Evidence continues to mount that travel advisors' business is rebounding following the bump in the road otherwise known as omicron, but there are still hurdles to overcome.
The Covid-19 variant impacted the industry mainly in December and January, particularly during the festive season as 2021 came to a close, but things seem to be returning to normal now. To say it's good news for advisors, who are already pandemic-weary, is an understatement.
Travel Experts, the Raleigh, N.C.-based host agency, recently surveyed advisors on the state of their businesses. The majority said 80% of clients have booked travel since 2022 began. For some, that number has stretched to 90% of clients actively booking. And, encouragingly, less than than 10% of clients have canceled trips already planned.
Others in the industry are seeing it, too. Both Cruise Planners and Virtuoso have seen similar trends. And while it's not an agency, Tripadvisor, too, has noted what appears to be the end of omicron's impact on the industry.
Back at Travel Experts, advisors on average reported 35 bookings in the first five weeks of the year. For some, that number stretched to 60 to 70 bookings. Europe is the most popular destination for the spring and summer. Winter bookings have been mostly for the Caribbean and Mexico.
"This is a welcomed positive trend in booking patterns, especially after the rush of cancellations at the end of 2021 as a result of the flare-up of the Covid omicron variant across the world," Travel Experts' director of operations, Sharon Fake, said.
Challenges remain, though.
Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Covid complications, inventory available for last-minute bookings, the pace of bookings and a slow Wave season are all among advisors' concerns at the moment.
The time it takes to complete a booking today is also proving to be a hurdle.
Holly Lombardo, of Holly Lombardo Travel in Atlanta, said planning could take three hours. Communicating those plans to the clients could take even longer.
"It has become so time-consuming that I am having to turn new business away," Lombardo said.
It's also stressful.
"Right now," Lombardo said, "I'm their doctor, therapist, attorney and insurance agent along with their travel advisor."
But bright spots on the horizon remain.
For instance, while Wave season wasn't exactly as busy as it has been in past years, the pace of ocean and river cruise bookings is picking up, according to Eileen Anderson of Journeys Afar in Raleigh, N.C.