Travel agents are telling their customers loud and clear that time is of the essence when it comes to booking. It’s unclear how expensive travel will become, as fuel prices show no signs of falling yet.
Travel agencies have seen a surge in bookings in recent weeks as consumers unable to hit the road for much of the past two years due to the pandemic plan to travel this summer in record numbers.
But travelers aren’t just planning trips for later this year — or even 2023. Travel agents are booking trips for 2024 as consumers worried about rising prices are eager to finalize their travel plans before their Planned trips only become more expensive.
“I tell people if they’re planning something between the end of 2023 and 2024, grab it now,” said Sarah Kline, president of the Maryland-based agency. travel timewho has already booked five destination wedding packages for 2024.
“If (the price) goes down, we can adjust it. If (the trip) goes away or goes up, there is no turning back.
Joshua Bush, CEO of Pennsylvania Avenue Two Tourist attractions, believes that concerns about soaring customer prices are warranted, especially when it comes to discounts and cruises. “(The war in Ukraine) has put a strain on oil prices,” he said. “There (will) be fuel surcharges applied to cruise lines and airlines which are added to the base fares.”
Kline provides another reason why travelers are right to worry about rising prices. She said resorts in Mexico and the Caribbean were poised to take advantage of the backlog for trips to those areas by raising their prices. She has seen the prices of packages she booked last year for people traveling this summer already double and triple.
“We’re just contracting now (for summer 2024),” Kline said. “But we even notice that if someone checks a price with us and we come back a few weeks later when they’re ready to (book), (it) has already started to go up.”
John Lovell, President of Internova Travel Group‘s Travel Leaders Group, cites another reason besides experiencing additional sticker shock as why travelers are already booking 2,024 trips. According to him, consumers are prioritizing trips they can take with extended travel credits through the end of 2022, which has caused them to push back vacations they had planned for this year.
“Many trips that were originally scheduled for 2020 or 2021 are now being taken in 2022, which means travel schedules are staggered,” Lovell said.
But with dozens of travel agencies already releasing itineraries for 2024 excursions, what challenges do travel agents face in booking trips well in advance of their departure date? While Lovell responded that while companies such as cruise lines and tour operators may not have itineraries set yet, Kline responded that resorts are often not ready to accept bookings in two years.
“They don’t charge fares. They’re just not ready to book that far,” she said.
Kline provided an example of a booking she made last week for a stay in 2024 at a resort that had not disclosed its terms and conditions for that year. Property staff told Kline that the resort would use its terms from 2023 and move them to the following year because, as she said, it just wanted to have business on the books.
Kline acknowledged that it’s unusual for travelers to want to book a trip two years from now, as she said consumers would typically book a trip a year in advance. But as travel booking habits have changed over the past two years, she thinks many travelers want the pandemic to be over before committing to a major life event.
“Everyone really wants to have something to look forward to,” Kline said.