They may still be using “agent” instead of “advisor,” but consumer media is continuing to see what’s been so obvious for most of the population connected to the travel trade for so long—despite the devastation that occurred at the beginning of the pandemic, the travel trade is now more important than ever in the new world of ever-changing rules, regulations, and protocols.
This week, Barron’s Penta, a vertical for “wealthy individuals,” ran an article about how, in light of the impact of COVID, trip planning has become more complicated. And that’s where travel advisors have come in, to the delight of so many clients.
"Enter the travel agent—or, as they’re more often called these days, the travel advisor. They’re organizers, destination experts, and a 24-hour concierge who can tailor a trip, replan, reschedule, and even keep a momentous holiday from crumbling to pieces,” the author, Tracey Kaler, wrote in a piece published on Sunday.
Kaler quotes a number of prominent members of the travel trade, including Ensemble’s David Harris and a number of travel advisors located across the United States, who share their experience during the pandemic, including helping clients deal with an increasingly complicated world of travel.
“While travel portals such as Tripadvisor, Booking.com, and Expedia Group have exploded in the past decade—with many people taking the lead to plan their own vacations—websites and apps can’t replace an individual offering personalized advice or curating a bespoke experience. And jetsetters are in agreement. In 2021, in particular, travel agencies are in the middle of a boom,” Kaler writes.
The article also cites numbers from Virtuoso, which saw a 50% increase in consumer interest in travel advisors since January and strong bookings increase in Q3 compared to the first half of the year.
“Third-quarter bookings are up over the first two quarters of 2021, and clients are purchasing both domestic and international trips through travel agents. For travel abroad especially, advisors offer peace of mind and a deeper level of security,” Kaler writes.
Barron’s is not the only publication that has taken note of the rebirth of the travel advisor industry. Advisors have been highlighted by the Wall Street Journal, by CNBC, and the New York Times, among major publications. While COVID has certainly caused a massive amount of pain amongst travel advisors, it has also brought with it a renaissance of public interest in the profession that is now fully alive.
“A business that lost ground to do-it-yourself online travel booking is back with the added complications of cancellations, border restrictions, and testing requirements,” the Wall Street Journal wrote in the lead of its piece on advisors.
“The pandemic ruined travel for travel advisors and their clients the last 15 months. However, people who didn’t book with an advisor had no advocate and were much worse off,” CNBC wrote in its piece.
Even local news is picking up on the trend, including Washington D.C.’s WTOP, which wrote that “Planning a trip has become more complicated during the pandemic, but that has meant a new opportunity for travel agencies: providing a foolproof way to plan trips during the pandemic” in an article from three weeks ago.
Aside from that data from Virtuoso, numbers from the American Society of Travel Advisors also shows support for the idea of 2021 being a new era for advisors. In a survey from last month, ASTA found that while 27% of travelers always or often used an advisor prior to COVID, 44% say they are more likely to do so following the pandemic, almost double.
It also found that those who do use an advisor are likely to keep doing so, with 94% of longtime clients plan to continue to use their travel advisor according to that same survey.