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It will not come as much of a surprise, but the summer of 2020 was terrible for travel advisors’ businesses, according to a recent survey conducted by TravelAge West — part of its Need to Know research series. Almost all (95%) of the nearly 300 travel advisors who responded report that sales are down compared to previous summers, and 87% say business is down more than 50%.
In addition, only 3% of respondents say that they expect clients to travel at all the rest of this year. When asked this same question at the start of summer, 8% felt that people would travel this winter. Fortunately, looking forward, 54% feel their clients will be back to traveling in 2021.
“What I find is that people who use travel advisors are more cautious about the coronavirus,” said Trevor K. Williams, owner of Book and Bag Travel, LLC. “But my clientele is made up of younger and more adventurous individuals who aren’t afraid of taking risk. Most of my clients who I have reached out to over the past few months have been OK with taking the risk of traveling, compared to being home and susceptible to the same risk.”
When it comes to the outlook for international travel, the expectations are fairly optimistic. Most advisors (59%) report that up to one-third of their clients are making future plans to travel internationally. Only 16% say that none of their clients are thinking about international travel.
“I think most clients are attracted to the low rates being currently offered by resorts and airlines to boost tourism,” Williams said. “A lot of properties are offering vouchers that allow clients to purchase now and travel later. The reality is that most people want to travel, but they fear the unknown and the potential of what could happen as a result.”
Advisors have remained remarkably consistent about their marketing outreach to clients over the summer. At the beginning of summer, most advisors (55%) indicated they reached out to clients once a week; at the end of summer, that number was 54%. And in both surveys, 54% say that their outreach is less than in the past.
One relatively positive note in the recent survey was related to the interest in cruising. When asked if they will have clients ready to take a cruise in 2020 (assuming cruising resumes this year), 53% say no, but 47% say yes or “it depends on the specific safety protocols.” This response seems to reinforce the importance to advisors of restarting the cruise industry as soon as possible.
“I think it’s safe to assume that most people would rather cruise, than [take] any other type of vacation,” Williams said. “When you take this into consideration, I think it makes sense that that almost half would be okay with cruising, as long as conditions permit.”
“Need to Know” is a research series from TravelAge West that tracks the responses of advisors as they relate to various travel trends and topics. This survey recorded the responses of 281 advisors across the U.S. Click here to see more Need to Know stories.