New Research Uncovers the Impact of COVID-19 on Travel Agencies, Tour Operators

More than 40 percent of clients who are rebooking trips impacted by COVID-19 said they were still planning to travel to their originally booked destination, according to tour operators and travel agency owners polled in a survey by MMGY in partnership with Travel Consul, an international travel marketing alliance.

The survey included responses from over 900 global tour operators and agency owners from May 11-25, 2020.

Forty-six percent of respondents said their clients are taking a “wait-and-see” approach before firming up any travel plans.

Fifty-one percent of U.S. respondents said their clients were “looking to the destination they originally booked,” with 38 percent reporting their customers were still undecided.

Overall, respondents are predicting a 73 percent decrease in business volume in the third quarter of 2020, and 60 percent declines in the fourth quarter of this year.

While two-thirds of worldwide respondents are predicting they will be able to sustain their businesses for six months without government financial support, only 28 percent of U.S. respondents said they would be able to sustain for four to six months without government assistance. Thirty-three percent of U.S. respondents said they would not be able to sustain their businesses without assistance for one to three months

Approximately 41 percent of global respondents said they are creating new products “and adjusting the business model as the main measures during the pandemic.”

When queried on ways in which destination management organizations can help travel advisors and tour operators recover from the impact of the pandemic, the overriding answer was by “introducing health and safety certificates for advisors to feel sure the destinations are safe to send their customers.”

On the marketing front, two out of three global respondents said they were using social media as a primary promotional vehicle for recovery, compared to 75 percent of U.S. respondents. Coming in second and third, respectively, were digital and cooperative campaigns.

Meanwhile, respondents said their top sources for information relating to the coronavirus were from tour operator and travel agency associations (69 percent), followed by destination tourism offices, trade media, their national governments and industry friends.

When asked how “COVID-19 is changing the rules in 2020 and beyond,” 70 of respondents said they think “modifying cancellation policies or terms and conditions will be among their main undertakings.”

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