Travel agents say they are overwhelmed by the influx of customers and the restrictions
- Travel agents say they have been busier than ever in recent months with growing travel demand.
- Some agents say they are “overwhelmed” by the recent flood of new customers who want help planning their trips.
- Some agents say they will wait for airline customers if flights are delayed or luggage is lost.
Many travel agents say they have never been busier amid air travel chaos and a surge in demand following the Covid lockdown this summer. Work, which has long been seen as in decline due to the growing ease of online self-booking, could see a resurgence.
“Before the pandemic, we used to get questions all the time about, ‘Oh, do travel agents still exist? “,” said Thomas Carpenter, co-founder of Huckleberry Travel. “Since the pandemic, we no longer receive this question,” he said.
Some travel agents, or travel advisers as many prefer to call themselves, say they have been inundated with a deluge of new customers in recent months.
“I’m definitely working more…I actually feel a little overwhelmed now,” said Amy Freyder, owner of Epic Away Travel.
Other travel advisers echoed Freyder. For example, Jamison Bachrach, a travel consultant based in Rome, Italy for the summer, told Insider he’s “never been busier” in his 25 years in the industry.
“I have people coming out of the woodwork from sources that I’ve never seen. I’m happy about that,” Jamison said.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that there were more than 37,000 people in the United States employed as travel agents, in May 2021. This is a significant drop from more than 80,000 counted just 5 years earlier in 2016.
This small group of agents is now facing what some say is an unprecedented demand for help booking travel.
The problem is exacerbated by the recent upsurge in airline chaos. Some travel agents say they are now spending more time on hold with airlines than ever before, given recent cancellations, delays and lost luggage.
“It’s become long hours for us because we’re making the extra changes and trying to be proactive when airlines are canceling routes or can’t honor a previous ticket due to staffing issues,” Shaia said. Bragg, a travel consultant based in Nashville, Tennessee. “I don’t know of a solid travel consultant who isn’t working overtime and long hours and weekends at this point,” she added.
A recent survey by the American Society for Travel Advisors shows that 71% of respondents consider travel to be more complex since the start of the pandemic. However, it is not just airline chaos that contributes to this complexity. Travel agents say they have seen a torrent of requests for trips to Europe and are working longer to help customers understand international covid protocols since each country in the bloc has its own covid safety measures.
For example, international travelers from outside the EU to Spain are still required to present proof of vaccination or a negative test, while Portugal lifted its vaccination and testing requirements on 1 July.
“There are so many additional requirements and steps to go somewhere…I think it’s gotten confusing whether you need a covid test or don’t need one covid test,” Freyder said. .
For many travel agents, the increase in demand comes almost exclusively from vacationers. Agents who are more reliant on arranging business travel push back against any claims that demand for their services is stronger than ever.
“Would I tell you that I’m busier than before covid? I don’t know if I would say that,” said Leslie Tillem, travel agent at Tzell Travel Group. “What’s happening is there’s such an increase in travel in such a short time on the leisure side, but on the other hand, the business side has really slowed down,” she said. added.
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