Dale: The more we can align ourselves and strengthen the relationship [with agents], the better the economic and business outlooks.
It’s 11% of travelers—the group USTOA calls “Receptive Cancellers”—who can make the difference between a good and a bad year.
Even before this week’s events in Germany, terrorism was an issue—and it was top of mind at the United States Tour Operators Association annual conference earlier this month. But when TMR spoke with USTOA’s CEO Terry Dale, he said that like his members, he remains upbeat despite the headwinds.
“Regrettably, we will continue to operate in a volatile environment whether it’s terrorism, geopolitics or infectious disease,” he said. “The challenge is to operate in this new norm.”
A new USTOA study conducted with Cornell University’s business school found that 69% of travelers are committed to travel regardless of these issues. Another 20% were “committed cancellers,” who would cancel or delay until they felt more comfortable.
Then there were 11% called “receptive cancellers”—travelers who were open to continuing their travel plans if they had the information that gave them confidence.
“When we talk about operating in this uneven environment, we find the travel agent is critical to our success in connecting with consumers and making sure we are getting them the information they need,” Dale said. “We can neutralize the issues of that 11% and convert some of them through travel agents as our face and voice.”
Dale said tour operators “are actually hoping to grow the percentage of business we get from agents; the more we can align ourselves and strengthen the relationship, the better the economic and business outlooks.”
USTOA encourages agents to take advantage of its online training curriculum, which has been completed by 1,400 agents, and its library of more than 40 videos, as well as Travel Together “which takes place in September and is a variation of the Cruise Wave program, a powerful effort to get consumers to book a tour.”