After a difficult year for many advisors personally and professionally, they’re welcoming the rebound as consumers are eager to get back to planning and booking vacations.
While there has been some who are still wary, Mia Roberson-Wood, a travel advisor at Elite Adventures in Maryland, an InteleTravel affiliate, said her experience has been that the vast majority of people are ready to travel.
“Instead of contemplating ‘IF’ they should go on vacation, they are actually booking a few short-term weekend getaways and full week vacations,” she told Travel Market Report. “After the year we had in 2020, many are jumping at the first opportunity to take time away from the everyday routine, the work environment, and the daily stressors to focus on what’s more important, which is their wellness and spending time with family and friends.”
Roberson-Wood said as a certified wellness travel specialist, many of her customers want to travel to relax, recharge, refocus and reset.
She’s seen a variety of lead time, through the end of this year and into 2022 while others want to travel within 30-60 days. “I don't mind that the travel rates may be higher. My phone has been constantly ringing and I'm excited that so many are seeing the value in using a travel advisor now.”
“With the high travel demand, the inventory has gone down of course. There may be limited availability on a specific room category at the resort of the customer's choice or no availability at all for their travel dates,” Roberson-Wood added.
Riya Chaisson, a travel advisor at Travel By Riya in Texas, InteleTravel affiliate, said her experience has been that people are booking only a month or two out to top destinations such as Miami, Vegas, and Mexico. She agreed, “Availability is becoming limited, so pricing is higher, but people are ready to travel. There are lots of promotions running and the suppliers are great and very helpful! I have been busy and booking like crazy. The key is being consistent, so people are ready to travel and know to reach out to you.”
For support, Roberson-Wood said partners like Apple Leisure Group are helping by keeping agents informed of the safety protocols at the resorts, the Covid-19 restrictions in a destination, and by providing that extra touch for clients.
For example, “I had a couple on vacation in Jamaica for the first time. I contacted the resort and asked if there were any extra amenities they could provide. They were happy to do so, and my customer stated that they were ‘Treated like royalty!’ It's very rewarding for me to create those lifetime memorable vacations for my customers.”
“I have travelers inquiring and booking land destinations to Miami and Orlando, as well as all-inclusive resorts in Mexico and Jamaica,” said Carolyn Moody, a travel advisor with InteleTravel in North Carolina.
“Airfare has been extremely high especially now since travel is on the rise,” Moody noted, adding that some clients are opting to find their own flights on other sites and some clients are driving to their destinations instead of paying for the expensive airfare.
“My challenges have been the airlines, with so many flights canceling, and so many changes the airlines are making.”
Overall the advisors highlight an upswing in booking sales for Inteletravel, a host agency hybrid based out of Delray Beach, Florida, which have increased 44% over 2019.
The company is projecting a 15% increase in total booking sales by the end of 2021 with 68% of that coming from its land-based business. Due to the significantly low number of limited capacity ships sailing this year, InteleTravel's land/cruise business split has shifted from 60/40 in 2019 to 80/20 in 2021.
Is International Travel Back?
There has been a lot of excitement in the industry as hotels see increasing occupancy, tour operators resume operations, and cruise lines depart for long-awaited sailings. More and more international destinations have opened their borders to foreign travelers, as the industry looks to recover from over a year and a half of a standstill.
While international tourism is slowly picking up, rising concerns over the Delta variant of the virus have led several countries to reinstate some restrictive measures. In addition, the lack of clear information on entry requirements continues to weigh on summer travel plans.
Between January and May, international tourist arrivals were 85% below 2019 levels (or a 65% drop in 2020), according to the latest data from the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the United Nations specialized tourism agency.
According to the UNWTO, the latest data shows that over the first five months of the year, world destinations recorded 147 million fewer international arrivals compared to the same period of 2020, or 460 million less than the pre-pandemic year of 2019.
“Accelerating the pace of vaccination worldwide, working on effective coordination and communication on ever-changing travel restrictions while advancing digital tools to facilitate mobility will be critical to rebuild trust in travel and restart tourism,” said UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili.
However, the data does point to a relatively small upturn in May, with arrivals declining by 82% (versus May 2019), after falling by 86% in April. This slight upward trend emerged as some destinations started to ease restrictions and consumer confidence rose slightly. Despite the small uptick, the emergence of COVID-19 variants and the continued imposition of restrictions are weighing on the recovery of international travel, the UNWTO said.
Jamie Mussolini, owner of Beachfronts Travel, however, told Travel Market Report that the Delta variant has not really affected interest and bookings in international travel, and she has seen a mix of requests from clients.
“I have a lot actually with interest to travel to Greece & Italy as well as the Caribbean! There have been many requests for last-minute trips. On the other side, I have clients who want Hawaii, Yellowstone/ National Park trips, South Carolina, and local driving destinations such as the Hamptons, Chatham, and watch hill.”
“I find that the biggest problem to international travel is the hassles involved with specific country entry requirements and then having to get the negative PCR/Antigen tests on the way back to the states,” said Pam Walker, owner of Walker Adventures. “People just don’t want to go through all the testing. Also, they worry about getting stuck in a foreign country should their tests come back positive and just how good are the labs in these foreign countries are.
“My biggest struggle is to get people to book international travel which is mainly what I book,” said Mary Catherine Sinkule, an independent affiliate of Travel Experts. “Children haven’t been vaccinated so they can’t travel until later in the year and also the return Covid test is a big problem that needs to be changed to proof of vaccination or Covid test.”
Meanwhile, domestic tourism continues to rebound in many parts of the world, driving the recovery in many destinations, especially those with large domestic markets.
Walker said clients “would just rather travel within the U.S. states where there are minimal requirements and they don’t have to worry about getting home.”