By early 2020, travel websites and apps were steadily outpacing traditional agencies as the go-to option for travel planning. Enticed by convenient bundling discounts, price-comparison tools, and fare-watch features, users flocked by the millions to sites like Expedia and Airbnb.
But everything changed when COVID-19 made its catastrophic debut later that year. In the blink of an eye, travelers who prized convenience and control above all else found themselves at the mercy of shifting cancellations and travel restrictions, on top of strict health and safety protocols.
“To call those first few months chaotic would be an understatement,” says Amy Short, AAA Club Alliance director of travel sales and technology. “No one knew what to expect, but we certainly sensed there would be major implications for travel. So, we did what we’re trained to do. Our teams prepared for the worst and hoped for the best.”
TRAVELERS FIND COMFORT IN COMPETENCE
That mindset would prove useful over the unpredictable months that followed. But with the most sweeping pandemic-travel changes now stably implemented and industry recovery clearly in view, experts note some surprisingly positive outcomes. As one recent study notes, 44% of post-pandemic travelers are more likely to work with a travel advisor going forward.
“It’s logical, when you consider what travelers have been through,” says Short. “The pandemic made us all feel a little less confident about processes that were once second nature. We want assurance when we travel that we’re in safe hands with someone who is knowledgeable, dedicated, and equipped with the right resources to solve problems before they happen.”
TRAVEL ADVISORS SAVE YOU TIME, HASSLE, AND—YES—MONEY.
While attention from a good advisor can seem like a luxury, many people are surprised to learn that most advisor services are included in AAA membership. What’s more, advisors like Becky Webb of AAA Tiimonium can leverage powerful industry tools and resources to deliver benefits in addition to cost savings directly to your wallet.
They can also access real-time notifications on flight cancellations, weather warnings, health and safety advisories, visa and vaccine requirements, and other potentially disruptive events that may not be available to travels who do their own travel planning. Advisors also complete ongoing research and training to help travelers make informed decisions about destinations, carriers, transport routes, fare options, perks, and more.
HUMAN CONNECTION IS AT THE HEART OF TRAVEL PLANNING
Webb is proud of how her team has mobilized to help new and returning clients navigate the post-pandemic landscape. But she believes there’s another reason so many people are returning to traditional agencies—one that goes far beyond software and industry connections.
“My clients are savvy travelers, and they’re also my friends,” says Webb. “Travel is very personal, so our conversations are about more than finding the best flight costs or hotel packages. They work with me because they know this isn’t just my profession—it’s my passion. They pay me to handle all the moving parts, but they trust me to do it with their best interests at heart every step of the way.”