Travel advisors are still facing challenging times and need more help from their supplier partners, according to a survey of nearly 300 agents, part of TravelAge West’s Need to Know research series.
Nearly half of respondents (47%) say their relationships with their supplier partners leave room for improvement, while only 30% describe the relationships as better than before the pandemic.
"Most of the suppliers that I work with have been bending over backward to make sure that our clients get every opportunity to book their trip with minimal risk and to soften the blow when they need to make changes,” said Suzy Schreiner, owner of Azure Blue Vacations in Bothell, Wash. “Where I see room for improvement is with international tours and cruises — especially Europe and South America. I find myself spending hours on calls and research for various country entry regulations where the protocols can seem quite muddy. It would be more efficient for suppliers to offer clear communication on updated restrictions and requirements for their products.”
Travelers Fear Getting Stuck Abroad
It would be more efficient for suppliers to offer clear communication on updated restrictions and requirements for their products.
Overall, advisors in the survey give suppliers positive marks in most areas. Nearly two-thirds (61%) feel suppliers are doing enough to help advisors calm clients’ fears about booking during the pandemic, and another 81% report that most suppliers have done a good job at adapting their policies to make it easier to cancel or postpone bookings.
This last point is especially important as most advisors (49%) also say that being more flexible with internal policies (including cancellations, postponements, deposits and payments) would be most helpful to them as they try to make sales. This is followed by reducing call wait times and making it easier to reach out for information (28%).
“In general, I have not found this to affect my clients as much, since the policies in place for the suppliers that I use are quite flexible,” Schreiner said. “However, I do see the need for future travel/cruise credits to be extended as we are finding that product availability and ease of travel is still a hinderance in 2022.”
Most advisors (70%) report that suppliers provide options for on-site or in-destination COVID-19 testing, and 40% of respondents say that suppliers provide options or support for travelers who are forced to extend their trip due to COVID-19 (beyond buying travel insurance).
Currently, it is more common for my clients to have concerns about getting stuck in a destination or on a ship than in 2021.
This peace of mind is important because 44% of advisors say their clients are very concerned about getting stuck in a destination (or on a ship) due to COVID-19, and another 37% say they are somewhat concerned.
“Currently, it is more common for my clients to have concerns about getting stuck in a destination or on a ship than in 2021,” Schreiner said. “However, it has been most prevalent with my international land clients due to the U.S. requirement for testing to return home. In fact, I had an entire Mexico group cancel their trip two weeks out from travel last month simply because they had concerns about getting back to the U.S.”
One bit of good news, according to this survey, is that most advisors (66%) feel that clients are willing to spend more on travel this year than in the past. That includes spending more for travel insurance (78%) and on fully refundable/changeable trips (64%).
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 288 advisors across the U.S. Click here to see more Need to Know stories.