According to the results of a new survey conducted by TravelAge West as part of its ‘Need to Know’ research series, three-quarters (75 percent) of travel advisors are very or somewhat concerned about the Omicron variant’s impact upon their business. The majority (69 percent) of survey participants reported seeing a rise in the number of trip cancellations coming from clients in recent weeks, while 74 percent said they’ve seen more travel postponements.
“We have definitely had customers inquire about the impact that Omicron has had on cruising,” said Danny Genung, owner of Harr Travels in Redlands, California. “Some have moved their cruise—though for the most part that has been due to a work need or some other reason. Virtually all our cancellations have been due to guests testing positive before they left for their cruise. To me, that means the system is working. They have all been grateful that it happened before they left for their cruise.”
A considerable majority (85 percent) of those surveyed also reported that, in recent weeks, their clients have been asking more questions and have higher levels of concern about their upcoming trips. The top reasons clients have cited for their concerns constitute an almost three-way tie between a) changing government regulations; b) supplier cancellations or refund policies; and c) destination safety and COVID-19 case surges in specific areas.
Many advisors said they anticipate that their business will be significantly affected in 2022 by the ongoing Omicron surge. Forty-one percent of respondents expect it will have a “major impact”, while another 44 percent predict it will have “somewhat of an impact”.
Almost two-thirds (63 percent) of the advisors polled believe that the current wave of infection will impact their spring break bookings. Twenty-nine percent of respondents predicted that Omicron would go on to impact their summer bookings also, while 45 percent said it was too soon yet to tell.
“Right now, we are fully in wave season, and new bookings are outpacing changes or cancellations about 10 to one,” Genung explained. “Quite a few sales are for close in, but many more are for the summer of 2022 and beyond.”
The survey group reported that they’re simultaneously feeling the effects of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) recent advisory that Americans avoid cruising completely. The majority (54 percent) of participating advisors said they’ve had clients question them about the CDC’s latest guidance on cruising, while 46 percent have had a client cancel or postpone a cruise as a direct result of the CDC-issued recommendation.
Nevertheless, Genung said he’s still optimistic about the cruise industry’s outlook for the rest of 2022. “I think we are very close to having a massive growth in bookings as we move into the next phase and transition from pandemic to endemic,” he said. “We have had many guests sail over the last few weeks and they have been so happy that they took their cruise. Many have booked their next cruise right on board and some have even extended their current cruise by one or more weeks.”