The proof of pent-up travel demand has arrived: for many travel agencies, 2022 is shaping up to be their best sales year, with forecast numbers eclipsing pre-pandemic years.
At some agencies, sales have already surpassed 2019 totals, with a full quarter remaining in the year.
Some agencies jumped on the recovery last year, but growth accelerated this year as severe Covid cases declined and travelers were eager to launch new trips and reschedule them.
“In 2021, our sales were actually higher than in 2019,” said Geoff Hendren, owner of Bon Voyage Boutique Travel in Neenah, Wis. “2021 sales have exploded, and it’s still going strong. Our sales this year are up about 25% from last year. It’s been a phenomenal year.”
At Travel Experts in Raleigh, North Carolina, sales through August exceeded all sales in 2019. Compared to 2019, total payments to independent contractors in the form of commissions increased by 100%, said the director executive Sharon Fake.
Non-ARC commissions increased by 150% at Travel Experts and airline ticketing exceeded 2019 levels, and that without too much business travel.
Others see similar patterns. At the Departure Lounge in West Lake Hills, Texas, 2021 sales were 89% higher than 2019, and this year is expected to double 2021 levels, said founder and director Keith Waldon.
Nadiya Makarenko, senior vice president of host agency Travel Edge Network in Toronto, said the network’s sales volume has already exceeded pre-pandemic sales by 10% as of this month, and he expects that this percentage continues to increase.
KHM Travel Group in Brunswick, Ohio, said 2022 sales are expected to exceed 2019, and Travel Planners International in Maitland, Fla. released a similar report. Jenn Lee, vice president of industry engagement and support at Travel Planners, said this month that the host agency surpassed the number of transactions it made in 2019, and that the agency was on track to top 2019 sales figures by the end of October.
Fake believes that today’s booming sales are the result of travel counselors being more selective in selecting the people they serve. They are increasingly choosing the clients they want to work with, she says.
“It’s the usual 80/20 rule, and I think it’s something that [advisors] just got a whole new look at,” Fake said.
High prices, high inflation
This can also be seen in the numbers: Travel Experts found that the number of transactions advisors make is roughly similar to the pre-Covid era, but customers are spending more per trip, so the value of those transactions increased.
Prices have climbed as demand picks up, and inflation has also played a role in driving up prices this year. But Waldon pointed to a mix of reasons customers might spend more: They stayed home during the early parts of the pandemic, dreaming of travel. Many trips from 2020 and 2021 have been postponed to 2022. The rich have gotten richer in recent years. The borders have been regularly reopened.
Multi-generational travel is booming
There also appears to have been a shift in mentality among clients over the past two years, advisers said.
“Covid has taught us that life is short and without guarantees, so suddenly there’s an urgency to complete those dream trips,” Waldon said.
Kristi at a glance
It’s a phenomenon well known to Kristi Peek, owner of Embrace the Journey Travel in Ennis, Texas. Peek Agency sales are expected to triple 2019 figures this year (2021 sales also surpassed 2019).
“I feel like after losing the chance to travel, at least for the next few years while they still have the memory of losing it, I don’t see them giving up on travel,” Peek said. .
Multi-generational trips, in particular, have been selling out a lot lately. Peek noted an increase in his activity.
Travel Edge Network has also noticed “tremendous growth” in multi-generational travel and family reunions. Makarenko said the category was up 30% from 2019.
How long will the push last?
Justin Smith, founder and president of Evolved Traveler in Beverly Hills, Calif., said his sales were also on an upward trajectory this year, but he added that many projected numbers for 2022 are from trips that have been postponed from previous years.
“I still think it’s a very fluid situation,” Smith said. “Just yesterday I had a client who canceled her trip to the UAE because she didn’t want to do a PCR test. And then there are interruptions, like the strikes of the pilots in Europe, the death of the queen and the funerals. The scenery continues. evolve.
“It’s very fluid,” he added. “We have to keep up. People are watching this. They’re booking, but kind of always with a little sideways look in the sense of, ‘Okay, we’re going to book this and hope for the best.'”
The current level of demand will likely last through 2023, and possibly into 2024, Hendren predicted.
Waldon agreed. “Given that this immense growth has occurred as our world recovers from a pandemic, and during a major war and high global inflation, I expect this surge in demand to last for at least a few more years,” he said. he declared.
Smith said he thinks demand will level off going forward, which, after a blistering pace so far this year, will be a relief for advisors and providers “so everyone can catch their breath and really get back on a stable footing”.
But however long the current level of demand lasts, it seems the pandemic has uncovered a wealth of new clients who want to work with advisors. Hendren said about half of its revenue this year comes from new customers who have never worked with a travel agent.
“I think it’s because they just need help,” he said. “Things have changed. The world is different and they don’t feel comfortable doing it themselves anymore.”