By Jeff Bollig —
It should come as no surprise that “pent up travel demand” as measured by an Association of Travel Advisors survey is at an all-time high.
After all, most if not all of us have been restricted in our movements at home, work and play for months. Acendas Travel advisor JoAnne Weeks does not need a survey to know that people are eager to hit the road and travel again. Her phone is beginning to ring in greater frequency and her email in box is filling up more quickly.
“People are looking to change their routines,” Weeks says. “They’ve been cooped up and they want to get out. For some, it is a weekend trip where they jump in the car and go. For others, they want to have an extended vacation on a beach or at a resort where they can relax, be pampered, and just get away.”
Weeks says she has been receiving calls from people who want to pick up and leave soon — like in a few weeks. Desire plus good values has been the attraction Weeks explains, but because travel is operating in a “new world” potential travelers need more hand-holding than in the past.
“As a travel advisor, I have access to the latest and most accurate information,” Weeks says. “I first listen to the client to understand their wants and needs, then I share with them options that best meet those. So much has changed in terms of what destinations are open or closed, and the protocols for travel and what activities are allowed once you arrive at your destination. We are there to remove the ambiguity and unknown for the traveler.”
Mexico has been a popular destination because of a long track record of hosting tourists plus the implementation of safety and sanitation measures that provide reassurance to travelers. Weeks says the feedback from her clients has been extremely positive for these vacations south of the border. She indicates where not every amenity is available, that did not detract from the experience. For example, fewer restaurant options might exist, the spa might be closed or a particular excursion is not available. Still, the resorts of Cancun, Cabo San Lucas and Riviera Maya offer a respite to those wanting to travel.
Domestic destinations have also been requested with greater frequency as they have implemented similar protocols. Las Vegas, Charleston, Florida beaches, U.S. National Parks, San Diego, Northern California wine country and Arizona are the most discussed options by advisors with clients.
In addition, the availability of attractive pricing on the various packages have enticed travelers Weeks says. And while she expects it to continue for the short-term, there are no promises the “specials” will continue.
“Occupancies are in the 30-40 percent range at the moment,” Weeks says. “But as more people start to travel and inventories decline, the incentive to offer the savings is not as great.
Weeks also indicates that while some people may not be ready to travel right now, they are looking forward to the prospects in 2021 or 2022. Again, good values exist, but again once demand picks up the supply of those deals will be harder to find so waiting might leave you on the outside looking in. A subset of those future travelers is those who have travel credit because trips were cancelled in 2020. The future credit may not expire for a considerable while, but Weeks notes dwindling inventories could eliminate options.
Realizing this desire to travel, various travel partners for cruises, land and land/air packages are making it attractive through liberal cancellation policies. These “no-risk” options allow agents to plan travel now, thereby saving money for clients, but delay travel until later. Some have even extended their final payment dates down to 30 or 60 days prior to travel, from the normal 90 to 120 days.
If there is a silver lining to the pandemic, Weeks says it is the efforts of the industry to make travel more safe and secure.
“This has been the most difficult issue the travel industry has faced,” Weeks said. “But everytime there has been a challenge, the industry has risen to the occasion. What we are seeing now is the implementation of measures that make travel safer. In the long run, we are going to be better off. In fact, we are already seeing the positive return from the investment. There have never been better health and safety standards.“