Travel Insider: Restoring consumer confidence

Joe Maloney

One constant for the travel industry in 2020 was unpredictability. While it’s still unknown what 2021 will ultimately look like, there are many things we do know. The good news is all of us in the industry see a path to resuming travel on some level in 2021. One thing that’s encouraging is the vast majority of our members tell us they are still very interested in traveling as soon as it’s prudent. Our travel agents have actually received more inquiries from you about planning future travel throughout this past year, than the entire previous year. Here are a few things I attribute that to:

CDC changes to cruising

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) ended its “No-sail” order at the end of October 2020, allowing cruise lines to prepare for a phased return, upon meeting 74 specific and extraordinarily rigorous recertification requirements. These changes are sure to mitigate risk and should help build consumer trust, and the cruise lines are working furiously to make their ships safer than being on land. It will take months to meet the requirements, but having done so, it appears most cruise lines expect to sail again come March or April.

New health and safety measures

Tour operators are also doing everything possible to mitigate risk by implementing and elevating health and safety measures to ensure peace of mind, including requiring guests to complete health and wellness questionnaires, new hygiene and distancing protocols, reduced group sizes, mandated mask-wearing, increased sanitation, and adding well-being directors, among many other things.

The promise of a vaccine

Vaccines are undoubtedly the most important variable for restoring confidence. While there’s been very promising news around new vaccines and efficacy, the rate of distribution will ultimately do more to define consumer confidence than any other variable. Assuming things go well, all signs point to a robust resumption in travel demand beginning this spring, with travelers booking for late summer/fall of 2021 travel or 2022.

Consumer confidence

Getting back to any degree of normalcy for travel revolves entirely around consumer confidence. There will undoubtedly be changes in the delivery of experiences. Our travel agents are well-versed in the latest for every destination and have their finger on the pulse of the latest safety measures and constantly changing requirements for travel. They will be your advocate and give you the peace of mind that matters more than ever in this new world.

Plan early, space is limited

People are traveling and booking travel now. If you are planning to travel in 2021, be aware that space is filling up rapidly as the majority of bookings from 2020 have already been moved to 2021. Combine this with reduced cruise and tour capacities, social distancing protocols, and condensed interest for travel until the latter part of 2021, you can see why it’s important to plan ahead.

This will continue into 2022; although, we do expect things to start getting a bit back to normal. So, if you intend to travel in the next year or two, the sooner you jump on it the better to get what you want. Many companies have relaxed their cancellation penalties due to COVID-19, and our travel agents can advise you on the best course of action to minimizes any risk with your booking commitment.

So, when travel returns, we’ll be ready, and when it does, we want you to be ready, too.

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Joe Maloney is vice president travel and retail operations for AAA Colorado.