TORONTO — We’ve all heard the term ‘pent-up demand’ repeatedly throughout the course of the pandemic, meant to describe travellers’ growing desire to see the world in the wake of travel’s pause. Now, with international borders opening back up, this pent-up demand is resulting in a flurry of long-awaited trips among Canadians, which is welcome news for the travel agents who are booking them.
But with Canada’s non-essential travel advisory still in place, and with parts of Canada, the U.S. and other destinations now experiencing a fourth wave of COVID-19, where are Canadians booking these trips, how long are they going for and how often?
According to the 13th annual Allianz Travel Insurance Vacation Confidence Index, one in three (34%) of Americans plan on taking multiple vacations this summer, favouring shorter trips over the traditional week-long or more vacation. Two in three (67%) will travel this summer for at least one night, with the average number of trips being 1.2 vacations. Four in 10 (44%) said they were eager to travel, with 22% intending to take three or more trips this summer.
With more trips being booked and the average trip length of each being around four nights, ‘multi-micro-cations’ is becoming a growing trend post-Covid.
Though the results are based on U.S. respondents, we wanted to know whether multiple, shorter vacations are taking off here in Canada.
Karlyn Bauer, Retail Operations Leader at Flight Centre Travel Group, tells Travelweek that the agency is definitely seeing an increase in Canadians booking multiple micro-cations this year, in addition to longer international travel later in the year. She attributes the uptick to pent-up demand following lengthy travel restrictions, and notes that people are still hesitant to book longer trips due to changing travel policies and vaccine requirements.
“The non-essential travel advisory is also playing a role in deterring people from travelling overseas and as a result many have chosen to explore locally and do so multiple times for shorter durations to ensure less impact from the constantly changing rules and regulations,” she says.
Flight Centre’s findings match Allianz’s in terms of average trip length, with Bauer adding travellers who book micro-cations are going for around four or five nights. Many clients are also booking a micro-cation along with a larger, extended international vacation. As for where they’re going, she says Canada’s most unique destinations are proving to be popular, like Whitehorse, Yellowknife, the B.C. Coast, the Maritimes and Montreal/Quebec City.
Over at Travel Professionals International (TPI), there hasn’t been a big increase in clients booking multiple shorter trips, says President & CEO Zeina Gedeon, though the company has seen an abundance of ‘macro-vacations,’ where clients are securing multiple big-ticket vacations at once.
“People have certainly taken the time over the past year to add destinations to their wander lists and are taking advantage of great Early Booking Bonuses and in-market promotions to secure many future vacations with their travel advisor,” says Gedeon.
The shorter duration trips (averaging four nights) that TPI is seeing being booked are mostly for immediate domestic travel, she adds.
“With the mandatory testing requirements, clients are as interested in short weekend getaways out of the country currently,” says Gedeon. “As an organization, we’ve had a focus on Canadian vacations and we’re seeing British Columbia and Alberta as our primary destinations being booked. We also recently had a group of our TPI Advisors on the Rocky Mountaineer and have already seen some immediate bookings as a result.”
The Canadian Rockies has also been a hit with Ocean Phi Long Le’s clients. The Toronto-based travel agent with Bodad Travel tells Travelweek that micro-cations are trending upward, with many clients booking short getaways throughout Canada, particularly B.C., Alberta, Ontario and Nova Scotia.
“Micro-cations allow clients who are eager to travel to do so without having to risk their money on a longer trip that might get cancelled due to a fourth wave, or cut short while on vacation because of constantly-changing exit and entry rules,” he says. “My clients have said travelling domestically has never been easier, with fewer tourists to contend with along with flexible airline policies.”
When asked whether micro-cations are easier to sell than longer trips, Phi Long Le says that they tend to be less complicated during the actual booking process as they’re generally for destinations close to home. He adds that selling these shorter, domestic products has been a “fun experience” as it’s given him the opportunity to learn about destinations like Cape Breton, Gros Morne, Tofino and Salt Springs, which he can then recommend to his clients.
But beyond that, the biggest advantage for agents booking multiple micro-cations is two-fold, says Bauer.
“First, it’s restoring confidence with clients each time they travel, and second, it works to build a strong relationship of trust between an agent and their clients,” she says. “Being in constant touch with your clients allows you to learn more about their travel preferences in specific areas versus just connecting every six months for the beach vacation and trip to Europe.”
Gedeon agrees, adding that being accessible to clients has been a huge advantage to home-based advisors in particular.
“We are hearing many stories of clients calling multiple agencies that may be closed or are not answering calls and, in turn, our TPI Advisors are picking up new clients because of one phone call for a short duration trip,” says Gedeon. “Our advisors are reporting that while clients initially may be reaching out for shorter trips, at the end of the sales consultation they end up having 2-4 future trips to plan for them! It’s been amazing to see how the buying patterns of Canadians travellers have changed.”
To optimize your chance at booking multiple micro-cations, Bauer offers these easy tips:
- Lock in prices now: Availability is limited due to demand, plus prices are incredibly good for shorter trips so definitely book ahead as much as possible.
- Book the complete package: Customers want to know what to expect these days and want to plan ahead. Plus, most excursions have limited capacity so to avoid disappointment, book everything in advance including air, land, excursions and car rentals.