Editor-in-Chief Kenneth Shapiro
Recently, I Talked to Paul Wiseman, president of Trafalgar Tours, about the travel outlook for this summer. According to Wiseman, the good news is that, overall, demand is strong; the bad news, however, is that this pent-up demand could actually contribute to a bigger problem.
Of course, nobody is going to complain about more demand coming from travelers -- especially after last year's downturn. However, Wiseman feels that with all of these consumers itching to travel, combined with a shortage of air capacity, we could see very high airfares and a lack of seats. Wiseman is concerned about Europe, in particular. At Trafalgar, Wiseman tracks airfares and, recently, he has seen prices to Europe that are much more than what's to be expected at this time of year. If this pricing trend continues, the cost of airfare could make it very difficult for agents to close a sale -- on escorted tours or any other type of travel.
"This is just the worst possible thing for a retailer," Wiseman said. "Clients want to go somewhere, but they are simply not aware of the price, and there's nothing an agent can do at that point."
Wiseman strongly suggests that agents contact potential clients now to warn them about the pricing trends and emphasize booking early. He also advised agents to shop around and take advantage of the early-bird offers that many tour operators are currently promoting because, in all likelihood, these deals will disappear sooner than usual. For its part, one of Trafalgar's current offers is $1,000 off per couple ($500 per person) on air-inclusive packages with British Airways. Other companies have offers as well, such as Globus, which is including a 10 percent discount on air-inclusive Europe bookings made by March 1.
Agents looking to highlight their travel expertise to clients should see that this situation is a prime opportunity for them to contact their best clients and give them a heads-up on these higher-than-usual fares. Clients will either decide to book early or, at the very least, they will appreciate your professionalism and the fact that you have their best interests in mind.