TORONTO — Travel agents in Canada and the U.S. are more cautious as they look ahead to the potential for future fam trips, sales missions and more, but they are optimistic nonetheless, according to new travel agent survey results from destination rep Development Counsellors International (DCI).
DCI has released the stats as a follow up to its March 2020 agent survey, in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This latest survey, with responses from a total of 362 travel agents in Canada and the U.S., was conducted in May. Some 72% of the respondents were U.S. agents, and 28% were Canadian.
DCI pulled several key findings from the May 2020 survey. First, now with more than three months of the pandemic under their belts, agents are more cautious as they predict a return to normalcy for the industry. Recovery time for international fams is longer than previously predicted as well. On the positive side, a majority of agents believe the worst of the coronavirus crisis has passed.
56% OF CANADIAN AGENTS SAY Q1 2021 OR LATER FOR U.S. FAMS
While back in March many agents (41%) through they would be doing fams in U.S. destinations by May or June, reality has set in and now 29% say it won’t be until September – December, and 33% say it won’t be until early 2021 or even later. Canadian agents were the most wary, with 56% saying it would be early 2021 or later, versus 24% of U.S. agents.
And while 29% of agents see international fams as a possibility in September and October, a much higher percentage, 43%, say they don’t see themselves taking part in international fans until early 2021 or later. On this question Canadian and U.S. agents were almost evenly matched.
Agents were also asked about event preferences, with the majority (76% of Canadian agents, and 69% of U.S. agents) saying it doesn’t matter if the event is single or multiple destination. A good size minority expressed a preference for outdoor events but the majority (68% of Canadian agents and 54% of U.S. agents) said they have no preference. These two questions were new to the May study and no doubt reflected questions event organizers have about the importance of health and safety protocols for agents considering attending industry events.
IMPACT ON BOOKINGS
Asked for a snapshot for how travel advisories and restrictions are impacting business, 72% were still reporting cancellations, down from 90% in March. The decline in future bookings has also slowed, from 82% to 68%. Meanwhile there was a slight uptick in reports of a decline in bookings for 2021, from 53% in March to 55% in May. Rescheduling of existing bookings was 47%, down from 84%.
Agents are also finding productive ways to use their time amidst this unprecedented pause in global travel. Seven in 10 agents said they were using the time for continuing education, in the form of webinars, specialist programs and the like. Even more Canadian agents (73%) than U.S. agents (68%) said they were spending their time on continuing education.
Meanwhile the number of agents reporting that their time was taken up with rescheduling client bookings was down, from 84% in March to 71% in May.
LOUISIANA PLANNING VIRTUAL TRADE EVENT, SAYS SCALAMOGNA
Access Marketing’s Joanne Scalamogna represents Louisiana here in Canada. She says Louisiana is in stage 2 of its reopening, and is currently reviewing strategies for resuming trade activities as things begin to gradually reopen.
“Although the current focus of their marketing activities is domestic and regional, the Louisiana Office of Tourism is carefully reviewing international marketing strategies and is looking forward to welcoming Canadian visitors when the time is right to travel,” she told Travelweek.
In the meantime, she adds, a virtual event showcasing Louisiana’s charms and reopening plans is in the works for the coming weeks, for the Canadian trade.