Summer travelers tend to be more ambitious with vacations they book far in advance.
Travel agents should be taking advantage of this trend by helping clients in December, January, February and March, pursue bigger summer travel dreams, according to Kurt Weinsheimer, vice president of business development for travel marketing engine Sojern.
“It’s dreaming versus reality. We saw much more international dreaming [early on] and then this started to shift to domestic markets moving dramatically higher in the rankings,” Weinsheimer said, referring to Sojern’s Q2 Global Travel Insights Report on globally-trending destinations.
Weinsheimer believes that not only should agents capitalize on their clients’ ‘dreaming period,’ but they should also take advantage of fluctuating currency exchange rates and the popularity of last-minute travel bookings.
Dreaming versus reality
According to the report, while interest in domestic trips among North American travelers remained high during December 2014 to the end of March 2015, interest in international travel took a steady hit as the months progress.
“Much more international travel is on people’s brains and then as you get closer to summer, the domestic market just starts dominating, promoting trips much more aggressively,” Weinsheimer said.
Interest in destinations like the U.K., Germany, India, and Ireland all started out high, according to the data, but began to take a drastic plunge as the calendar flipped to 2015.
“I think part of it is just that the further out something is from reality, the more you tend to dream,” said Weinsheimer.
“If you’re serious about going to a place like London from Chicago, you know that it’s going to take time and energy to make that happen.”
Weinsheimer attributed this trend to differences in pricing between an international and domestic trip. If a client puts off the final decision on travel and the price goes up 20%, that increase is a lot more significant on an international trip compared to a domestic one.
Agents can take advantage of this ‘dream’ period by helping clients realize early on that their dream trips can be reality with proper planning—booking early and arranging work or school schedules well ahead of time.
Stay up to date
The company’s report highlighted which destinations are gaining in popularity—and which are losing.
Cuba has gained a significant amount of interest since the American embargo was lifted, climbing the most in the rankings for its (Caribbean region) out of any region measured.
As travel restrictions continue to wear off, clients will start to see more and more choices and opportunities for travel on the island.
“We’re seeing money and resources moving into Cuba,” Weinsheimer said. “We’ve [yet] to see the investment on the hotel side but that stuff takes time.”
The other two destinations whose popularity spiked in the second quarter was Greece and Russia. This was largely due to economic conditions.
“With Russia, there is a clear sense of the ruble going down compared with the dollar and [you] getting more and more affordability,” he said.
And while the economic situation in Greece hasn’t affected its travel industry in the country, travel to the country is also becoming more and more affordable.
That kind of knowledge proves that informed agents can be strong assets for clients as breaking news and exchange rates make a difference in vacation prices, said Weinsheimer.
“The opportunity there is to stay abreast of the news and be able to speak through a lot of the noise so people can understand,” he said.
Last minute travel
The report also suggested that Americans are almost twice as likely to book a last-minute leisure trip than non-Americans. Part of it has to do with the numerous opportunities for U.S. domestic travel, said Weinsheimer.
“It’s definitely much more regional travel,” he said. “There is an interest and opportunity [among travelers] to do that.”
But despite the popularity of this kind of travel, Weinsheimer believes agents can do a better job letting clients know that, even at the last minute, they can still book trips.
“It seems like many agents have kind of given that up to the online world and I don’t think that necessarily makes sense because I think there’s a lot of desire for the curation of the short-haul trip.”