Jamie Biesiada
Jamie Biesiada

Three leaders in the luxury travel segment predicted that trends including bucket-list trips and pulling children out of school for extended travel will proliferate in the year ahead.

During a Travel Leaders Group media event held last week, Protravel International president Becky Powell, Tzell Travel Group co-president Cindy Schlansky and Altour senior vice president of operations Lisa Wheeler tackled the question of 2020 travel trends.

Powell said she believes more parents will pull their children out of school for an extended period of time as they recognize that travel is, in itself, an education.

Protravel has increasingly been receiving requests from parents who want to spend a long period of time traveling with their children, she said. In fact, Powell said, she was following an agency owner on social media who has been traveling with their children around the world for the past year.

Schlansky believes that issues like climate change and overtourism will be on travelers' minds in the year ahead, but she doesn't believe that will stop them from traveling. In fact, it might spur them to travel to places sooner rather than later, she predicted. Schlansky herself recently returned from a bucket-list trip to Australia and New Zealand with her family over the holidays.

Geopolitical issues and things like overtourism aren't going away, Wheeler said. As a travel management company, she said, it is incumbent upon Altour to prepare to handle what could result. That means having a strong crisis management process in place and being aware of what's happening in the world.

Travelers should be educated before they go, and their agency should be able to easily run reports and identify where its travelers are, Wheeler said. To that end, Altour has brought in an individual to act as its chief risk officer.

On a lighter note, Wheeler also highlighted something else that isn't going anywhere: the popularity of culinary travel.

The three executives were also asked to share a story about when one of their advisors saved the day. They were unanimous in their assessment that it was hard to pick just one.

"Saving the day is what an advisor does repeatedly in a day," Schlansky said.

Wheeler highlighted Altour's entertainment division. It had booked a weekend stay for a film production crew of 200. To complete the shoot, the entire party had to stay on an extra day, meaning finding accommodations and adjusting everyone's travel home to a day later -- no easy feat, but one the team pulled off without a snag.

Powell spoke about a travel advisor who works for a wealthy family that tends to travel over the holidays with anywhere from 50-150 people. They always have their advisor travel with them to smooth out any in-destination issues (recently, the advisor jumped into the fray and helped a restaurant set tables faster at their request).

That the family wants their advisor traveling with them speaks volumes, Powell said.

Schlansky shared a story about a travel advisor who was planning a trip to Japan for a family with a 15-year-old son. The entire trip was happening so the son could achieve his dream of meeting with a samurai swordsmith.

As Schlansky pointed out, there aren't exactly a lot of samurai swordsmiths anymore, and as luck would have it, the swordsmith's mother died a few days before the trip. The family was on the verge of canceling.

But over the course of 72 hours, the advisor worked with suppliers and a translator and was able to find another swordsmith -- in a different city. The advisor rerouted the entire trip, and the family went.

"That is what's in the course of the day for a travel advisor," Schlansky said.

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