitchell, Immersa Global

"Group travel to Portugal would have been lost if this advisor didn’t negotiate a flexible future travel plan with local partners."

"We had a few small groups booked to come to Portugal for 10-day tailor-made food and wine experiences between May and September this year. As soon as the U.S. travel ban was announced in early March, we connected with the incoming clients to discuss contingency plans.

I immediately called all of our local providers that we’d contracted for these programs. The list included four different high-end hotels and wine resorts around the country, private luxury transportation, tour guides and tour leaders, group reservations at Michelin-starred restaurants, meet and greets with famous chefs, winemakers, and even Europe’s food journalist of the year. I, fortunately, know all of these people personally (professionally and socially) and I asked them to help me with one thing in light of this global emergency: I asked them to trust me as I have trusted them over the years with our clients.

I explained to them that this current unprecedented crisis has no official ‘end date’ and I didn’t think it was fair to give my clients a static deadline by which they had to re-book their non-refundable trip. (During this COVID-19 crisis, the standard policy here in Portugal has been: ‘Re-book all pre-paid, non-refundable travel by the end of 2020’.)

I wanted to offer our clients a more compassionate and practical solution, especially since the U.S. COVID-19 outbreak was happening on a different timeline than ours here in Europe. So I asked the local providers to give me one calendar year, 365 days, upon the first day that the Republic of Portugal was declared safe to visit by local authorities AND by the local U.S. Embassy (as our clients are all American), to rebook this program.

In my opinion, this was a win-win for all:

  1. It gives our clients time to recover from this crisis and not feel rushed or afraid they’d lose the money they’d invested in this trip.
  2. It gives the clients time to feel “safe” to travel abroad again after these very uncertain times.
  3. This helps U.S. inbound tourism to continue to flow in Portugal.
  4. This also helps keep my small boutique tour operator afloat!
  5. This does not provide any financial setbacks to the local suppliers (during this economic crisis for them) as we are not canceling or requesting a refund.

Luckily for me, all of the local providers accepted this agreement! When I shared the information with the owner of one of our local partner agencies back home, she was so relieved and grateful! She later shared with me the email that she sent out to her clients (the end consumers) updating them on their travel program:

“…I spoke at some length with Sheree Mitchell and learned that she is not only a fabulous ground partner, but also nothing short of a miracle worker. She has negotiated with all of our hotels, restaurants, and destinations to honor our reservations and deposits, and we may reschedule our tour starting up to one year following Portugal's declaration that the country is once again a safe destination for tourism. I have never heard of that liberal a policy, and I don't think that anyone else could have arranged a better outcome for us, especially since most travel insurance and hotel reservation policies specifically exclude cancellation as a result of an epidemic. I am convinced that her status within the Portuguese travel industry and her reputation internationally is why she was able to be so successful for us.”

I'm so happy that in a time of need, my personal connections came through to save the day!"

Sheree-Mitchell

It all underscores exactly why YOU SHOULD ALWAYS USE A TRAVEL ADVISOR.

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