Skift Take

There’s cause for optimism for this at-risk segment of the industry, just as National Travel Advisor Day hits. Travel agencies that are quick to adapt have the potential to capture a new customer base that outlasts the travel recovery years.

In a fragmented travel landscape with entry restrictions and shifting public health protocols, will travelers be able to navigate this new maze on their own?

Until now, it was largely anecdotal that Americans would increasingly seek expert travel advice when booking trips. Now, the numbers are proving it, and it’s good news for one of travel’s most sidelined and hard-hit industries.

Nearly half of U.S. travelers — or 44 percent — who rarely or sometimes used travel advisors in the past said they were now more likely to use one post-pandemic, according to a newly released, first-ever joint research study conducted by the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) and Sandals Resorts.

By contrast, just 27 percent of frequent U.S. travelers always used a travel advisor pre-pandemic. The survey culled 410 survey responses from adult U.S. travelers between April 1-8, 2021.

“Travel is coming back, and travel advisors are poised for an epic comeback,” said Erika Richter, Senior Communications Director at ASTA.

This travel come back in the U.S. gained strength in early April, as Skift’s travel reopening tracking shows.

The joint Sandals-ASTA survey also reveals updated traveler trend data for advisors:

    • 72 percent of those who always or often used travel advisors are more ready to travel within the next three months, compared to 47 percent of those that don’t use travel advisors.
    • 55 percent of those who have never used advisors are likely to use one if it means access to the advisor’s special relationships and insider perks
    • Destination interests have shifted, with 45 percent wishing to visit Europe, followed by 44 percent interest in the Caribbean this year — a significant 33 percent increase over January 2020.
    • Activity interests have also changed— with beaches and sunsets coming second to visiting historical places.

Additional insights reported by ASTA and its partners further point to an inflection point for the travel advisor segment — 76 percent of travel advisors said they were seeing a customer increase, while 80 percent said they were hearing from new travelers who had never previously used a travel advisor to book international trips.

Travel Time noted similar international travel inquiries were coming from a younger demographic that might have previously relied on the internet booking sites for international flights.

Consumers asking to be matched with an advisor through Virtuoso.com also increased by 50 percent in January 2021.

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Tags: asta, travel agents

Photo Credit: A larger number of U.S. travelers interested in international trips will use travel advisors post-pandemic. C Watts / Flickr Commons