COVID-19 crisis elevates the value of travel agencies

65% of people say information and insight agents provide is their most crucial draw

One-third of consumers are more likely to use a travel agency when booking their travel needs following the coronavirus crisis, a new study by Travelport has revealed. Nearly half of the audience surveyed said their opinion was unchanged by COVID-19, while 18% said they were less likely to book with a travel agent.

Travelport’s ‘Guide to Travel Recovery‘ report saw 1,000 travellers from each of five markets (the United States, UK, India, Australia and New Zealand) polled in July 2020 to identify what safety measures travellers need airlines, airports, hotels and car rental companies to have in place to feel confident enough to book an international or domestic trip.

Nearly two-thirds (65%) of travellers said the information and insight agents provide is their “most crucial draw”. Almost a quarter (23%) are drawn to agents for their ability to change a ticket, while 39% of younger travellers (ages 18-38 years) are now more likely to turn to a travel agency to book a trip.

“Overall, our findings suggest that people now value travel agencies more than ever in the booking process, and that — as recovery gets underway — they will have more influence beyond retailing alone. This will now extend to guiding travellers as they book and manage their journeys,” the Travelport report states.

Sixty-five per cent of those surveyed said their reason to use a travel agency now was that they feel safer than an advisor will have the latest travel safety information, and 23% said they felt safer in case they needed to change or cancel tickets. Seven per cent said they felt more confident a travel agent would be able to get them home if a problem arises during their travel, and 5% said they now prefer speaking to a human “as travelling is more complex now”.

The study determined that the bulk of travellers are ready to consider travel, so long as a list of 10 measures are in place, including fully flexible or refundable flight tickets. Other protocols, where applicable, include enhanced cleaning, social distancing, contactless services and mandatory face masks.

Young travellers are most likely to now consider using a travel agency | Travelport 'Guide to Recovery' study

Along with travellers’ feedback, Travelport’s research collected information from travel providers such as hotels and airlines, travel agencies and destination marketing offices (DMOs). The goal of the findings aims to help companies “make informed business decisions, seize commercial opportunities, and to identify the ways to facilitate recovery”.

Interestingly, almost all DMOs confirmed that travel agents are more important to them than ever, assisting travellers during the complicated recovery period.

“DMOs want to help inform agents that now is the time to reinvigorate agent education programs, focusing on local regulations and safety measures as well as how to develop messaging to travellers. In countries where lockdowns are still in place or have been reintroduced, this can be done via virtual events. Our DMO respondents believe that destinations that successfully achieve this will benefit when restrictions are lifted,” Travelport said.

Based on the collected data, some of the forecasts that Travelport is predicting include:

  • The US market to be the first to recover, due to its large domestic market.
  • All-inclusive resorts may replace cruises.
  • Europe will likely benefit from close international cooperation to deliver regional recovery.
  • Full international travel will be the last market to return.

The full results of both the quantitative and qualitative components of the research are captured in Travelport’s Guide to Travel Recovery report.

Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels

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