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Travel Advisors Lean on Facebook Groups During the Pandemic

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In the best of times, travel advisors have relied on Facebook groups for support, advice and the sharing of ideas.

But in the age of the COVID-19 pandemic, these groups have become even more vital to agents’ businesses – not to mention their mental health.

“If it wasn’t for one very special colleague Facebook group where we can be very open with each other, I swear I’d be looney toons by now,” said Becky Lukovic of Bella Travel Planning, an affiliate of Travel Experts. “The moral support has been incredible and a lifeline on those days where I just want to hide under the covers. There’s just something about having the support of those who are going through the exact same thing you are. You know they feel you. You know they get you.”

On a similar note, shortly after the beginning of the pandemic – March 21, 2020 – Sharon Campbell of Bespoke Travel Group launched the private Travel’s Got Talent Facebook group – for “fun and not for business,” she said, adding that the group now has more than 2,600 members.

“The idea and reason why I created this group last year was that I needed an outlet and an escape place from the stress and frustrations that were not COVID- or business-related,” Campbell said. “I needed a group for fun and laughter – even if it was only for five minutes at a time.”

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The group, she noted, has been a lifesaver of sorts.

“For myself and for many travel advisors, the group has been a welcome escape and kept our sanity throughout the last 12 months that I honestly have to admit have been the most disappointing and frustrating months of my entire 30-year career.”

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Holly Lombardo of Holly Lombardo Travel Co., an affiliate of Travel Experts, is part of a Facebook group of Travel Experts agents in the Southeast region of the U.S., which said has served as a lifeline of sorts.

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“I could share my feelings of sadness and fear. On days where I may feel down, there is always someone in the group who is having a good day and lifts my spirits that this too shall pass,” she said.

“The biggest contribution this group has made is helping me to keep up with the pitfalls of planning travel in the environment of COVID – from ever-changing entry requirements to client feedback.”

She added that the group has also prompted her to reassess her operations, which “includes terms of service and online secure credit card authorizations for each and every charge.”

Similarly, Lukovic, who considers herself a savvy businesswoman, has “been compelled to take a deeper look at some of my practices, marketing efforts and business structure through conversations I’ve had with other equally (and perhaps even more) savvy business people in the travel industry.”

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In Lukovic’s view, it’s imperative to seek out groups targeted to an advisor’s specific needs, business demographics and expectations. “Some of the general groups didn’t give me enough return on my time investment and I left,” she said. “To have a successful industry social group, there needs to be some give and take. Ask for help and also give help.”

During the pandemic, Ashley Morris of Alpaca Your Bags has found membership in smaller groups extremely helpful. “ I have a small ‘mastermind’ type group of eight agents that I really trust,” she said.

“This group is my saving grace on some days. We share wins, tips and things to look out for. It’s a tight group of agents and I wouldn’t have made it through COVID without them.”

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Tracee Williams of Destinations is a member of several groups that focus on COVID-related issues. “One group focuses on ‘Community over Competition”’ in discussing different topics, such as verbiage to use when discussing COVID policies with clients,” she said.

“Another group focused on visiting resorts and giving fair and truthful reviews of the hotels, their restaurants and the foodservice, as well as their cleaning protocols. Once again, lots of discussion about resorts who were easy to work with for rebooking’s, and which ones were not.”

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The groups she is most partial to are those that offer emotional support.

“My personal favorite groups were the ones who were lifting each other up each day, with success stories, words of encouragement, sharing pictures daily of where we were going to visit when things opened back up, and some colorful memes and language on occasion,” she said. “These communities have stuck together, and we all helped each other through it. We are all still standing, and I have some new life-long friendships.”

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Facebook-Meta Earns the ‘Worst Company of 2021’ Title in This Survey

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Facebook has had its share of controversies this year. The company was under more scrutiny after whistleblower Frances Haugen leaked a series of internal documents.

Facebook parent Meta has been named the Worst Company of the Year (2021) by Yahoo Finance respondents. According to the publication, an “open-ended” survey was published on Yahoo Finance on December 4 and 5, where 1,541 respondents participated. Facebook received 8 percent of the write-in vote, but respondents were seemingly mad about the Robinhood trading app as well. Electric truck startup Nikola, which was named last year’s worst company by the same publication also faced respondents ire.

Yahoo Finance notes, “Facebook has had its share of controversies this year.” Starting in January, Meta-owned WhatsApp got caught up in a huge controversy after the messaging app announced a new privacy policy (Terms of Service). WhatsApp said it would collect user information and share it with third-party apps for a better user experience. However, the app gave users no choice but later made modifications to the policy under pressure. Similarly, the company was under more scrutiny after whistleblower and former Facebook employee Frances Haugen leaked a series of internal documents showing the company’s problematic practices. It was revealed that Meta-owned Instagram had a negative impact on teenage girls, but the company did almost nothing to rectify the problem.

Yahoo Finance even highlights, “At the same time, some critics, including conservatives, say Facebook over-policed the platform’s speech and stifled their voices.” Critics also blame Facebook and other social media platforms for not curbing hate speech that led to Capitol Building riots.

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However, around 30 percent of Yahoo Finance readers said that Facebook or Meta could redeem itself. One respondent suggested that the company could issue a formal apology for negligence and donate a sizable amount of its profits to a foundation to help reverse its harm.

On the other hand, respondents chose Microsoft as the Company of the Year (2021). The Satya Nadella-led company touched the trillion-mark this year and introduced notable upgrades. The most notable is the Windows 11 OS update that succeeds Windows 10.

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Facebook pays 1.7 Cr fine to Russia after failing to delete content Moscow deems illegal

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In the latest legal tussle with Russia over controversial social media regulation laws, Facebook paid 17 million roubles (Rs 1.7 Crore) for failing to remove content deemed illegal by Moscow. With a threat of potential larger fines looming, Facebook parent company Meta, owned by Mark Zuckerberg, is scheduled to face court next week over repeated violations of Russian legislation on content, Interfax News Agency reported. As per the latest updates, the social media giant could be fined a percentage of its annual revenue.

In October, Moscow sent state bailiffs to enforce the collection of 17 million roubles. Meanwhile, as per Interfax report citing a federal bailiffs’ database, on Sunday, there were more enforcement proceedings against the company. Apart from the popular social media app, Telegram has also paid 15 million roubles in fines for failing to comply with the Russian social media legislations that came into force in 2016.

Facebook pays $53k to Russia for refusing controversial social media laws

It is pertinent to mention that Facebook has locked horns with Moscow earlier in November, resulting in it paying 4 million roubles ($53,000) over its refusal to adhere to Russian data localisation laws, the Moscow Times reported. The Moscow court on November 25 had said that Facebook paid the fine levied in February, following which all proceedings against the US-based social media giant. The payment comes against the litigation filed against the company in 2018, alongside Twitter. The tech companies were also forced to pay an additional 3000 rubles ($40) for failing to comply with user data sharing rules as per the law. The Russian authorities have also previously blocked LinkedIn, owned by Microsoft, for failing to abide by the laws.

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Russian social media laws

As per Moscow Times, under the Russian social media regulation laws, all foreign technology companies are required to store data related to Russian customers and users on servers located in Russia. Additionally, the Russian tech companies will also have to share encryption data with the federal authorities as well as record user calls, messages and civil society group conversation records. The apparatus is said to be a severe breach of privacy rights and unfettered back-door access to personal data that could be used to harass Kremlin critics.

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Facebook Messenger Is Launching a Split Payments Feature for Users to Quickly Share Expenses

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Facebook Messenger Is Launching a Split Payments Feature for Users to Quickly Share Expenses

Meta has announced the arrival of a new Split Payments feature in Facebook Messenger. This feature, as the name suggests, will let you calculate and split expenses with others right from Facebook Messenger. This feature essentially looks to bring an easier method to share the cost of bills and expenses — for example, splitting a dinner bill with friends. Using this new Split Payment feature, Facebook Messenger users will be able to split bills evenly or modify the contribution for each individual, including their own.

The company took to its blog post to announce the new Split Payment feature in Facebook Messenger. 9to5Mac reports that this new bill splitting feature is still in beta and will be exclusive to US users at first. The rollout will begin early next week. As mentioned, it will help users share the cost of bills, expenses, and payments. This feature is especially useful for those who share an apartment and need to split the monthly rent and other expenses with their mates. It could also come handy at a group dinner with many people.

With Split Payments, users can add the number of people the expense needs to be divided with and, by default, the amount entered will be divided in equal parts. A user can also modify each person’s contribution including their own. To use Split Payments, click the Get Started button in a group chat or the Payments Hub in Messenger. Users can modify the contribution in the Split Payments option and send a notification to all the users who need to make payments. After entering a personalised message and confirming your Facebook Pay details, the request will be sent and viewable in the group chat thread.

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Once someone has made the payment, you can mark their transaction as ‘completed’. The Split Payment feature will automatically take into account your share as well and calculate the amount owed accordingly.


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Tasneem Akolawala is a Senior Reporter for Gadgets 360. Her reporting expertise encompasses smartphones, wearables, apps, social media, and the overall tech industry. She reports out of Mumbai, and also writes about the ups and downs in the Indian telecom sector. Tasneem can be reached on Twitter at @MuteRiot, and leads, tips, and releases can be sent to tasneema@ndtv.com.

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