FAIRFAX, VA — The economic toll of the coronavirus pandemic on the air travel industry is expected to be worse than it was after 9/11, but a local travel management company says they are starting to see promising signs from consumers.
The industry has been working to restore consumer confidence when it comes to traveling.
“I see that many of the suppliers of travel: the airlines, the car rental companies, the cruises, hotels; they’re all working very hard to do whatever they can to ensure safe travel,” Bohan said. “We are getting all kinds of information in on a regular basis, sometimes two or three times a day, we are getting updates from the suppliers on new initiatives on their part to change how they’ve been doing business, all in the interest of making sure they are answering to the need for safe travel.”
That can be tough to accomplish with a skeleton staff. The hospitality industry has arguably seen some of the greatest losses to their workforce. Bohan is taking the time during the pandemic to not only upskill her current staff, but also recruit and train those who have lost their jobs on travel sales.
“The education process is very important,” Bohan says. “As I see so many people are now out of work, having been laid off, we think that it’s also a good time for us to offer new skill set training so that people can do something new.”
Through webinar training, she has been offering courses in specialized vacation travel, from how to sell camping adventures to offering incentive travel as a way to supplement incomes while job seekers are waiting to return to their careers.
With current travel coming to a crawl, the idea of selling travel products may seem a little counterintuitive, but Bohan says she’s promising signs that consumers are eager to get moving again.
“Everybody has been busy at work in the travel business trying to figure out what they can do, because as the saying goes, ‘as travel goes, so goes the economy,’ Bohan said.
That work seems to be paying off. Bohan has been monitoring consumer preferences and attitudes, and is finding that the public’s appetite is firing up.
“Now I see some people who might have said, ‘I’m not ready to stay in a hotel, or stay anywhere overnight,’ now we’re seeing in our surveys they are changing.” Bohan described.
“The public and corporations who do a lot of travel are looking at the need to develop procedures,” Bohan explains. “HR departments are very important in this whole return to travel, making sure people within companies understand what the rules might be.”They hear it can be very safe, or they hear about how they will have an easy check-in, [hotels] will have very good hygiene standards and now the trend is going upwards. People are starting to open up their minds.”
As far as bringing back vacationers to the travel industry, Bohan says she's seeing promising signs from consumers.
“I think as time passes and we understand more about how to keep ourselves safe, we’ll have more confidence. Besides that people want to get out; companies also want to get people back to work, there is definitely a pent up demand,” Bohan said.
In terms of cruises specifically, major cruise lines have suspended travel for the past several months, but Bohan said she’s actually seeing an uptick in bookings.
“People were surprised when I first said that back in early April, but there are these …people who love cruising..who are getting good deals for the future,” Bohan said. “ Some of the cruise ships are starting shorter cruises in August and many people are booking long term cruises for the end of the fourth quarter and into next year.”
Another area that she is seeing new growth is in domestic travel. She says, “a lot of people are thinking now is the time to see America.”
Bohan says to lock in airline rates, because, “as soon as business travelers begin to travel again, you know the prices will go up.” But she says social-distancing and face-masks are here to stay for the foreseeable future.
Listen to the full interview here: