The current travel pause is expected to generate renewed interest in regional travel within the U.S. as more travelers will be looking for trips closer to home once the “stay in place” orders are lifted.
“There will be pent-up desire to travel, but people will be most likely to take vacations closer to home and drive as opposed to flying,” says Claudia Cianfero, travel industry sales manager at the Naples, Marco Island, Everglades Convention & Visitors Bureau.
“No doubt that North America will benefit from renewed interest, as a number of travelers want to limit distance away from home,” notes Steve Born, CMO, Globus family of brands. He adds that, “The adage of ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’ is definitely at play here. Demand [for travel] hasn’t gone away, it’s just been put on hold. Like anything where there’s high demand but a lack of supply, when supply returns, travel will be back
Alaska Travel Industry Association president and CEO Sarah Leonard says, “Alaska is blessed with more than 50 million acres of national park lands and over three million acres of state park land, so we believe that when it is safe to travel again, we will see more travelers visiting these areas where they can explore while staying socially distanced.”
Changes Moving Forward
“What will change when travel returns are new implications for destinations, attractions, and travel suppliers, which consumers will need to consider before traveling,” points out Born. He notes that things such as “security and flexibility in the booking itself, and giving customers options should there be an issue; as well as safety and health protocols at popular attractions to manage crowds; assurance at destinations to give travelers confidence; and a safe, and expedient return home should something arise” are aspects that travelers will be looking for when considering when and where to travel again. “In the coming months, we’ll likely start to see a new reality in travel, much like changes in airport security after 9/11, that will emerge and give travelers peace of mind to get going again,” says Born.
Cianfero agrees that travelers will need to feel that there’s a safety net before embarking on their next adventure. “Travelers will want to be assured of proper cleaning procedures in hotels, attractions and restaurants. Most will avoid buffets and cruises at first,” she says.
“It’s such a tough time for small businesses, and we truly appreciate the hardship, and want to support travel advisors with special offers and incentives as we slowly come back into operations. Many of our brands are working on opportunities for travel advisors to earn bonus commissions and free trips.”
—Betsy O’Rourke, Chief Marketing Officer, Xanterra Travel Collection
Betsy O’Rourke, CMO for Xanterra Travel Collection, an upscale biking, bike and barge, walking, railway, cruising, sailing, touring, and hotel company, including hotel properties in and near national parks, says, “We all recognize that health and safety is on everyone’s minds. We are investing our time while closed to evaluate all of our practices to determine what we could modify, from cleaning products and practices to implementation of social distancing for employees and guests alike.”
“The travel and tourism industry is resilient, and while this is a challenge that no one anticipated, ensuring travelers feel safe and secure will be paramount for all destinations going forward,” says Kelly Messina, sr. director of leisure sales for the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority (LVCVA). “While the new normal will likely include some amount of social distancing, limiting large gatherings, and enjoying select experiences for an undefined period, that will adjust over time. Entertainment and dining may be reimagined in the short term, and we’ll continue to follow recommendations and respond proactively to new information as we re-open.”
For O’Rourke, all of the brands that work with Xanterra are currently being evaluated for changes moving forward. “We are currently evaluating all of our operations in all of our offerings,” she says. “On the railway and tours, social distancing will be enforced with assigned seating so families will sit together but be a minimum of 6 ft. away from other guests.”
Born notes that Globus’ focus right now is on flexibility and time. “Flexibility in terms of giving our travel agent partners options for their clients, including a Peace of Mind Travel Plan to help them preserve their booking towards a future trip, and preserving their hard-earned commission,” he says. “And time in introducing policies and communication early enough so agents and their clients have time to weigh options and make decisions at their pace, ahead of final payment dates.”
“Understanding this has been such a difficult time for the travel industry as a whole, we are finding new ways to support the agent community through educational webinars and ongoing communication,” says Lee Ann Benavidez, MGM Resorts International’s v.p. of distribution, partnerships & transient sales strategy, adding that, “we are so grateful for their engagement.”
Born points out that it’s important for advisors to use this time to strengthen their experience. “Now that travel demand is in a lull, utilize this time-out to recognize your heightened value and do things you didn’t have time for before,” he says. “We’ve been given a rare opportunity here to take the time to invest in ourselves, our health and our skills: Use this opportunity to emerge as an even stronger professional to meet the new demand.
“Build your arsenal of destination and key supplier expertise, develop a customer communications pipeline, like an e-newsletter or social media plan. Consider an area of specialty, like river cruising, for instance, and build your confidence in that specialty,” points out Born.
“Never before has the value of a travel advisor been higher. In challenging and uncertain times, the value of having a trusted, reliable, and professional advisor to help navigate these conditions has been accentuated.”
—Steve Born, Chief Marketing Officer, Globus family of brands
LVCVA is working to help advisors stay informed on new booking opportunities, as well. “We continue to develop courses for our travel advisors and will launch two new courses in the next few weeks, one on romance travel and one about selling Las Vegas profitably,” says Messina.
“First and foremost, thank you for your loyalty as we all go through this together,” says O’Rourke. “It is such a tough time for small businesses, and we truly appreciate the hardship, and want to support travel advisors with special offers and incentives as we slowly come back into operations. Many of our brands are working on opportunities for travel advisors to earn bonus commissions and free trips, for example.”
Born also notes how valuable advisors are, especially after what we’ve seen from this pandemic. “Never before has the value of a travel advisor been higher. In challenging and uncertain times, the value of having a trusted, reliable, and professional advisor to help navigate these conditions has been accentuated,” he says.
Benavidez agrees. “Travel advisors are a vital piece of our business at MGM Resorts as they continually demonstrate their commitment to exceptional human connection and service with their customers and hotel partners, even during the most challenging times,” she says.
Adds Messina, “There’s no doubt that travel advisors are extremely important and appreciated partners to us,” with Leonard noting, “We will get through this together. While we’re all doing our part by staying home and practicing social distancing, we can’t thank travel advisors enough for doing their part to help keep travelers inspired and dreaming of the travels that await.”