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The COVID-19 pandemic has had a major effect on the destinations that travel advisors are selling, according to a survey of more than 300 agents, part of TravelAge West’s Need to Know research series.
Pre-pandemic, advisors say their top destinations included Europe (41%), the Caribbean (26%), the U.S. (14%) and Mexico (10%). Currently, advisors are selling the U.S. (34%), the Caribbean (21%), Mexico (18%) and Europe (15%).
“Europe has always been a huge summer draw in the past, but this year not so much,” said Steve Orens, president of Plaza Travel in Woodland Hills, Calif. “While many still want to head to Europe, it’s not something we’re planning widespread yet this year. We’re not sure it will be back until maybe the fall or winter.
Orens says clients are heading to Hawaii, Mexico and the Caribbean instead. He reports that exploring Western states such as California, Wyoming, Montana and Colorado are all popular picks, as well.
Alaska, which is traditionally an important destination for advisors, is facing serious disruption due to coronavirus protocols. The vast majority of advisors report that in a pre-pandemic year, Alaska is either very important (41%) or somewhat important (39%). This year, however, large ships might be prohibited from sailing in the destination, which is a problem since more than half (52%) of respondents say they had clients planning on cruising in Alaska this year.
Another popular destination that has been affected by the pandemic is Hawaii. More than two-thirds (67%) of advisors report that they have had to cancel trips to Hawaii. Plus, many advisors (46%) say their Hawaii business is down by more than half; another 13% say it’s down between a quarter and a half; and 9% say it’s down between 10% and 25%. Only 8% of respondents indicate that their Hawaii business is down less than 10%.
Fortunately, most advisors (51%) say they have seen an increase in Hawaii inquiries and bookings in recent weeks. In addition, 71% feel they are getting enough information about travel health protocols.
“Hawaii has been doing great for us this year,” Orens said. “While no one likes to be tested before travel, many clients are more comfortable being tested on the way out [of Hawaii], compared to risking a positive test on the way home when you travel internationally.”
Orens also says that hotel partners in Mexico and the Caribbean have done a great job in providing complimentary accommodations and food and beverage credits if clients test positive.
“Luckily, we have not had a client test positive,” he said. “But these added amenities provide a great sense of security."
Overall, nearly three in four advisors (73%) have seen an increase in bookings and inquiries in the past few weeks.
“Our airline ticketing is way up and people are really ready to travel,” Orens said. “It seems like we’re getting a lot of calls where clients say they just got their second vaccination and want to plan something ASAP.”
“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 337 advisors across the U.S. Click here to see more Need to Know stories.