For the first time, Virtuoso Travel Week kicked off virtually with a familiar feeling of inspiration and motivation for travel advisors.
The first day of Travel Week started much like every other year with a keynote address from industry leaders and Virtuoso’s chairman and CEO, Matthew Upchurch.
The address included a discussion with World Travel and Tourism Council President and CEO Gloria Guevara. Guevara addressed the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the tourism sector, noting that, prior to the pandemic, one in five jobs were part of the travel and tourism industry and that millions have been lost as countries shutdown and travel came to a halt.
She noted that WTTC is working to build back confidence in traveling and discussed four principles by which the industry can recover. Guevara noted that there needs to be a coordinated approach from governments.
“We need to have a coordinated approach similar to what we had in 2008 when we were able to have a ‘v’-shaped recovery around 18 months after the financial crisis thanks to the public and private coordination among the G-20 countries.
The second principle focuses on global protocols. She noted that, after September 11, countries had their own screening and safety procedures and that created confusion.
“We work with our members to develop protocols so that travelers can have the same experience so that we can build back trust with the traveler faster.”
Guevara also stressed the need for testing.
“We believe testing is important and we are talking about testing and contact tracing throughout the journey to keep traveling,” she said and pointed out that more than 100 million jobs have been impacted and we need to bring those back through recovery.
David Kolner, senior vice president, strategy, shared proprietary information from Virtuoso and pointed to out hopefully nuggets of information regarding travel.
Kolner shared that according to Virtuoso data, younger travelers are willing to return to travel with a majority of Xers, millennials and Gen-Zers ready to travel now.
He also pointed out three trends that could be seen from looking at Virtuoso’s database of travelers.
“Travelers are staying closers to home—a lot closer,” Kolner said. “Travelers are simply not going as far.”
Bookings are also being made closer to the time of travel, and they are picking different types of experiences choosing hotels located in beach destinations and that offer adventure travel, private spaces and golf far-outpacing 2019.
There is also an opportunity for travel advisors to begin assisting clients with holiday bookings. Virtuoso found that 15 percent of travelers that usually travel during the festive season are comfortable planning now. Twenty-two percent say that they do plan to travel during the holidays, but they aren’t ready to plan yet and only 16 percent of those who regularly travel during the holidays indicated that they would not be going anywhere this year.
Virtuoso Wanderlist is also a new tool that Virtuoso travel advisors can use to keep their clients dreaming about travel.
“The Wanderlist app gives clients a way to capture and share their travel dreams,” said Kolner.
From this list, Virtuoso found that the top five destinations travelers are dreaming about are South Africa, Italy, Australia, France and Japan.
Some of the biggest takeaways from Virtuoso’s trends research for advisors include remembering clients’ expectations may have changed; younger clients may be the key to new bookings at the moment; and that the holidays offer promise for some recovery.
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