Strong bookings are reported but some airline challenges remain
Travel agents appear to be looking forward to a happier new year business-wise than they experienced in 2022.
A survey of five agents shows all expect 2023 to see increased bookings for their agencies, welcome news given the often-punishing past couple of years.
Among those who is upbeat is Ethel Hansen Davey of Uniglobe Enterprise Travel in Toronto.
“I’m expecting this year’s business to be considerably better than last year’s,” she says. “I already have quite a few confirmed bookings for 2023 and lots of new enquiries this past week.
“Now, if we can only get the airlines and airports to get their ducks in a row so that our clients feel more comfortable travelling. What a fiasco these past few weeks have been. I hope that the tour operators understand how much of our time has been spent on hold, in phone queues, on the phone with desperate and confused travellers, etc., and that they get the refunds owing processed ASAP so that we don’t have to keep fielding the calls. Enough with the WestJet dollars and future travel credits. That just doesn’t cut it anymore. The tour operators can process the passenger’s credit card in a matter of seconds but then are reluctant to refund. Shame on them. Enough is enough.”
Sally Mikhail of Toronto-area GMTours expects that her business in 2023 will be better and notes travel agents have had to contend with many challenges over the past couple of decades, such as the Sept. 11 attacks and the Iraq war.
She predicts independent and individual travellers will increasingly opt for speciality and longer journeys, something her firm can accommodate. Those itineraries may revolve around cuisine, wine, dancing, photography, yoga and spas.
Group travel will also feature prominently as people will want to reconnect with families and friends.
Mikhail says interest in Europe is on the rise, as is the case with the Middle East, with more people wanting to see the likes of Jordan and Egypt, with Egypt benefitting in part from the nearing 100th anniversary of the discovery of King Tut’s tomb.
However, she adds that agencies must contend with a shortage of experienced staff and long waits when dealing with airlines, who she says also have many employees with limited training, hindering that person’s ability to provide agents with needed information.
“At the end I’m very optimistic for 2023, the number of bookings is a sign it’ll be great year,” says Mikhail, adding those in the travel industry must continue to keep an eye on measures aimed at keeping clients from catching Covid.
Monica Milin of Vancouver-area La Dolce Vita Travel agrees interest in travel is on the upswing.
“I can confidently say that this year will be better,” she states. “Right now we have pretty much what we did last year on the books or close to it. People are wanting to get out and explore the world. More bucket list items are on the list, and more people in my demographics (which is the majority of my client list) are now heading into early retirement and are wanting to really start traveling.”
Also confident is Carolyn O’Reilly of Genesis Travel in Calgary.
“If all goes as planned, this should be a better year for my business,” O’Reilly reports. “I already have many bookings for this year. I think the clients that were still too fearful to travel last year are ready now and booking big trips.”
As well, Paul Nielsen of Toronto’s Paragon Travel echoes the belief that more people are going to be eager to see the world this year.
“Our business will improve measurably due to a global population better positioned to handle the longer effects of the pandemic, combined with a continuing release of the pent-up demand for travel experiences,” he says. “People are tired of binge-watching reruns of MASH and Friends and want to create experiences.”