The Year of the Travel Agent

Dear TA’s,

Before the pandemic, travel agents’ job prospects were declining, thanks to online travel agencies making it easier for travelers to handle their own arrangements. Now,  it feels as if the role of a travel advisor has a new relevance. Many travelers who have previously booked their own travel are turning to travel agents to assist with their upcoming vacations. The pandemic has led to a feeling of uncertainty, and constantly changing rules and policies have left travelers unsure of navigating the post-Covid travel world on their own. They are now seeking the expertise of a travel advisor to guide them through the process.

After a year during which so many travelers were burned, it just makes sense! Travel advisors are advocates for their clients. They provide travelers with advice and guidance based on their experience, knowledge, and industry insight. A recent survey indicates that 33 percent of travelers anticipated an increase in their use of travel advisors because of the pandemic.  Even a demographic who was not likely to use an agent in the past (travelers aged from 18 to 38), say they are more likely to book upcoming travels through an agent.

People often seek the advice of a professional when they are making  big purchases such as homes or cars. Travel can be one of the largest expenses people have in a year. If there is a possibility of borders closing or flights being canceled, there is a feeling of safety knowing that your travel advisor is on top of issues that might affect you, and is working to reschedule your trip or get your money back.

Travel agencies across the country are already seeing unprecedented levels of interest. Business is booming for agencies because of pent-up demand for travel, combined with  confusion caused by complexities involved with traveling right now. It seems that travelers feel safer booking with an agency that will provide the latest travel safety information, can change or cancel tickets if necessary and help get them home if a problem arose. 

This does put additional strain on the agent. Due to Covid-19 restrictions and regulations, some itineraries require frequent changes. Some borders have not reopened as planned, and ever-changing travel restrictions affect a destination’s ability to welcome incoming travelers.  Add to that, calming the nerves of clients traveling for the first time since the pandemic – the job of an agent has become more challenging than ever before.

It’s a challenging yet exciting time to be in the travel field.  Especially for agents who are dedicated to their clients and making sure they get the most out of their travels.

Follow me at:
Facebook @travelwithrosana
Instagram @travelwithrosana
Blogs @ http://www.travelwithrosana.com

Getting the Mojo back!

Dear TA’s,

As I have said before, get ready to be busy booking trips in 2021. I am sure many of you travel agents/advisors are already working overtime. Clients are eager to travel and many of them haven’t been anywhere in over a year. Many travelers, especially the savvy ones who use travel agents, believe that going back to traveling will be like going back to riding a bicycle.

Well, they may be surprised when they find out that it may take a lot longer to check into a hotel. If they find that the room is in a little noisier location of the building or they’re disturbed by the sound of another family upstairs, changing rooms may not be as easy as it was before Covid due to new hotel regulations. It’s very important to teach your client to speak up and get another room, and not let that be an inconvenience for their vacation. If frustrated, your client may reach out to you, but certainly him/her that they can get a better solution in person than you could so far away by phone. So, prepare your client and let them know how to deal with this, and other situations.

When eating at restaurants now, reservations are the name of the game. Make sure they know that the best places (not necessarily the most expensive) need reservations sometimes months ahead at prime time for all meals – breakfast, lunch and dinner. For those who (like me) enjoy looking at the menu over and over, have them satisfy their curiosity now by downloading the menu onto their phone and check it there as often as they like. Some restaurants still give you (if you ask, and if they still have) a disposable or laminated paper menu. Food cannot be sent back to the kitchen. So, it is smart to remind clients of this information.

By having a good night’s sleep and good meals, most of the vacation is guaranteed; and for that, a travel agent can guide their clients. In terms of weather, it is hard to predict when it is going to rain or shine.

Another factor for a great vacation is the company the client chooses to travel with. Well, in that, no one else has any say! LOL!

Cheers,

Follow me at:
Facebook @travelwithrosana
Instagram @travelwithrosana
Blogs @ http://www.travelwithrosana.com

What is Sustainable Travel

Dear TAs,

Now that vaccines are going into arms and travel is beginning to resume, it’s time for travelers to begin to think about their impact on the environment, and how they can travel more sustainably.  We saw earth’s temperatures reduce as result of people staying put for an extended period of time – which may have your clients already wondering how they can travel more responsibly. In fact, It is time for us all to think about travel differently. We need to stop thinking just about what our own personal experience is going to be – and start looking at the impact of our experience on the ground, on the destination and in the communities we visit.

There have been many newsworthy stories lately regarding overcrowding, climate change, and unfair working conditions in the travel and tourism industry. You can advise your clients how to have a wonderful trip while being mindful of their own global footprint.

There are several different “sustainability” certification labels in use, each with their own criteria and little enforcement. Of course, saying your company is green is not the same as taking the necessary steps to ensure that your business practices are green.  There is a lot more to it than simply reusing the towels in a hotel room or paying for a carbon offset for a flight. “Sustainable travel” means a different thing in different places, because of each country’s unique location, climate, and people. There are more than 230 travel organizations that have joined the Tourism Declares initiative, members of which have pledged to publish a climate action plan and cut their carbon emissions. If a company is classified as a “B Corporation” — they meet a rigorous sustainability standard that’s not limited to the tourism industry.

The time to ask questions about sustainable travel is before booking.  Tour operators, hotels and the actual destination should make their stance on sustainability clear with an obvious statement on their websites.  Some things travelers should consider:

  • Does the money they spend end up in the local economy? Are locals hired as tour guides? Are hotels sourcing food locally?
  • Are your clients traveling during a peak time where cities can become overcrowded, putting additional stress on local resources, or wear and tear on historic or natural sites?
  • When flying, clients should choose a long-haul flight to the destination, and then choose trains or other less-polluting ways to get around, even if cheap short-haul flights are readily available.

Rules that all travelers should follow when going anywhere include:

  • Hire local guides
  • Ask permission before taking photos of people
  • Stay on designated trails in natural areas
  • Think twice about handing out money to children
  • Call out waste or abuse when they see it

The world is reopening for exploration. If we all take the necessary steps towards traveling sustainably, we will leave our destinations a better place for travelers who come later, and for the people who call these places home.

Cheers,

Follow me at:
Facebook @travelwithrosana
Instagram @travelwithrosana
Blogs @www.travelwithrosana.com

Update on American Travel

Dear TAs,

Americans are more ready to travel than ever before in this pandemic-era, according to results of recent surveys.  There is also a feeling of increased confidence in travel’s safety, and even business travel is beginning to recover.   Most people surveyed are even supportive of tourism in their own communities and are welcoming to visitors.   

Even though coronavirus cases are rising in nearly half of the U.S., anxiety related to COVID grew only mildly. This could be because two-thirds of American travelers say they have, or plan to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Half of those surveyed believe that the pandemic situation will improve in the next month. Americans’ confidence in their ability to travel safely has resulted in 72% saying they are in a ready-to-travel mindset.

Being ready to travel means more people are dreaming of, planning, booking—and actually traveling. Three-quarters of American travelers did some travel planning, with 16.4% actually making a reservation or booking. Half made a hotel reservation, nearly a fifth reserved a vacation home/Airbnb and a third bought airline tickets. Over 75% of American travelers will take at least one trip in the next 3 months, and a record 88% have at least tentative travel plans for the future. More than half are open to inspiration for a trip they might not have previously considered.

American travelers are showing a receptiveness to travel messaging in a variety of channels. Different aged travelers need to be reached in different ways.  Social media is most common for younger travelers, who are open to travel messaging on a variety of platforms, while older travelers remain largely committed to Facebook. TikTok has a growing influence on younger travelers, and search engine marketing is reaching more older travelers. Both demographics are reached equally through email and online articles/blogs as well as lifestyle magazines.

Another statistic showing support of travel: a record 50.4% said they would feel happy if they saw an ad promoting where they live as a place for tourists to come visit. But, 39.5% said they aren’t ready for tourists in their community just yet.

Will road trips sustain their current level of popularity?  Two-thirds of American travelers road tripped during the pandemic, taking 2.5 of these trips on average. Over 62% of these road trippers agreed that this travel reminded them of how much fun road trips can be and made the idea of future travel by car more appealing. Interestingly, this sentiment was even stronger among younger travelers.

Business travel has resumed, up 8 percentage points from last month. Fewer business travelers report that the pandemic will change the way their employer does business travel (47% down from 50% in March). Fewer business travelers now believe that their business trips will be replaced by virtual meetings.

All of the above is really good news!

Cheers,

Follow me at:
Facebook @travelwithrosana
Instagram @travelwithrosana
Blogs @ http://www.travelwithrosana.com

Travel Trends

Dear TAs,

As travel agents, it is very interesting to see what the traveling public is currently thinking and feeling.  The International Air Transport Association (IATA) recently conducted a survey, and below are some of the results. 

88% believe that when opening borders, the right balance must be struck between managing COVID-19 risks and getting the economy going again

85% believe that governments should set COVID-19 targets (such as testing capacity or vaccine distribution) to re-open borders

84% believe that COVID-19 will not disappear, and we need to manage its risks while living and traveling normally

68% agreed that their quality of life has suffered with travel restrictions

49% believe that air travel restrictions have gone too far

In summary, there is public support for travel restrictions, and it is becoming clear that people are feeling more comfortable with managing the risks of COVID-19. People dislike the loss of freedom to travel – and the health, social and economic consequences that come from these limitations. Many feel stress and have missed important moments as a result of the restrictions. Restrictions have prevented others from doing business normally.

More survey results:

 57% expect to be traveling within two months of the pandemic being contained (improved from 49% in September 2020)

72% want to travel to see family and friends as soon as possible (improved from 63% in September 2020)

81% believe that they will be more likely to travel once they are vaccinated

84% said they will not travel if there is a chance of quarantine at destination (largely unchanged from 83% in September 2020)

56% believe that they will postpone travel until the economy stabilizes (improved from 65% in September 2020)

These results indicate that people are becoming more confident to travel, but do not want to do so if they have to quarantine.  Testing and vaccination improvements should remove that barrier. Most potential travelers believe that there should be a standard vaccine and testing certification process, such as the IATA Travel Pass app, as long as they retain control of their personal data.

The return to travel is coming, because travelers are beginning to feel safer and more confident.

Cheers,

Follow me at:
Facebook @travelwithrosana
Instagram @travelwithrosana
Blogs @ www.travelwithrosana.com

Countries Without Coronavirus

Dear TAs,

There are currently seven countries who have declared that they are free of Coronavirus and have never had any reported cases.  This information is self-reported and may not be accurate when compared to reporting from official sources, such as the World Health Organization and the CDC. 

However, it is interesting to note what precautions were taken to prevent the widespread infection that has affected most of the world.

North Korea

North Korea was the first country to close its borders. The country closed its borders in January 2020 and haven’t re-opened since. It implemented strict measures for those coming into the country (foreigners and nationals) including a one- or two-month quarantine.  While the North Korean authorities report zero cases, one should consider the likelihood of China’s nearest neighbor being completely free of the virus.

Turkmenistan

Turkmenistan is a country in Central Asia bordered by Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Iran, and Afghanistan. All the bordering countries have reports of coronavirus infections. Most of the land borders have been closed, and in early February 2020 Turkmenistan cancelled many flights, and all flights to and from China. It has been noted that the official statement of zero cases may not accurately reflect the number of infections and the country was advised by the WHO to act as if there were infections within the country and take necessary precautions.  

Kiribati, Tonga, Palau, Tuvalu, Nauru – Oceania

As of April 5, 2021, these countries have no reported cases of COVID-19.

There have been no cases in Kiribati, but a state of public emergency has been declared. Tonga has been strict with travel rules since February 2020. Since Fiji’s first reported case of coronavirus, Tonga closed its borders to foreigners and only allowed flights for foreigners to travel back to their own countries.  Tonga began repatriation flights in mid-July to get Tongans back from Fiji. The flight was limited to less than 60 people, all of whom were under strict quarantine at the same hotel.

As one of the least visited countries in the world, Tuvalu sees fewer than 200 tourists per year. This has prevented an outbreak in this country.  Nauru is a country so small that you can walk around it in one day.  Along with Tuvalu, it holds the record for being one of the least visited countries in the world.

The above information is proof that travel agents should do research and find accurate information about the number of Covid cases in all destinations, and also, the limitations and restrictions imposed by certain countries for travelers.

Cheers!

Follow me at:
Facebook @travelwithrosana
Instagram @travelwithrosana
Blogs @ http://www.travelwithrosana.com

Cruise Status

Dear TA’s,

The timing for U.S cruising to return is still uncertain. However, there have been several itinerary announcements recently.

As I have outlined in a previous blog post, ships classified as “green” are viewed as unaffected by COVID based on self-reported information, including the report or no confirmed cases of COVID during the previous month, adherence to proper quarantine procedures, and the filing of current paperwork. “Yellow” ships were previously “green” but are awaiting results of a potential positive test. “Red” ships had a positive COVID test onboard or violated a government regulation or protocol.

Lindblad has announced that it will begin Alaska and Galapagos sailings in June for vaccinated guests. Royal Caribbean also announced three Caribbean itineraries will sail the week of June 5th, and due to the inability to sail from the U.S., has moved three ships from U.S. waters. To date no other cruise lines have moved their ships from U.S. waters.

The Royal Caribbean itineraries set to sail from the Caribbean in June include Adventure of the Seas, which will sail from The Bahamas, Vision of the Seas from Bermuda, and Celebrity Millennium from St. Maarten. These new itineraries will require guests and crew to be vaccinated and will make stops at Royal Caribbean’s private island CocoCay.

Carnival Cruise line has announced that there are currently no plans to move its ships away from U.S. homeports. They currently have 31 ships across all brands operating or planning to resume operations in U.S. waters. All of their ships are classified as “green” which is unchanged from previous reporting.

Royal Caribbean currently has 20 ships operating or planning to operate in U.S. waters during the initial phase. Adventure of the Seas has moved from U.S. waters. 100% of Royal Caribbean’s ships are currently classified as “green.”

Norwegian Cruise Lines has 5 ships operating or planning to operate in U.S. waters.  They have recently introduced the ship Norwegian Sun. Their ships all have an unchanged classification of “green.”

Cheers,
Follow me at:
Facebook @travelwithrosana
Instagram @travelwithrosana
Blogs @ http://www.travelwithrosana.com
 
 

Is it time to ease incoming travel restrictions?

Dear TAs,

The travel industry is now asking questions about resuming inbound international travel.  Borders have been closed since March 2020 when the WHO (World Health Organization) declared Covid-19 a global pandemic.  Since that time, incoming non-citizens and non-residents have been restricted at the US borders. The Biden administration has extended these entry restrictions for many countries including Brazil and most of Europe in hopes of controlling the virus and preventing further global spread.

However, such restrictions have had severe financial effects. Overseas travel to the US declined by 81% in 2020, and travel from Mexico reduced by 62%. Incoming tourism from Canada declined by 77%.  This loss of inbound tourism has cost the U.S. economy approximately $146 billion.  The US Travel Association believes that a total of a 1.1 million American jobs will be lost and $262 billion in potential tourism revenue will not be recognized in 2021 if international restrictions are not eased. The hope is to restore some incoming tourism by early July, which would allow for a restoration of 40% of 2019 revenue levels for the remainder this year. This would be result in a significant economic recovery for the U.S., and up to 225,000 jobs could be saved.

There is a call from the aviation and travel industries for the government to work with them toward creating a roadmap to relaxing some international restrictions and allowing some foreign tourists to enter the country. These industry representatives are suggesting a risk-based and data-driven strategy to reopen the country to international tourists and stress an urgency in doing so.

This group does not support the removal of public health protections that are currently in place and working – including mask mandates, testing, and physical distancing, stating that these measures are effective in continuing to mitigate risk.  Their proposed roadmap would include measures such as a blanket testing requirement for all inbound passengers, and an exemption from testing for vaccinated passengers.  They encourage the government to establish federally accepted methods to validate the test results and vaccination records of travelers.

The timeline for easing incoming travel restrictions should begin as soon as May so that the U.S. can open to non-US tourists before the summer travel season begins.  There will be severe financial and employment implications if another summer season passes with no incoming tourism.

Cheers,

Follow me at:
Facebook @travelwithrosana
Instagram @travelwithrosana
Blogs @ http://www.travelwithrosana.com

Planning for the Return of Global Travel

Dear TAs,

It has been more than a year since people have been able to travel freely, and many avid travelers feel as though the quality of their lives has changed with the loss of that freedom.  Travel restrictions have affected both business and pleasure travelers, and these limits have caused people to miss important social and business interactions. This has brought stress and frustration to many.

It is very important that both individuals and countries manage risk and do what is necessary to stay safe from Covid-19. Such safety is a global necessity. As cases of the virus decline worldwide, we must begin planning ways to re-open borders and resume travel. Travel restrictions have had both social and economic costs across the world. Many people are ready to get on with their lives and feel that their freedom to travel is a large part of that.

A plan to resume travel is critical.  This plan must manage the risks of living in a world with Covid-19. Airlines and countries need to begin making and implementing their own strategies for recovery. These plans should have milestones that enable countries to reopen their borders safely while at the same time, manage the risks of Covid-19.  Some of those management tools should include testing capabilities and vaccine distribution, and ways to verify this information while protecting passenger privacy. There are several ideas for Global Passports and Health Travel Apps which will allow airlines to check passengers’ Covid status.  However, some of the risk management must be on the travelers themselves – by getting vaccinated and traveling safely, adhering to the regulations set forth by the airlines they choose to fly, and the countries they plan to visit.

Most people in the travel industry feel that Covid-19 will not disappear completely, so we need to find ways to lessen travel restrictions while safely managing the risks of the virus. This will allow global economies to recover and improve the lives of individuals with more freedom to travel.

Cheers!

Follow me at:
Facebook @travelwithrosana
Instagram @travelwithrosana
Blogs @ http://www.travelwithrosana.com

Covid-19 Global Passport

Dear TA’s,

In my opinion, and in that of many other travel professionals, the U.S. should take the lead in establishing Covid-19 health credential standards.  Global travel would be able to resume much more quickly if there were a clearinghouse of information that contains the test results and vaccine status of airline passengers. Having verified proof of this passenger information could also benefit sports arenas, theme parks, event spaces, as well as the individuals who want to visit them.

The U.S. already has a Covid-19 recovery team, and one of their priorities should be to quickly establish some sort of a travel passport containing an individual’s Covid-19 status information, including test results and vaccination status. The U.S. government should work closely with the travel industry to establish standards for this process, ensuring that reported test results and vaccines are legitimate and prioritize passenger privacy. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would be in a good position to lead a global discussion, strengthening protections against the import or export of the virus. This month, the European Commission will unveil a proposal for a “Digital Green Pass” that will provide proof that a person has been vaccinated, recovered from Covid-19, or has received a negative test. It would be more efficient if there were only one globally accepted document and process.

As vaccination rates increase, the rate of Covid-19 infection reduces. This is expected to trigger a surge in travel bookings as so many consumers spent a year staying at home to avoid contracting coronavirus. A globally accepted document, such as a Covid-19 Health Certificate or Covid-19 Global Passport will be essential to the reopening of countries that have imposed quarantines or other restrictions on travelers from other countries.

What do you think?

Follow me at:
Facebook @travelwithrosana
Instagram @travelwithrosana
Blogs @ http://www.travelwithrosana.com