With travel restrictions lifting and life seemingly returning closer to normal each and every day, it is starting to feel like a new ERA for the travel industry.
According to a survey of 232 TMR readers taken over the last month, travel advisors are starting to get inquiries from clients wanting to travel in the second half of 2021. Over 40% of advisors surveyed said that clients are most willing to travel in the second half of this year, followed by the first half of 2022 (37%), the second half of next year (17%), and 2023 and beyond (4%).
Most travel advisors are getting clients looking to spend between $2,00 and $4,000 for those trips, according to the same survey of TMR readers. More than 45% of advisors surveyed said that their clients want to spend somewhere in that range for their vacations, while close to 19% said that clients want to spend $2,000 or less.
The good news is that a higher percentage of advisors (25%) said that clients want to spend more than that for their vacations, with 19% saying that their clients want to spend $7,000 or more.
Speaking to TMR, travel advisors said that they are seeing different trends and different inclinations based on their client base. But they all agreed that what they are seeing is clients who are anxious to travel. And that bodes well for the industry. Melinda Fortunato, a luxury travel advisor and owner of Washington D.C.’s Best Travel, told TMR that her clients still want to stay relatively close to home this summer—most bookings., she said, are for Florida or the Caribbean.
“My first European booking is luxury Greece at the end of June by new clients who usually book their own travel but wanted a travel advisor to help them navigate all the protocols and requirements,” she said.
Otherwise, Fortunato is gaining interest from cruise clients for large ship sailings next spring and summer and for some river cruise and Europe FIT this fall and over this year’s holidays. The big European rush could come after that.
“I suspect that once the EU officially opens, pioneers like my Greece clients will pave the way for others. Once people see the requirements and processes to enter the EU and return to the US, European business will pick up for fall and early next year,” she said.
In terms of spending, Fortunate said that she isn’t feeling that clients are willing to spend more right now. Value is still top-of-mind, even for clients who typically have a big spend.
“My couple to Greece had a $2,000 budget for nine days. When I first qualified them, Greece wasn’t open. I created an amazing itinerary in St. Lucia. They loved it but decided they didn’t want to spend $20,000 in St. Lucia. However, when I called them that Greece opened, they jumped on it,” she added.
However, other advisors are seeing a boost in spend by clients. Beth Schulberg of Oregon’s Cruise & Travel Specialists said that her clients who typically book cruises have taken a different approach because of the stops and starts of that segment.
“They want to travel now and expect to pay top dollar the luxury lines are charging for their top suites,” she said. “Today I booked a suite for a couple with a budget was $30,000.00. Last week a client’s trip to Australia was canceled and they decided to go to Greece in October with a budget of $20,000.00. People with deep pockets want to travel and are willing to pay whatever the fares are.”
The biggest question that Schulberg’s have is typically “Where are we allowed to travel now that we are vaccinated?”
“People really don’t have much of a choice of where they want to travel. It’s where we are allowed to travel. So right now Greece and the Caribbean are huge,” she said.
“Since so many of us have had to deal with repeated cancellations, the expectations are not the same as they were pre COVID. Travelers know they have to be flexible. They have no choice. That makes it easier on the travel advisors. No one is shocked anymore,” she added.
Lawrence Simon of Mariners Travel Service told TMR that he is feeling “a lot of pent-up demand” from clients but “with some hesitation. Some are anxious to travel now but “most are watching and waiting for next year.”
In terms of destinations, Hawaii is “hot” and other U.S. domestic destinations are garnering heavy interest from clients. For Europe, clients are holding off until at least this fall and then for 2022. However, what Simon is seeing now is a significant boost in those bucket-list vacations, or celebrations, that have been put on hold because of COVID.
“I’m doing a lot of honeymoons, seems people have time to be ‘loved-up.’ Leisure travel is my focus. Some family group travel. I specialize in Europe, people are holding off until the fall and for next year,” he said.