There's a travel drop-off, but shutdown may not be the culprit

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Travel Leaders Group CEO Ninan Chacko during a media event at the company's New York headquarters.
Travel Leaders Group CEO Ninan Chacko during a media event at the company's New York headquarters. Photo Credit: Jamie Biesiada

NEW YORK -- While the government shutdown has already begun affecting the travel industry, a very recent slowdown in travel could more likely be attributed to December's stock market volatility, said John Lovell, president of Travel Leaders Network and Leisure Group.

Lovell was asked about the shutdown during a Travel Leaders Group industry outlook panel held at its headquarters here Wednesday morning.

"The last week-and-a-half we have seen a slowdown, but I think the majority of that was really the stock market," Lovell said.

Lovell said Travel Leaders Network entered the year strongly. Wave season, one of the busiest booking times of the year, "started out extremely well," he said. While Wave traditionally began in January and continues through March, Lovell said today it starts in November. That gave the network some early insights into 2019.

"When we exited the year, we were really in a pretty good position," he said. "But coming out of that, I think people are starting to see their 401k statements, their investment statements, and whatever economic bracket you're in, you might be going, 'Wow, we did take a hit.' So add that with the government shutdown."

But, Lovell said, "demand always comes back."

"Every indication, from a GDP standpoint and consumer confidence, although it dipped, is we're in a really good position," he said.

Travel Leaders Group CEO Ninan Chacko also addressed the shutdown.

"I think the industry continues to hold strong," he said. "We'll see whether that continues to be the case a week from now."

Chacko said Travel Leaders Group is watching the situation closely. He said he is "incredibly grateful" for the efforts of security screeners and customs agents who continue to work during the shutdown even though they're not collecting a paycheck.

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