Despite some underlying concerns, most travel advisors are feeling optimistic about business. According to a survey of more than 250 advisors, part of TravelAge West’s Need to Know research — conducted for the first-time in partnership with Lush Experiences, a travel sales, marketing and representation organization — 87% of respondents expect more business this year than last year.
In addition, 45% say clients are booking earlier this year, and 53% feel clients are no more concerned about cost than they were last year when prices were notably much higher than in previous years.
“Despite geopolitical concerns, inflation and an economy teetering on a recession, advisors are overwhelmingly upbeat about the prospects for 2023 based on what they have experienced to date and what they forecast for the balance of the year,” said Brad Beaty, co-founder of Lush Experiences. “This is probably both a function of a post COVID-19 mindset, and a greater understanding of last year’s summer chaos.”
Despite geopolitical concerns, inflation and an economy teetering on a recession, advisors are overwhelmingly upbeat about the prospects for 2023 based on what they have experienced to date and what they forecast for the balance of the year.
In fact, while advisors say clients are not more concerned about cost this year, agents themselves seem to be carefully watching economic indicators. When asked what their biggest concerns are this year, the top two answers by far are the economy (34%) and pricing (29%). These are followed by shortages in inventory (12%); labor shortages (9%); health and safety (8%); overcrowding (6%); and global political tensions/war in Ukraine (3%).
"While clients seem to be willing to pay more for their vacations, advisors are cautiously watching the economy to make sure the situation does not get worse,” said Giuseppe Di Palma, co-owner and partner at Lush Experiences. “The economy and runaway pricing seem to be a potential threat to their generally optimistic view of the year.”
Europe Is Hot
In terms of hot destinations this year, Europe is still on top — 44% of advisors say Western and Eastern Europe are the most popular spots. Perhaps surprisingly, the U.S. was second with 19%, followed by the Caribbean at 14%.
"It seems like travelers discovered domestic destinations during the pandemic and they’re continuing to explore domestically,” Beaty said.
When it comes to what experiences are of interest to travelers, the top spot goes to history and culture excursions (45%), followed by a tie between active adventure and dining/food/wine-related activities (23%). Shopping (4%) and wellness (4%) rounded out the list.
It’s Up to the Advisor to Bring Up Sustainability Concerns
For the most part, three-quarters (75%) of advisors say they are not getting more specialty requests now than before the pandemic. Nearly two-thirds of respondents (63%) also said that clients “never” bring up the topic of sustainability.
"It may be that the industry is ahead of the consumer on sustainability,” Di Palma said. “While not currently top of mind — or a deal maker or breaker — environmental concerns may be a predictor of what’s to come.”
Nearly all respondents agreed that it is “very” (90%) or “somewhat” (9%) important to keep learning about new suppliers and experiences. In particular, they want to learn more about hotels/resorts/villas/home rentals (36%); experiences/activities (26%); cruising/river cruising (16%); and tours/packaged travel (16%).
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, conducted in partnership with Lush Experiences, recorded the responses of 252 advisors across the U.S. Click here to see more Need to Know stories and click here to learn more about Lush Experiences.