It’s one thing to know that travel agent associations are lobbying the government on agents’ behalf. It’s another to actually hear it and see it in action.
TORONTO — Although the COVID-19 pandemic caused many travellers to cancel their holidays and forgo any big trips for the time being, it also led many to realize the true value of a travel agent.
It’s a small yet significant silver lining in what has become the travel industry’s most challenging crisis.
According to Travelweek’s Fall 2020 edition of the COVID-19 Consumer Survey, launched in partnership with Star Metroland, 62% of the 2,599 consumers who participated across Canada said they are more likely to seek out the services of a travel agent when booking their trips.
“We absolutely believe that the events of 2020 have taught the general public about the value of the travel advisor,” says Michael Johnson, Executive Vice President of Travel Edge. “I think everyone loved playing ‘agent’ – the OTAs made it easy to book – but it comes with a huge downside. All those who travelled early this year understand this.”
Johnson adds: “Having an expert who has insider knowledge and provides you the support you need from beginning to end has never been more valuable. A Travel Edge advisor is there for their client – whether it’s helping them get home during a pandemic or to support them travelling safely now with intimate knowledge on ways to avoid crowds and safety protocols by region. No one can better coordinate that than an experienced advisor.”
Here are more findings from the Consumer Survey:
FUTURE TRAVEL PLANS
For the most part, consumers are in a hold pattern when it comes to making any travel plans for winter 2021. Of the survey’s respondents, 57% said they’re waiting to see how the situation unfolds before making a booking, while 23% said they won’t be travelling at all without a vaccine.
There are Canadians, however, who are currently researching possible destinations (11%), and those who’ve even already booked overseas trips (5%).
When asked how much they expect to travel in 2021 compared to 2019, 36% said “significantly less” while 27% said they plan to travel about the same amount next year.
As for what kind of trips Canadians are looking forward to the most, 51% said Beach Vacations would be their top choice, followed by trips that focus on History & Culture (16%) and Cruises and/or River Cruises (15%).
Despite the stringent health and safety measures that cruise lines have implemented in recent months in anticipation of their resumption of operations, the majority of travellers are still hesitant to book a cruise vacation. A total of 87% of respondents said that the COVID-19 pandemic has made them hesitant to take a cruise once travel restrictions are lifted, while a majority 47% said that large-ship cruises is the travel style they would likely avoid post-pandemic.
As dispiriting as these numbers may be, Laziza Lambert, CLIA’s Strategic Communications Manager, is encouraged by the resumption of select cruises in Europe, with stringent protocols in place that demonstrate a return to cruise is, in fact, possible.
When asked what it will take for North American cruisers to feel comfortable enough to book their next voyage, Lambert said it’s going to take time.
“Although enthusiasm from cruisers remain strong, we recognize that it may take some time before the public is comfortable with many aspects of travelling post-pandemic,” she tells Travelweek. “Rebuilding public trust in cruise is going to be a priority for us as we look to the future, and we hope to be able to do so by demonstrating the effectiveness of the measures in place.
“We are optimistic about the future and know that cruising will once again be the best way to experience the world.”
POLICIES & RESTRICTIONS
Survey participants were asked a variety of questions about travel restrictions and policies, and how they may or may not impact their decisions to book travel.
With many destinations, particularly in the Caribbean, now requiring mandatory pre-testing for COVID-19 prior to entry, 72% of respondents said this emerging trend would not make them less likely to travel to these destinations.
As for Canada’s ongoing 14-day quarantine for traveller upon return home, a majority 67% of respondents agree that the safety measure should remain in place given the health crisis. Only 14% said that the quarantine should be replaced by a COVID test for travellers, while 7% believe the quarantine rule should be applied based on the country from where travellers are arriving from. Only 2% of respondents said the quarantine should be relaxed, thinking that the worst of the pandemic is now behind us.
Not surprising, health and safety remain top of mind among travellers. When asked what best describes their feelings about travel restrictions during the pandemic, an overwhelming 85% believe they are necessary and are supportive of them being in place. Only 6% believe it’s time to relax restrictions while 2% said their freedoms were being infringed upon.
To read results from Travelweek’s Travel Agent Survey, click here.