- Travel agents say they are busier than ever in recent months amid growing demand for travel.
- Some agents report being “overwhelmed” by the recent flood of new clients wanting help planning trips.
- Some agents say they will wait on hold with airlines for customers if flights are delayed or luggage is lost.
Many travel agents say they have never been busier amid air travel chaos and a spike in post-Covid lockdown demand this summer. The job, long thought to be in decline due to the increasing ease of self-booking online, may be reviving.
“Before the pandemic, we were asking questions all the time, ‘Oh, travel agents, do they still exist?'” said Thomas Carpenter, co-founder of Huckleberry Travel. “Since the pandemic, we don’t have that question anymore,” he said.
Some travel agents, or travel advisors as many prefer to be called, say they have been inundated with a flood of new customers in recent months.
“I’m definitely working more… I actually feel a little overwhelmed right now,” said Amy Freyder, owner of Epic Away Travel.
Other travel advisors echoed Freyder. For example, Jamison Bachrach, a travel consultant based in Rome, Italy for the summer, told Insider that he’s “never been busier” in his 25 years in the industry.
“I have people coming out of the woodwork from sources I’ve never seen. I’m happy about that,” Jamison said.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that there were more than 37,000 people in the U.S. employed as travel agents as of May 2021. This is a significant drop from the more than 80,000 counted just 5 years earlier in 2016.
This smaller group of agents is now facing what some say is an unprecedented demand for help booking travel.
The issue has been exacerbated by the recent increase in airline chaos. Some travel agents say they are now spending more time waiting with airlines than ever, given recent cancellations, delays and lost luggage.
“It’s become long hours for us because we’re making extra changes and continuing and trying to be proactive when airlines cancel routes or can’t fulfill an earlier ticket due to staffing issues,” said Shaia Bragg, a travel advisor based in Nashville, Tennessee. “I don’t know a solid travel advisor that doesn’t work overtime and extended hours and weekends at this point,” she added.
A recent study by the American Association of Travel Consultants shows that 71% of respondents have seen travel as more complex since the start of the pandemic. However, it’s not just airline chaos that contributes to this complexity. Travel agents say they have seen a flood of requests for travel to Europe and are working longer hours to help clients understand international Covid protocols as each country in the bloc has its own COVID safety measures.
For example, international travelers coming from outside the EU to Spain are still required to present proof of vaccination or a negative test, while Portugal dropped its vaccine and test requirements on July 1.
“There are just so many requirements and extra steps that need to be taken to get somewhere… I think it’s become confusing whether you need to get a Covid test or you don’t need to get a Covid test,” Freyder said. .
For many travel agents, the growth in demand is almost exclusively from holidaymakers. Agents who rely heavily on business travel arrangements dispute any claims that demand for their services is stronger than ever.
“Would I tell you that I’m busier than I was before Covid? I don’t know that I would,” said Leslie Tillem, a travel agent at Tzell Travel Group. “What’s happening is that there’s such an increase in travel in such a short period of time on the leisure side, but on the other hand, the corporate side has really slowed down,” she added.
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