Travel Agent NewsThrough her side business in personalised caricatures, Michelle Taylan found new ways and inspiration to keep her travel agency going during the pandemic.

Power to the people: Michelle Taylan, President, Klik 'N Fly Tours

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The most valuable lesson from the pandemic is not giving up even when the going gets tough, says Michelle Taylan, who is also president of the Philippine Travel Agents Association.
The most valuable lesson from the pandemic is not giving up even when the going gets tough, says Michelle Taylan, who is also president of the Philippine Travel Agents Association.

Michelle Taylan started her mixed caricature business as a tiangge (small store) in the Philippines in 2008 as a creative energy outlet and as a way to craft personalised gifts for friends and business contacts. As business for the small outfit grew over the years, she hired a handful of artists and eventually took up a store in Market! Market! mall in Taguig’s Bonifacio Global City.

Through my caricature business, I was able to sustain my three employees at my travel agency without income for two years without income. I am very thankful I was able to help my people and their families.– Michelle Taylan, President, Klik 'N Fly Tours

But little did she know her personalised gift side business would be her saving grace when the prolonged closure of borders decimated travel. While business for her travel agency Klik N Fly Travel and Tours was put on pause, international demand steadily grew for her caricature business. Sending customised caricature portraits and models became a popular way for people to show their appreciation for frontline workers such as doctors, nurses, soldiers and police during the pandemic. 

Taylan also received orders from companies as well as travel agents who purchased these caricatures as gifts for their corporate clients, resulting in bulk orders of 50, 100 or even 200 pieces during two years of non-travel. She even had to hire more artists to keep up with the growing stream of orders and customised requests. 

“Through this business, I was also able to help other travel agencies to work part time as my sub agents,” she remarks. “Without this business, I would probably already have closed my travel agency business or let go of my employees. But I was able to sustain my three employees at my travel agency without income for two years without income thanks to this business. I am very thankful I was able to help my people and their families. 

“We cannot afford to close down our business because we also have employees who rely on us. Even though they work two, three days a week, that’s already a big help for them in order to survive,” said Taylan, recounting the devastating impacts of the pandemic on her travel agency business. Throughout the pandemic, Taylan continues to keep Klik 'N Fly open to assist clients including OFWs with their travel plans. 

Taylan leveraged her mixed caricature business to keep her travel agency staff as well as sub agents afloat.
Taylan leveraged her mixed caricature business to keep her travel agency staff as well as sub agents afloat.

The most valuable lesson from the pandemic, says the gutsy boss, is not giving up even when the going gets tough. Remaining adaptive to change becomes a motto for Taylan, who also heads the Philippine Travel Agents Association (PTAA) as president. 

“During the pandemic it’s a kind of revelation. We have to be creative, we have to use our talent. We did everything that we could to survive,” says Taylan, who was a twice Covid survivor, including a serious episode that resulted in a lengthy hospitalisation stay in 2020 when vaccines were not yet available. 

“I was depressed actually for a few months, but I cannot be depressed for a long time because a lot of people are depending on me so I have to be strong enough. To keep my sanity, I sing but it’s just my hobby.”

Besides retaining her own staff and keeping her business afloat, Taylan was also adamant about lending support and engaging with the Philippine travel agent community. “We did a series of Zoom events to keep our members updated with current events locally and internationally and connected with our counterparts in Malaysia and Thailand. We also had webinars on topics like ‘how to conquer your fear’. In fact, during the pandemic, our association became busier than before.” 

Taylan believes industry leaders have to take the lead in encouraging people to travel again, so she and fellow agents at Philippine Travel Agents Association took their first post-pandemic overseas trip to Turkey in February 2022.
Taylan believes industry leaders have to take the lead in encouraging people to travel again, so she and fellow agents at Philippine Travel Agents Association took their first post-pandemic overseas trip to Turkey in February 2022.

Taylan is optimistic that recovery for the travel industry is on the horizon now that the Philippines has fully reopened to international travel. Since resuming the PTAA TravelTour Expo as a live event at SMX Convention Centre in Manila last November, the association chief has been keeping a busy schedule since 2022 began, including her first overseas “fun trip” to Turkey in February with other PTAA agents to reacquaint themselves with travel.

“We are leaders in the tourism industry, so we should be the ones to take the lead to encourage people to travel again. The confidence should start from us. We need to experience the place first before we sell the destination. Travel is not to see a destination via Zoom or through a book, but to experience the different destinations.”

“And you know what? It felt really, really good to feel the destination in person again. We had goosebumps when we arrived in the Istanbul airport. I felt that we’re finally free, and this is now the start of our recovery.”

“There’s no storm that lasts forever. Even a strong typhoon will come to an end.”

Power to the People
April - June 2022 eBook

Tough times never last, but tough people do. Just look to these resilient travel agents, who bounce back stronger from the pandemic.

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