The surge in COVID-19 cases largely due to the Omicron variant has created new challenges for travel advisors as they try to make cruise bookings for the coming year.
According to a new survey of nearly 600 travel advisors, part of TravelAge West’s Need to Know research series, three-quarters (75%) are very or somewhat concerned about the recent surge, with 69% of respondents seeing an increase in trip cancellations and 74% seeing travel postponements in recent weeks.
“We have definitely had customers inquire about the impact that Omicron has had on cruising,” said Danny Genung, owner of Harr Travels in Redlands, Calif. “Some have moved their cruise — though for the most part that has been due to a work need or some other reason. Virtually all our cancellations have been due to guests testing positive before they left for their cruise. To me, that means the system is working. They have all been grateful that it happened before they left for their cruise.”
Virtually all our cancellations have been due to guests testing positive before they left for their cruise.
The large majority (85%) of respondents say clients are asking more questions and showing more concern about upcoming trips in recent weeks. The top areas for concern are nearly a three-way tie between changing government regulations; supplier cancellation/refund policies; and destination safety/surge in cases in a specific area.
In addition, many advisors expect that the current COVID-19 surge will have a significant impact on their overall business this year: 41% say it will be a major impact and another 44% feel it will have somewhat of an impact. Nearly two-thirds (63%) think the recent surge will impact their spring vacation bookings. However, only 29% predict an impact on summer bookings, while most advisors (45%) say it is too soon to tell.
"Right now, we are fully in wave season, and new bookings are outpacing changes or cancellations about 10 to 1,” Genung said. “Quite a few sales are for close in, but many more are for the summer of 2022 and beyond.”
Quite a few sales are for close in, but many more are for the summer of 2022 and beyond.
In addition to Omicron, advisors have also seen an impact from the recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendation against cruising. The majority of advisors (54%) have had clients ask them about the CDC statement, and another 46% have had a client cancel or postpone a cruise due to it.
Genung, however, is still bullish about the prospects of a rebound in cruise travel this year.
"I think we are very close to having a massive growth in bookings as we move into the next phase and transition from pandemic to endemic,” he said. “We have had many guests sail over the last few weeks and they have been so happy that they took their cruise. Many have booked their next cruise right onboard and some have even extended their current cruise by one or more weeks.”
Need to Know Survey Series
“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 591 advisors across the U.S. Click here to see more Need to Know stories.