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A recent TravelAge West survey of nearly 500 travel advisors living in the Western U.S. paints a less than sunny forecast of an industry that’s been continually threatened by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The survey, which was commissioned by TravelAge West and included responses from approximately 470 travel agents living in the West, mirrors the sentiments of advisors across the country. Fifty-nine percent of Western agents report being very worried that the COVID-19 pandemic will have detrimental effects to business, which aligns with national findings from the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA), who reported on March 19 that 77% of its members predict they will be out of business in six months if current conditions do not improve.
Most readers (54%) surveyed also reported that their clients are very worried about the current situation. Nearly 70% of client communications regarding the pandemic are conducted via email. The next highest medium was phone (24%) followed by social media (4%), or a combination of several methods.
Travel agents also believe the impact of the current crisis may extend into the second half of 2020. Nearly half of the agents surveyed (49%) are primarily seeing cancellations to on-the-books business from June 1 to Dec. 31, 2020, compared to 24% of agents who are rescheduling trips and 27% who are seeing no change to travel taking place during that time period.
When it comes to tackling the various professional challenges arising from this pandemic, advisors are mainly split between feeling somewhat prepared to handle threats to business (37%) and feeling unsure (31%). Only about 17% reported feeling adequately prepared, and nearly 15% feel unprepared or ill-equipped to handle the threats.
About 44% of travel advisors are getting their COVID-19 news from organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the World Health Organization, followed closely by national consumer news media (31%). An additional 16% are looking to travel trade publications, while 8% look to their local news affiliates.
In terms of political communications, advisors are split on how they feel the government is handling news regarding the pandemic. On a brighter note, about three-fourths of agents are either very satisfied or somewhat satisfied with communications from their host agencies, consortia and their industry association (ASTA).
Supplier partners also received a nod from Western-based agents for communicating effectively during the crisis; only 1% of agents surveyed report feeling very dissatisfied with how their travel partners are responding to the crisis.
Note: Survey responses were collected prior to the passing of The CARES Act, which will provide financial relief to travel advisors and travel agencies.