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According to the tour operators speaking during a recent webinar that featured board members of the U.S. Tour Operators Association (USTOA), and was moderated by USTOA’s president & CEO Terry Dale, 2021 will be the “first chance to move ahead, as there is lots of uncertainty in the short term.”

During the webinar, Globus’ Scott Nisbet, USTOA board director, said, “there are some promising signs [ahead], with 2021, 18 percent ahead of last year [for Globus].”

Many of the board members all agree that in order for their operations to move forward what has to be in place are guidelines that they can follow from such organizations as WHO, from governments. They need to know which countries are going to be allowed in; how many customers can be on a single coach; on a trip. They need to know the restrictions at sites, with tickets, etc. In the short-term, they said, there are still too many uncertainties.

Tauck’s Dan Mahar, USTOA board director, noted that it’s the “uncertainty that’s a challenge as many policies are not clear.” CIE Tours International’s Elizabeth Crabill, USTOA treasurer, pointed to a collaborative plan between operator and destination. “We need to collaborate with the destinations” in order to rebuild.

The good news is that “the desire to travel is still very strong,” said Mahar, with “90 percent staying on the exact same itinerary when they rebooked.” Apple Leisure Group’s Scott Wiseman, USTOA vice chairman, pointed out that, “For the most part, people do want to go to the original destination they chose. People will visit those iconic destinations if they think they will be safe,” adding that “beach destinations seem to be working in our favor. We’ve seen from a couple of different studies that people are looking for a beach destination.”

Across the industry many are saying that leisure travel will be the first to make its comeback, and on that note, Holland America Group’s Charlie Bell, USTOA chairman, said that “Leisure travel is going to be the biggest beneficiary moving forward. Leisure travel is going to be a dependable type of travel.”

One of the strongest takeaways from the webinar was something that Bell mentioned, and something you should relate to your clients: “As we start to talk to destinations around the world, the first thing we want to hear is we want to make sure that the destination is ready to welcome us back. That they are happy to become a tourist destination again.”

Crabill agreed, noting that “we need to understand that the community we will visit will feel safe with visitors coming back.”