COVID-19 Impact: Travel agents come back to the fore as tourists demand personal touch

The reliance on travel agents has made a comeback following the outbreak of COVID-19 amid a need for personalisation and real-time connectivity, a survey has found. The travel has gathered momentum on the back of an expedited vaccination drive following a difficult 2020 and a deadly second wave of the pandemic, the survey by B2B travel platform TravClan has found.

TravClan surveyed nearly 250 small- and mid-range travel agents & planners and consumers in an attempt to identify the changes in the travel business ecosystem as well as the Indian traveller’s behavior in a post-pandemic world.

The survey found that 83% of the agents catered to first-time customers, a key indicator that an increasing number of Indians were turning to travel agents and trip planners. It also revealed that contrary to popular belief that younger people travel more, people in the 30-50 age group will make up 75% of holidaymakers in the near future. This is an indication that the share of couple and family travels will rise. People are also willing to spend more for better services and experiences.

TravClan co-founder Arun Bagaria said: “The global tourism industry has endured a major existential challenge and is now confidently overcoming this on the basis of knowledge gained during the last one year.” Such is the buoyancy about post-pandemic travel demand that many agents who had shut shop for fear of a collapse of the global travel business are now returning to the fold. The survey also revealed that most travel agents believe operations would resume faster than expected. With several popular destinations such as Maldives and Thailand already announcing reopening in phases, international travel is expected to resume in major markets by October.

Of the total respondents, who were asked the respondents if they felt more people would prefer booking through travel agents amid the changing travel scenario post-COVID-19, a whopping 82.2% people said yes. When asked about the type of travel requirement that had seen a surge post the pandemic, 51.3% of the respondents answered weekend getways, while 41.2% chose leisure. Staycations and workcations were chosen by 34.5% and 31.5% of the respondents, respectively.

The survey also highlighted the popularity of staycations and workcations as well as leisure and weekend trips. Bagaria said: “Travel agents are evolving to service the needs of the future travelers… at a time when travel regulations are changing frequently.” He added that those agents who conducted their business offline are now adopting new technologies and becoming travel planners, even carrying out marketing activities on social media.