From a travel perspective, last year started with a whimper but went out with a bang. For many travel advisors, momentum from 2022 is continuing into 2023, which they hope will result in a banner year.
Holly Lombardo, owner of Holly Lombardo Travel, is predicting 2023 will be the best year in her 34 years as a travel consultant.
“2022 currently holds that title but I fully expect 2023 to continue to be booming,” she said.
As a case in point, in the first week of January alone Lombardo said she gained five new affluent clients, all of whom have never used a travel advisor before.
“Business is looking great for 2023, and we are seeing a much higher demand for upscale travel, primarily European and Asia FIT travel,” said Tom Karnes, owner of LaMacchia Travel. “We are a full service agency that has always sold cruise but since the word ‘cruise’ is not in our name I feel many people didn’t know we sold cruises – that is until this year.
“Our cruise business is rolling with longer itineraries, upgraded suites and diversified destinations.”
To prepare for what it expects to be an exceptionally robust year, the agency hired four new advisers. “The amount of business we are fulfilling is keeping everyone very busy, which allows us to choose the products we want to sell as opposed to fulfilling all calls,” Karnes said. “We have also just launched a new marketing platform that we allow us to control the flow of business, making me confident that we will keep those four new advisors busy.”
Although Tammy Levent, CEO of Elite Travel, said 2023 business “has been a little slower than normal,” the booking inquiries the agency is receiving “are quality – higher in budget and luxury.”
“We will have a better outlook in the next 30 days, and the year may end up still strong like it was last year,” she said.
Chris Caulfield, the owner of a CruiseOne agency, is also bullish on 2023, in part due to pent-up demand. “People are looking at those cruises they always put off, like the Mediterranean, and want to take them now,” he said. “At this point, bookings seem to be returning to pre-pandemic patterns.
For Churchill & Turen, “2023 will be our record-setting year following an excellent 2022,” according to Richard Turen, the agency’s managing director. “But what most impresses us is the advance revenue on the books for 2024 and even 2025.
“It is slowly sinking in that many of our favorite travelers have simply waited too long to book trips one year out,” he said. “There will be more availability disappointment in 2023 than we have seen in the past two decades.”
Other advisors also noted that their clients are booking further out.
“I do large groups and weddings, and we are already heavily booking into 2024. Honestly, my 2023 is already in wrap up mode” said Sarah Kline, owner of Time for Travel.
“Most of my clients are booking much further out to get exactly what they want. Bookings are strong for luxury cruising and many European destinations,” said Claire Schoeder, an independent contractor with Elevations Travel. “And I have had to look into 2024 for some expedition cruises to get exactly what my clients want.”
“In 2022, finding availability at many all-inclusive resorts was difficult because consumers had moved vacations due to COVID,” said VIP Vacations President Jennifer Doncsecz. That situation, however, may play out different this year. “In 2023, we are seeing space available – which is wonderful,” she said.
James Ferguson, an independent advisor at TravelEdge who specializes in luxury cruises, said his clients are booking as far out as 18 months – and as close in as one month. “Interestingly, my A-list cruise clientele are booking three different cruises in concert for the year,” he said.
Bright as the 2023 booking picture may be, there are nonetheless some caveats that could dampen it.
“The big ‘if’ is the economy,” Schoeder said. “If the recession that some are predicting hits, then I expect travel demand to drop somewhat.”
Issues relating to air travel could also potentially affect 2023 bookings. “Flight pricing is still a concern as fares seem to continue to rise,” Doncsecz said. “If airlines get their act together in 2023 it will be a solid year,” Kline said. “All this bad news on the airline front hurts us all tremendously.”
Despite these caveats, the general sentiment among advisors is that 2023 will continue to blossom into a fruitful year for the travel industry.
“Nothing can stop the desire for travel and experiencing life,” Kline said. “Travelers are not holding back and I’m thrilled to help them get there.”
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