2022 has definitely been the year of the travel advisor. Although it's been a hectic and busy year, agents are grateful that travel is back and booming. Most are seeing record-breaking bookings and a higher interest in travel than pre-pandemic. Here are a few of the reasons people have given up online booking.
After two years of lockdowns and cancelled plans, people are eager to travel again. But complex travel restrictions, airport chaos caused by staff shortages and strikes, and general uncertainty have affected consumer confidence. Travelers are looking for a security net, especially the ones who didn't get refunds during the pandemic. While the tourism industry suffered during the pandemic, travel advisors continued to work to reschedule vacations and chase refunds. Many travelers who never considered using a travel professional before heard about the difference agents made in securing refunds and rescheduling trips. Before the pandemic, if you showed up in Paris with just a hotel reservation and no plans or dinner reservations, you might be able to get some tickets and reservations after waiting in line or working with the hotel concierge. Now if you show up with no plans, you could very well be out of luck. Advance dining reservations are a necessity these days. Many sites have changed their maximum capacity or other protocols, which also makes advance planning much more important. Working with a good travel advisor can take these details off your plate and make sure nothing falls through the cracks.
Because of all the chaos of the pandemic, people are still nervous and have a real desire to find a person they can trust with their travel plans. As the struggles continue, especially with airlines who are dealing with lots of questions and complaints because of strikes and cancellations, travelers like having an ally who can work through the issues with suppliers for them. Having a travel advisor who has existing relationships with suppliers provides a real value to clients. Advisors are making it easy for clients to just enjoy travel, rather than be stressed out about it. Travelers are seeing much more value in advisors than they did pre-pandemic because they don't want to have to deal with the problems themselves.
It may be hard to believe, but while the internet is great, many top hotels do not list their suites and better rooms online, and many keep vacancies just for top producing advisors. Good travel advisors bring them multiple bookings every year, so hotels care about keeping them happy. Plus, many times travel advisors know the general managers personally and can get rooms at sold out hotels when you cannot.
Before the pandemic, online travel agencies were often used by budget travelers. But after the events of the last two years, travelers want the support from a travel advisor when things get tough. An good travel advisor will always help their clients navigate through complex travel issues. You won't find this support from an online travel agency. That's another reason so many people are avoiding online travel sites. Once you need to make a change and are put on hold by a supplier for 2-3 hours, you will begin to see real value in having someone else do this for you.
Travel has definitely sprung back with a vengeance and many are looking to book that trip of a lifetime. Some, after missing two years of travel, are making up for lost time and booking one trip after another. Whether you're taking a big budget trip, or several small trips, most travelers want to talk with a real person about their travel plans. A recent survey found that booking an international trip was a priority for 76 per cent of participants - even with rising household bills. Many advisors are seeing people come to them for advice on the best time to travel and when they can get a better value for their money.
I am excited about the bright future for travel advisors. Clients will build relationships and trust with their advisor and rely on their expertise to navigate ongoing uncertainties. Busy Americans are looking for a relaxing vacation, not a stressful travel-planning experience.