In a survey of travel advisors, host agency Travel Experts found that more than 82 percent of advisors responding have been traveling again with 75 percent reporting visits to domestic destinations and less than 8 percent traveling internationally.
Here’s a look at what some of the advisors found while traveling and some suggestions to help clients navigate these difficult times.
Renee Taylor, Renee Taylor Travel Company, Searcy, AR, has been focused on re-discovering travel destinations in the U.S. “Most recently, I visited Nashville, TN and was surprised to find that there is much more to do in this area than the typical country music attractions.” She also took a drive trip through Kentucky to visit horse farms and whiskey distilleries, followed by a visit to Asheville, NC and on to Charleston, SC and Savannah, GA.
Taylor said: “I think it is important for our clients to see us traveling domestically so they will know that we have knowledge of more than Caribbean islands, cruises and areas outside of the U.S.”
She said she experienced “No, difficulties,” adding: “I recently flew with Delta and the experience was seamless. Delta is blocking middle seats and boarding back to front. Atlanta airport had hand sanitizers everywhere and I never saw anyone without a mask.”
Taylor added: “I stayed in luxury properties as well as four-star and every encounter that I had with other travelers as well as hotel staff was safe and courteous of COVID protocol. I truly think that people who travel, whether it be for business or pleasure, genuinely want the world to open back up and therefore are doing their part in ensuring that safety protocols are met.
Sandy Pappas, Sandy Pappas Travel, Atlanta, GA, has been doing quite a bit of traveling domestically in the last few months as she flew to Missoula, Montana, visited Sea Island Resort (The Cloister) in GA, rented a home in Hilton Head, visited The Swag Resort in Smoky Mountains and stayed at hotel in Greensboro, NC.
Pappas said: “I have had no difficulties in my travels except not many vendors were open at the airports and those that were had long lines so I advise to bring your own food. Not everyone was wearing masks in airports (Dallas, Atlanta and Missoula) but it was possible to social distance.”
She suggests to “fly business if possible or book seats at front of plane so you board last and deplane first to avoid contact with other passengers boarding and at the gate. Planes were very clean. I felt safe overall during my flights. There was no food service on any of my flights, so passengers kept masks on unless they were drinking or eating their own food they brought.”
Pappas had some clients who needed a COVID-19 test three days before traveling to Antigua and said they had no problem getting tested in Atlanta and getting timely results.
Elaine Carey, Travel Expert in the Pines, Whispering Pines, NC, finds that airline travel has changed, but not for the better. She noted that there were “no non-stops” on trips that she was taking domestically.
Carey said: “Since I used one airline going and another returning, I found out the differences in the two. The flight on American going was almost completely filled. There were only a couple of seats empty, no concern by the airline about keeping people safe and distant. They operated as if nothing ever happened.”
She then added: “The flight home was on Delta and was completely different. Although masks were mandatory for both, on the return flight on Delta every middle seat was empty, unless there was a family or a couple together. We were each given a plastic bag with a snack, small bottle of water, hand sanitizer wipes, napkin and a face mask. We also boarded from the back of the plane so there was less human contact.”
Eileen Anderson, CTA, Journeys Afar, Raleigh, NC, has been exploring multiple hotels and resorts within driving range of Raleigh, Charlotte, Atlanta and Charleston, where a number of her clients reside to enlighten them on ease of access and safety protocols. She has stayed in three- to five-star properties on her recent travels.
Anderson said: “Every hotel had advanced, ongoing sanitation in all public areas, touch-free check-in with Plexiglas protection for every forward-facing staffer. Housekeeping either on demand or none until checkout. Masks were required and observed at each property except on the beach where we all separated.”
She added: “The only issue we ran into was not getting a reservation at our preferred restaurant at the Sanctuary as they had reduced capacity indoors and out. My prime takeaway: reserve every ‘stay and play’ item in advance—dinner reservations, tee times, bike rentals, paddleboard and other lessons, and be prepared to pivot if cases spike in the destination you are visiting.”
Pamela Walker, Walker Adventures, Palm Coast, FL, said that while she is only traveling domestically right now, she found everyone “grateful that we were visiting.” She said: “I think that we all need to be attentive, wear your masks and be polite if things happen that are beyond your control. We really are all in this together.”
Walker added: “I do hope that they begin doing the rapid test at airports across the country…and for free…as I believe it will the catalyst to get travel going again.”
Theresa Jackson, Enlightened Journeys Travel, Allendale, NJ, just returned from a trip to Quintana Roo region of Mexico to explore what is happening and the safety protocols.
For international travel she noted “the most difficult thing is flights getting to where you want to go, particularly if multi-country. For instance, I wanted to combine Abu Dhabi with Tanzania for personal reasons, but getting to AD now is difficult.”
New challenges she finds are the methods to travel safely; what to do in airports (or considering private flights), what measures to look for on the ground (in transportation and accommodation), adding: “Finding the place to get you the results you need to travel in time to fit in the specific requirements of a country can still be problematic and take some time to plan and set in place.”
Anna McGarrity, WanderWell Journeys, Raleigh, NC, recently returned from Tanzania, saying: “It was truly an amazing experience and, in a silver lining from COVID, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see the iconic sites of Ngaruroro Crater and wildebeest migration with a front row seat and no crowds.”
She noted that she was able to put the trip together at the last minute, two weeks prior to departure, and a lower cost than usual. She noted that: “Tanzania is not requiring a COVID test prior to arrival, but does require you to complete a health form. I did get a COVID test done as I was traveling with other agents and we all agreed to do it. I made an online appointment with the Georgia Department of Health one day in advance of the test. It took less than a minute to complete and there was no cost. Received my negative results by e-mail the following day.”
McGarrity added: “In Tanzania sanitizing hand stations are everywhere and are encouraged. Staff at lodges and hotels are masked. Social distancing is easy in Africa because it is just a natural part of the normal experience. I have been encouraging my clients to take advantage of the situation and have booked one trip to Africa already—great results from my own time and money investment.”