What’s the outlook for 2017 after last week’s U.S. presidential election? Travel Leaders Associates held its annual conference last week immediately following the election, and the answer is “so far, so good,” according to the group’s president, Roger Block.
That should come as good news following a 2016 travel year that was dampened by terrorism incidents in Europe and the uncertainty caused by the presidential election itself. “You know 2016 was a very interesting year, it started out strong and then unfortunately the incident in Paris happened and bookings for Europe, river, escorted and Med fell off,” Block said. “I think you can talk to almost every single operator and hear that. But Alaska and some other perceived safe destinations did very, very well.”
Block also believes the presidential election itself affected travel bookings. “There was an awful lot of uncertainty as to what the future was going to hold and which way was the country going to go,” he said.
But heading into 2017, Block said the outlook is bright, barring any more terrorism incidents. “In talking with our agents over the last few days, Europe seems to be rebounding and the Med seems to be rebounding,” he said. “It really depends on what happens with the new Trump administration. But if certain things happen, such as he really is a pro-business and pro-growth, and if people feel stronger about the economy and have confidence in the future, I think 2017 could be one of the best years we’ve seen in this industry.”
Asked where he is seeing strength in bookings for 2017, Block says it’s in the premium and luxury segments. “Bookings in October were soft but prior to that we were seeing a build-up for more luxury products going forward, which is a great sign,” he said. “And sun and fun continues to be strong.”
Another segment that’s showing strength is corporate travel, even immediately after the election. “Some of our corporate-focused agents said after the election bookings just came in,” Block says. “People were definitely waiting for the election. You wouldn’t think it would have that big of an impact on normal business trips, but obviously it did. So we’re pretty excited about what 2017 could bring for both the leisure and corporate markets.”
Indeed, Block says that smaller and mid-sized travel agencies that book corporate travel could see a surge of interest based on what Travel Leaders’ members are experiencing: “We did an analysis of the corporate market, and air sales in particular. They break sales down by mega-agencies, online agencies and other, which is smaller agencies like our members. Mega agencies and online agencies were flat, but the ‘other’ category was up 12%. That’s basically saying the types of services we offer are really resonating with the customer.”
All in all, Block says he is extremely optimistic for 2017. “I was talking to our agents, and their folks back home, and the phones are starting to ring,” he says. “So knock on wood, 2017 could be a very strong year.”