New trends are sweeping across the nation as people emerge from the pandemic with an insatiable desire to travel.
Host agency Travel Experts’ advisors indicated that they are seeing an increase in interest for river cruising, bucket-list destinations and off-the-beaten-path locales despite facing challenges such as high prices and long wait times from suppliers.
“While pent-up demand is now driving clients to book vacations, the challenges facing the advisors and their clients can be daunting,” said Sharon Fake, Executive Director for Travel Experts. “However, no one is complaining now that bookings are flowing in and less restrictions make it easier for the clients to vacation.”
Clients looking for value may be interested in booking a cruise.
“I think there are a lot of cruise deals out there and the river cruises are a great deal right now. I just booked two cabins for Festive at an amazing price,” a Travel Experts advisor based in Birmingham, Alabama.
Travelers are also interested in traveling to new destinations.
“Bucket list vacations such as a safari or Egypt and private boat charters remain very strong,” said Holly Lombardo a Travel Experts advisor based in Atlanta, Georgia. “And we see ‘Wellness’ resorts gaining a larger audience as well because of the renewed interest in self-care.”
There also seems to be a rise in the number of companies encouraging solo travel by waiving single supplements.
“I’m grateful to be seeing many more specials aimed at solo travelers. From newer ships with designed single cabins to lower or no single supplements on tours and cruises. This is a big boost to my business,” said Andy Lunt, a Baltimore-based Travel Experts advisor.
While travel advisors are definitely seeing a surge, there are challenges as well.
Peggy Purtell, a Travel Experts advisor in Milwaukee noted: “Last-minute travel is difficult because of inventory. Some of my hoteliers are still facing staffing issues. One told me they cannot sell all of their rooms because they do not have the staff to service 100 percent of the rooms.”
Linda de Sosa an advisor based in Houston had a similar experience.
“I just had a last-minute booking, e-mailed three suppliers for a quote and two basically laughed telling me to get back to them in September,” she said. “Fortunately, one of them was able to source everything I wanted.”
Clients are not used to the current climate for travel and aren’t prepared for the difficulties of last-minute bookings.
“Encouraging travelers to book with some sort of advance is the biggest challenge for me right now. Fall should have been booked last March or April at the latest,” said Lombardo. “But I know without a doubt half of my inquiries will come with three to six weeks’ notice. It means that I have to hunt and peck through what is remaining and it may not be the first or second choice I would have originally recommended to my client, which is disappointing as I want my clients to experience the perfect vacation personally suited to them; not just second best.”
Flights are also extra challenging.
“Currently I am avoiding (as much as possible) booking my clients on flights with a connection,” said Kim Schott Steiger, a Travel Experts advisor in Saint Charles, Minnesota. “The nightmares of canceled flights, lost luggage and staffing shortages within the airports is causing unrelenting chaos. I am making my clients aware that they need to travel with great patience, and understanding, and it is imperative they allow themselves extra time at the airport.”
While there may be obstacles, travel advisors are still very grateful for the uptick in business, as noted by Susan Quillin of Travel Experts in Palenville, New York.
“June and July are proving to be my busiest months of 2022, 2021 and 2020,” said Quillin. “So many clients leaving for Greece, Italy, France, the U.K., Spain and Canada all within a few weeks of each other. It is fantastic to be this busy again. Client confidence is picking up, COVID protocols are greatly reduced or nonexistent. Drivers and VIP airport assists are easier to arrange than ever. I am grateful for the varied and trusted DMCs that have partnered with me on behalf of my clients, many of which for the first time in two years or longer.”
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