The travel agency community continues to see encouraging signs of recovery from the Covid crisis, with many reporting sales near 2019 levels. Considering 2019 was the best year on record for many advisors, that’s great news.
During a recent edition of Ensemble Travel Group’s Restart Sessions Video Series, “How to Sell and Market Travel in a Post-Pandemic World” held last month, participants highlighted some of the positive signs they are seeing.
Tara Minson, senior vice president of marketing and communications for InteleTravel in Delray Beach, Fla., said the agency is no longer comparing 2021 sales with 2020 sales. Instead of comparing business with the height of the pandemic in the U.S., InteleTravel is comparing sales with 2019, and it is poised to end 2021 with 115% of 2019 sales.
Consumers have higher travel budgets and, perhaps, some built-up vacation time, she said, likely leading to the “tidal wave” of demand. They are also eager to get out after being stuck at home for so long, according to Minson.
“Those terms — pent-up demand, revenge buying, whiplash in the travel industry — I’m very happy to hear those terms being used more now,” she said.
Ensemble has a large presence in Canada. There, agencies are estimating the country is around four to five months behind the U.S. in terms of loosening restrictions, said Flemming Friisdahl, president and founder of The Travel Agent Next Door in Toronto. But Friisdahl was optimistic that Canadian agencies would soon benefit from similar demand levels as those in the U.S. In June 2021, his agency did about 70% of the business it did in June 2019.
Right now, most U.S. clients are traveling to the Caribbean, Mexico and Disney’s domestic parks, said Cindy McCabe, owner of Bethany Travel in Millsboro, Del.
Further out, though, McCabe said, “The bookings are coming in strong for Alaska, river cruising, Hawaii, cruising.”
Bethany Travel is booking clients for vacations into 2023.
McCabe also identified another trend: Clients are booking two vacations at once. With high demand, space is hard to come by in some cases, spurring clients to book a second trip even further out to get what they want.
Minson is seeing a trend of closer-in bookings, especially as more cruise lines open up and add more itineraries.
Here’s one more very encouraging trend from the panelists: Consumers are spending more per transaction than they did before the pandemic.
Friisdahl said at his agency, clients are spending 40% to 50% more on average, so sales have almost doubled per transaction.