Travel Leaders Survey Finds Holiday Bookings On Par or Higher Than Last Year
By Mimi Kmet
September 10, 2012 2:09 PM
Travel Leaders Group has released a survey on trends for the upcoming holiday season that reveals that holiday travel bookings are on par with, or higher than, last year. Moreover, the survey, which polled Travel Leaders Group travel agents, indicated that the timeline for booking holiday trips — particularly those requiring travelers to fly to their destinations — is tight. Agents’ advice is to book holiday travel six months or more before departure, which means those still on the sidelines for Thanksgiving or end-of-year holidays need to act fast. Agents also are advising clients planning to travel over Spring Break 2013 to begin planning shortly.
This data is based on responses from 653 U.S.-based travel agency owners, managers and frontline travel agents who specialize in leisure travel. The results are part of the larger 2012 Fall Travel Trends Survey conducted by Travel Leaders Group from July 30 through Aug. 23, in which 871 travel agents participated from the flagship Travel Leaders brand, along with Travel Leaders Group’s Luxury Travel Network, Nexion, Results! Travel, Tzell Travel Group and Vacation.com units.
“The holiday travel advice of our travel agents throughout the U.S. undoubtedly factors in peak travel costs and restricted airline availability,” Travel Leaders Group CEO Barry Liben said in a statement. “While we have been known to ‘pull a rabbit out of the hat’ for many last-minute requests, it isn’t in our clients’ best interest to take those chances, and it certainly isn’t cost-effective for them, either. If travelers want maximum flexibility with travel dates, times and prices, action is required.”
According to the survey, 72.3 percent of agents reported that Thanksgiving travel booking is on par or better than last year. When asked, “Based on your knowledge and expertise, when would you advise clients to book their Thanksgiving airline tickets,” 58.6 percent of agents surveyed said clients should book their Thanksgiving airfare six months or more prior to the holiday. Thanksgiving is now less than three months away.
When asked to compare end-of-the-year holiday travel bookings (those immediately before Christmas and through the New Year’s holiday) to their 2011 bookings at this time, 76.7 percent said 2012 bookings are equal to or higher than last year. When asked, “Based on your knowledge and expertise, when would you advise clients to book their airfare for travel taking place immediately prior to Christmas through the New Year's holiday,” 74.9 percent said they would advise booking six months or more prior to the desired departure date.
However, some clients are taking a chance that their desired flight dates, times and price-range will still be available closer to the holiday. When asked, “When does a majority of your clients start inquiring about Thanksgiving airline tickets,” 45.3 percent of Travel Leaders Group agents indicated three to four months prior to the holiday, while 21.8 percent said two months prior to the holiday. When asked, “When do a majority of your clients start inquiring about air travel for dates immediately prior to Christmas through the New Year's holiday,” 68 percent said clients inquire four months or more prior to the holidays.
For Spring Break 2013 travel, agents were asked, “Typically, how far in advance do you advise your clients to make their Spring Break reservations?” Of the respondents, 62.3 percent said they advise clients to book more than six months in advance, while 33.9 percent said they advise clients to book four to six months in advance. When asked, “What are the top three reasons why clients should not wait until the last minute to book their Spring Break travel,” the top responses were: reduced airline seating capacity (75.9 percent), lock in airfare costs (61.7 percent), and lock in hotel/resort pricing (39.4 percent).
Finally, the top ways agents said they are counseling clients on getting the most value for their dollar — particularly for peak air travel dates — are: be flexible on dates to travel (84.4 percent); be flexible on time of day (59.5 percent); and book air as part of a tour or cruise package (58.4 percent).