3 Signs the  Travel Rebound has Started!
By: Sandy Saburn, CTIE

Sometimes it feels like the entire travel industry has been holding its breath waiting on the rebound to begin. We never thought it would last this long, did we? We don’t know how much longer it is going to go on and as a result, we are afraid to move forward.

One thing I strongly encourage you to do is to stop waiting on things to look “normal” again. After an event of this magnitude, things will never be exactly the same again. That doesn’t mean it can’t be great, it’s just not going to be like the past. The future will write itself.

Just this week I’ve seen several strong signs that show me the rebound is building strength. Of course, it’s not like a light switch will be flipped and we will go from darkness to light. It’s more like filling a swimming pool.

When I was a kid, we literally had a “cement pond” to borrow a phrase from The Beverly Hillbillies. It wasn’t a swimming pool like they had, it was a decorative cement pond with a fountain and fish. But it was big enough and deep enough that four kids could play in it. So, a couple of times each summer my cousins, my sister, and I would empty it of water and fish, clean it with Clorox (my mom’s requirement) and then fill it up again to swim in. It was a lot of work to clean out that pond and we would be so hot and sweaty and just want to splash around in cool water. Once the cleaning was done and the pond starting filling, it seemed to take forever to make any progress. You can imagine impatient children standing there watching the water for any evidence of progress. Of course, it did fill eventually, and we could enjoy splashing around for a while. It was bliss for a bunch of country kids!

I think that’s what we are seeing now. The water is entering the pond and it doesn’t seem like much is happening because we are not looking at the water that is there, but where there isn’t water. If your sales are down 80%, it is hard to look at the 20% and feel gratitude.

There are signs the rebound is coming! Here are 3 signs I have seen this week that demonstrate we are moving farther into the rebound.

  1. The big players are advertising again. Over the past week, there have been quite a few TV ads for Expedia and other OTAs (online travel agencies) as well as cruise lines. These ads cost a lot of money and they do a lot of market research before investing in those multi-million dollar ad contracts. Clearly, they think now is the time to capture those advance bookings. Many of our vendor partners are reporting they are getting A LOT of direct bookings. Many of these travelers book direct because they don’t know an agent to call.
  2. Booking reports are steadily increasing. While I only have access to Gifted Travel Network’s booking reports, I can tell you those have increased significantly week over week. We hear from other colleagues in travel agency management that their bookings are also increasing. This means that clients are ready to commit.
  3. Furloughed employers are being rehired. We are seeing this with vendor partners and consortia too. They are bringing back those employees they had to furlough during the worst of the downturn. They must see a strong financial future or they wouldn’t bring them back now.

 

With the vaccine being more widely rolled out, people seem to be feeling more confident that they will be able to travel again “soon”. They want to get a trip locked in for the future. Even if they aren’t comfortable traveling until 2022, they get a mental and emotional boost from booking that trip.

Of course, we want them to book with a travel agent – not direct! The number one reason consumers don’t work with a travel agent is they don’t know one or they don’t understand the value. I hope you have been continuing to market yourself during the downturn. Now is the time to ramp up the marketing, finalize those systems you’ve been working on, and be ready to take advantage of the rebound!