Local travel agents seeing rebound in business after year of uncertainty

Updated: Mar. 30, 2021 at 5:44 PM CDT
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LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - Local travel agents are seeing a big surge in people ready to travel again. It’s the exact opposite of what we say one year ago.

According to the U.S. Travel Association, nearly nine in ten Americans have made travel plans within the next 6 months.

This same time last year, local travel consultant Phil de Albuquerque was canceling bookings at an all-time high, but right now, he’s seeing a rebound.

”This time of year, we’re usually booking Europe, Asia, the Caribbean. We don’t get the calls that we’re getting now ever,” Albuquerque said.

After a year of uncertainty, in the last month, business is just now starting to pick up for the local travel industry.

”It’s only starting to pick up now really, but it’s been down for ten months. Really, no calls at all.”

Albuquerque, a consultant at Travel Partners, says right now they’re booking three to eight reservations a day, most of which are domestic travel.

”We’ve never gotten the calls saying ‘we want to stay in the U.S’. So, that’s very different,” Albuquerque said.

Right now, some of the most popular travel destinations include short-term cabin and Airbnb rentals along with stays at Disney Resorts.

”Early last year, all of a sudden, bookings stopped and we know why. It made sense that people wanted to be cautious. People wanted to stay safe.”

He says with more people getting vaccinated, it’s brought a much-needed boost for struggling industries.

”We were down 90 percent. So, all of us either had to look for extra work or extra jobs. I did lose agents to other jobs. They had to support their families,” Albuquerque said. “It was a challenge not only for people to book vacations but just being in that industry and enjoy booking for people, and all of a sudden, it’s not there.”

Albuquerque says many of the people making these reservations are couples who couldn’t go on their honeymoon or destination weddings as well as families.

While leisure travel is expected to surge, business travel isn’t. Just one in five companies polled believes they’ll resume domestic business travel in the next three months, according to the Global Business Travel Association.

Although the CDC has yet to lift restrictions on the cruise industry, Albuquerque says it hasn’t stopped travelers interest. Many are rebooking cruises for 2022. Another thing on travelers minds is travel insurance.

While most governments are yet to announce how they would actually work, some travel operators are already requiring customers who wish to travel with them to have had the COVID vaccine. So far, no travel insurer has added COVID vaccinations to its small print, but this may change depending on government actions.

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