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Travel advisors are on the frontline of explaining the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) COVID-19 testing protocols related to travel, according to a new survey conducted by TravelAge West as part of its Need to Know research series. Eighty-two percent of the nearly 500 advisors who replied to the survey say they have had clients ask about COVID-19 testing, and 85% say their clients are either very or somewhat confused about the need and process for tests. Nearly three in four respondents (72%) answer this call by providing testing protocol information to their clients.
“Both clients and agents are confused,” said Steve Orens, president of Plaza Travel in Woodland Hills, Calif. “It’s so fluid, and things are changing all the time, and you get different answers. One of our advisors contacted a state’s health department to ask about requirements, and they responded that they did not know and provided four links we might want to check. Between finding the right kind of tests, getting results in a timely manner and checking and rechecking requirements, there is so much more to coordinate when traveling than before.”
Between finding the right kind of tests, getting results in a timely manner and checking and rechecking requirements, there is so much more to coordinate when traveling than before.
Fortunately, most advisors (54%) feel that suppliers do a good job of providing COVID-19 testing information. This is important to agents, as 80% say they are more likely to book with suppliers that offer such testing.
Interestingly, advisors show strong support for mandatory testing before travel. Sixty-one percent believe that destinations and resorts should always require testing, and another 26% think it should happen sometimes. Only 13% say testing is not necessary. Likewise, 63% of advisors feel that airlines should always require testing; 23% say its sometimes necessary; and 14% are against testing.
“Strict requirements both help and hurt clients thinking about traveling,” Orens said. “The question is, would strict requirements help more people travel? Definitely. I think people have been homebound so long and want to travel, and they are ready to go. But at the same time, those who have been home do not want to be careless and waste all the efforts have [been making] over the past 10 months. Strict requirements provide an added level of comfort in addition to all the new health and safety standards the airlines, car companies and hotels have taken.”
Most advisors (81%) feel that strict testing helps their clients feel better about traveling, and the majority (54%) feel that it can actually help travelers decide to book a trip.
“If I haven’t been traveling for 10 months, I don’t want to get on a plane with someone who might have COVID-19,” Orens said. “While testing does not completely guarantee no one is sick, it greatly reduces the chances, and may keep a few sick people off planes or away from destinations. The next step would be to require vaccinations for those traveling, but that’s once everyone who wants a vaccination has the opportunity to get one.”
Overall, advisors are split on their own personal experience with COVID-19 testing. Nineteen percent have taken a test to travel and another 31% have taken a test, but not specifically to travel. Half (50%) say they have never taken a test. Of the agents who have taken a test, 81% said the overall experience was either very or somewhat positive.
“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 483 advisors across the U.S. Click here to see more Need to Know stories.