Survey: 54% of travel executives are postponing trips

Travel Consul has released the findings from its third Global Travel Distribution COVID-19 Impact Survey. The survey’s results provide crucial, up-to-date insights tracking distribution partners’ progress against the impact of COVID-19, and the data aids in better understanding their evolving role in the industry, the company reports.

The following are key findings from the survey of 1,292 travel executives (including agency owners, independent agents and tour operators) conducted from late January to early February across five continents and 20 countries.

Two-thirds of respondents agree that destinations and suppliers requiring immunity passports or e-vaccination certificates for international travel would likely boost bookings this year, while 44% of respondents agree that widespread vaccinations will also contribute to an increase. North American respondents were noticeably less sure about the impact of immunity passports or e-vaccination certificates, with only 57% agreeing they would likely boost bookings. A third of travel executives believe that other factors such as destination health certifications, reducing quarantine requirements or offering free COVID-19 testing will have more impact on their business than widespread vaccination.

In a positive sign for recovery, 54% of global clients are choosing to postpone their trips, as opposed to 35% who are canceling. Of those clients who are postponing, 50% are looking to go where they had originally booked, with this figure going up to 55% in North America. In North America, 49% are rebooking for seven months to one year out.

When travel executives were asked which one time period they are rebooking, the most popular answer globally was Q3 2021 (24%); in North America, it was 2022 (32%). The remainder of global rebookings are spread out fairly evenly over Q2 and Q4 2021 and 2022. Approximately one-third of respondents said clients are not committing to a new travel date.

Respondents are seeing increased demand for solo travel, with 41% reporting high interest in this survey (an increase of 8% since the October 2020 survey). There is also a jump in inquiries for all-inclusive resorts and hotels and resorts. Interest in all-inclusive resorts leaped from 16% in October 2020 to 39% in Q1 2021, while interest in hotels & resorts rose from 14% to 38% over this time period. These top three products are followed in popularity by small groups (22%) and fly-drives (21%).

Consistent with 2020 results, clients are still concerned with destination health/safety certification as the primary factor when deciding on a final destination. Price and access to quality healthcare systems are also two growing considerations.

Strengthening customer service and adjusting business models are the top two measures implemented by travel executives in the last three months as a response to COVID-19, with roughly one-third of respondents having done so. For North American respondents, there is still an important focus on training with 44% of respondents citing it as a recent activity.

Interestingly, creating new product became significantly less important since October 2020. The latest findings also show one-third of global respondents said they have explored new destinations as a response to COVID-19. This number has increased steadily by 5% with each new Travel Consul report, signaling to destination marketing organizations (DMOs) that this is a critical time to expand their marketing efforts directed to travel advisors.

A majority (60%) of distribution partners now believe that suppliers’ cancelation and flexibility policies are having a positive impact on their businesses. In October of 2020, only 45% of distribution partners believed this. This flexible approach is certainly facilitating advanced bookings for international trips as reflected in a reported 7% increase since the October survey in new international trips booked seven months to one year in advance.

Globally, three-quarters of respondents admitted that there is a likelihood their staff or independent contractors leaving the industry in 2021. The remaining 25% reported that this would “not likely” happen.

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