Multiple signs have pointed to consumers' readiness to travel again, with demand for leisure travel steadily climbing.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screened more than 1.58 million people at U.S. airports ahead of Easter weekend, the highest recorded number since the pandemic began last March. In fact, in a promising sign, the U.S. has seen consistent daily passenger numbers above one million passengers in a day.
Another encouraging statistic, more than 100,000 Americans have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine so far, while more than 57 million are fully vaccinated. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that fully vaccinated individuals are at low risk of spreading the disease while traveling.
Now that more Americans are gearing up to make vacations they’ve been dreaming about and planning for over a year, it’s more important than ever that they use advisors. Travel advisors will be an indisputable part of the travel experience, and consumers would be smart to rely on their expertise during the complex trip planning process.
While some international travel has yet to return, more and more destinations are opening their borders. With cruise lines, airlines, and hotels all implementing various COVID-19 protocols, having a travel advisor navigate that on behalf of their clients will ensure a seamless experience. There are also ever-changing vaccine and test requirements.
“A travel agent is more important now than ever before in helping you navigate the new travel landscape,” said Jamie Lynne Mussolini, founder, and president of Beachfronts Travel. “The new protocols, travel authorizations, insurance requirements, and documents needed are a hurdle for a first-time visitor however using an agent that knows this would save you so much time or at the worst being turned away at the airport.”
Some people will be taking bucket list trips after a year inside. Consumers will need the knowledge and skill of a travel advisor to put together these types of complex and meaningful trips without issue.
Eileen Anderson of Journeys Afar said, “This past year reminded me that my professional expertise has value and exclusivity with numerous trade partners beyond the reach of novice travel planners,” adding that her clients appreciate her knowledge, connections, and efficiency.
Whether it’s through a relationship with a supplier, industry know-how, or providing a human voice at the other end of the phone, advisors save their clients from the confusion and frustration that might arise.
Marc Bokoff, Cruise Planners franchise owner, said by securing client refunds, future travel, and cruise credits, “we proved the value of a fully engaged travel advisor advocating for clients during a very tough time.”
“I maintained a list of canceled reservations and whether they were refunded or had FCCs. This allows me to follow up at appropriate times to see if/when they will be ready to rebook while managing the expiration dates. Some clients opted to rebook along the way and have weathered multiple suspensions and we have been working very closely with them to continue to manage expectations.”
Meanwhile, travelers who booked with online travel agencies (OTAs) like Expedia or Priceline have struggled to get their refunds back. According to formal complaints with the U.S. Department of Transportation, of the 14,604 complaints received from January to December 2020, 94% were about obtaining refunds for unused or lost tickets, fare adjustments, or bankruptcies.