May 30, 2023


Just Do Travel

Local travel agents see improvement

Bookings up for international trips, cruises

A plane takes off from Santa Barbara Airport. Rayanna Cole-Dombroski, a travel agent with Montecito Village, said her clients who are comfortable with social interaction are booking flights.

Travel is one of the industries that was hardest hit during the pandemic.

But during the last few months, the industry has seen a significant improvement, especially with international travel (mostly to Europe). 

There has been an increase in cruise bookings and international family vacations. 

In fact, when compared to a year ago, the difference for the travel industry is “night and day,” said Karen Ensign, an independent travel agent with Montecito Travel Village.

Ms. Ensign told the News-Press in recent months she has booked travel to France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Greece. 

“Most people are booking for next year or the end of this year,” Rayanna Cole-Dombroski, another travel agent with Montecito Village, told the News-Press.

The market is a little up and down, but overall it’s getting back to pre-pandemic levels. Most travel agents are fairly busy. It’s close to what it was like before March 2020. 

When compared to a year ago, the difference for the travel industry is “night and day,” said Karen Ensign, an independent travel agent with Montecito Travel Village.

“We were in a bad situation where travel was almost nil. We might get a couple calls a day, but it was pretty slow,” Ms. Cole-Dombroski said. “People are more hopeful about next year than they were last  year. 

“As an agent I feel more hopeful about travel for next year,” Ms. Cole-Dombroski told the News-Press, when asked about the market as compared to a year ago.  

She splits about 50/50  on her corporate vs leisure travel.

 “This is the start of a really big surge, especially with international travel and cruises. Corporate travel is coming back but more slowly than leisure travel,” said Ms. Ensign when asked what she saw for the future. 

“I’m kind of a middle ground person,” she said. “To go through what we have gone through, I’m a little  more pessimistic. But we are seeing a surge in business which will hopefully move over to travel.”

“Corporate travel has changed. I don’t think there is any way to go back to pre-pandemic travel for the business world. Businesses are much more comfortable with people working from home and being productive in their homes.  However, I still feel that there is a need for human contact, and companies traveling to meet their clients. Sometimes it just doesn’t work as well over Zoom,” Ms. Cole-Domnbroski told the News-Press when asked about the future of the travel market.   

Ms. Ensign told the News-Press that she is booking a lot of international travel. Her top three international destinations are Italy, Spain and France. 

“It’s steady but, I wouldn’t say that I am booking a lot of trips, necessarily,” Ms. Cole-Dombroski told the News-Press. “My sales are about 40% lower than they were in a pre-pandemic world.” 

Ms. Cole-Dombroski’s most popular destinations are Hawaii domestically and Italy, internationally. Her sales are about 90% domestic and 10% international in a post-pandemic world as compared to 60% domestic, 40% international pre-pandemic. 

So while Ms. Cole-Dombroski’s sales have always been greater domestically, her domestic sales have increased by 30% in a post-pandemic world. 

Both Ms. Cole-Dombroski and Ms. Ensign said that their most popular destinations are the same post-pandemic as they were pre-pandemic. 

Ms. Ensign told the News-Press that her clients are not hesitant about flying due to COVID-19. 

All of her clients are fully vaccinated and up for the challenge if they want to travel. 

“People have a better understanding of what they need to do. Travel agents are also having a better understanding of protocol and what their clients need to do,” said Ms/ Ensign. 

However, protocols are changing, and Ms. Ensign said travelers should be prepared for a possible winter surge in protocol and restrictions due to holiday travel. 

Ms. Cole-Dombroski said her clients who remain reluctant to interact socially are not likely to get on a plane. 

However, she said other clients, who are comfortable with being out and socializing with friends, are much more likely to be getting on a plane or booking a vacation in the near future. 

For those traveling domestically, no vaccination or negative COVID-19 test is required at this time. However, for those travelling internationally, each country is a little bit different.

 But as a general rule both a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of departure as well as proof of vaccination is required in most countries for international travel, although there are some differentiations in Western Europe. 

Some countries also require proof of medical insurance upon entry. It all depends on where you are going.

“There has been a decrease of interest in foriegn travel due to protocols and the ever-changing entry requirements. Throughout last year, it has been a nonstop ever changing policy. It can be very confusing to the traveler and the agent. Clients often call back and change their mind after finding out entry requirements,” said Ms. Cole-Dombroski. 

The majority of her clientele are still traveling domestically, but people are starting to think about travelling internationally next year.  

Ms. Cole-Dombroski also addressed how the value of travel agents has greatly increased in the post-pandemic world.

“A travel agent does all the research and legwork for you concerning protocols and entry requirements,” she said. “They are constantly checking and double checking for changes in protocols and entry requirements for international travel.

“This pandemic isn’t over. If you want to travel, you have to be really patient. You have to expect that some things are going to be different. It’s not going to be like it was. It’s going to be a little more work than it was before. But once you get there it will be worth it,” Ms. Cole-Dombroski said.

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