Inspired by her sister’s passion for travel, Suzanne Connolly began her career in the travel industry 27 years ago. Today, Connolly is the group coordinator at Provident Travel, based in Cincinnati, Ohio. Creating memorable trips for clients, getting to know them along the way and often forging lifetime friendships, brings Connolly great happiness. “I am the last person our clients hear from before they travel,” she said, “so I pump them up so they’re even more excited to go!”
Q. What makes Provident Travel unique?
A. Provident Travel is a premier travel agency based in Cincinnati, Ohio. We have two offices located in the Cincinnati Tri-State area. Our connection with the leisure, group and incentive travel community spans over 85 years, making us one of the longest established travel agencies in the Greater Cincinnati area!
We specialize in independent and escorted travel, adventure travel and cruising. We are founding members of Virtuoso, an invitation-only consortium that enables us to provide complimentary upgrades, amenities and other travel perks to our clients. Provident Travel has a dedicated team of over 40 travel consultants. Our team’s firsthand destination experience combined with our Virtuoso membership allows us to transform your vacation into a truly unique travel experience.
Q. How has the COVID-19 crisis impacted your business?
A. We have embraced the possibility of working from anywhere and can service our clients from any location. Laptop + phone + Zoom and we are connected to the world. We have turned to virtual travel experiences when working with our vendors and having travel experiences or booking experiences. We need to be mindful of various shutdowns, cancellations and the lack of air travel are the greatest impact to serving clients. Limits on gatherings and the need for social distancing have all impacted when and how we will travel. We are doing things differently to make it safe for all, including traveling in smaller groups where we can make sure our clients are able travel confidently.
People cannot wait to get back out there, but they want to feel safe. Our agency along with hotels, cruise lines, tour companies, etc. have done an incredible job during this time to modernize and create the safest possible environments for us all to work and travel in. Suppliers have taken this time to upgrade and refresh their products and services, so that when the time comes, the client will have an all-new experience. Everyone has embraced the protocols necessary to keep us as safe as possible we resume travel.
Q. What do you see as an opportunity that will come out of the crisis?
A. Connection to one another, and especially to our clients. We have had more time to reach out and talk to our clients. Also, the education component. We have had the opportunity and time to further educate ourselves on destinations, hotels, experiences, etc. All this offers a huge value to our clients.
Q. What is the “next big thing” for Provident Travel?
A. Like most industries, many things have changed for travel in 2020. We are embracing the silver lining and taking this time to adapt and improve. The travel industry can be looked at sometimes as very old school, and that’s a stereotype we are ready to shake. The next big thing for Provident is embracing the trends, Multi-Gen, Sustainable, Adventurous and even Wellness-centered travel. The world is changing and we’re right there with it.
Q. What advice would you give to group travel planners trying to grow their business?
A. At this present time, be patient. Listen to your travelers about where they want to go. Keep it fresh and do not be afraid to create something new and toss it out there! Give them something to look forward to.
Q. It’s vacation time — where do you go?
A. We love to travel and explore even if it is a day trip! If we can’t get to Europe, Caribbean or on a cruise (which we love), then we are off to explore the U.S.! Next trip — we would love to head to Utah and Zion National Park.
Q. What is on your travel “playlist?”
A. “Music feeds the soul” and is always playing in the house, it keeps me going especially during these times. I am a big fan of classic rock, blues and country. Since the pandemic, I have been walking and enjoying my books on tape, usually the hottest audio biography, and escaping.
Q. Final thought: Tell me three words that describe why we should travel.
A. Reconnect, Experience, Adventure.