Despite Slowdown in New Bookings, Tour Operators Point to 2021 for Travel Recover

One-third of tour operators reported an increase in bookings in the latest U.S. Tour Operators Association (USTOA) survey, compared to two-thirds of tour operators in June.

According to the survey – which was conducted Aug. 14 with 34 corporate members responding – more than a third (38%) said they have seen an increase in bookings in the last 60 days. Another third (38%) reported no change in bookings during this timeframe, with the remaining 24% reporting a decrease in bookings.

“While it’s heartening that US consumers are still making future travel plans, clearly the momentum has slowed while there is still so much uncertainty in the marketplace and the world,” Terry Dale, USTOA president and CEO, said.

When new passengers are booked for travel, based on bookings made in the last 60 days, 10% have bookings made for the third quarter of 2020, while another 19% of responding members report that they have new passenger bookings scheduled for travel in the fourth quarter of 2020.

Moving into next year, 33% of operators said they have received bookings for Q1; 76% reported new passenger bookings for Q2; 79% have received bookings for Q3; and 52% had new bookings made for Q4. Roughly 31% of members reported new passenger bookings for 2022.

Nearly three fourths (73%) of new bookings are to international destinations, while the remaining 27% of traveler bookings are to U.S., Canada, and Mexico.

“Not surprisingly, what we are seeing now across the board is a lot more promise for the first half of 2021 for international travel,” Dale said. “On the home front, two thirds of tour operator members with product in the US have started operations or plan to start between now and the end of 2020.”

USTOA asked destination management organizations (DMOs) when their destination anticipates opening tourism to North American travelers. Almost half (46%) of the respondents selected “other,” which included a select number of countries that are open now with testing and quarantine restrictions, but a majority noted “too early to determine.” About 14% anticipate a January 2021 opening for North American tourism, while another 14% expect to open in April 2021 or beyond.

On the ground in North America, DMOs said it was “too early to determine” group size limitations that may be in place once tourism in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico fully recovers.

For coaches, 16% responded that size limitations may be up to 20 people maximum, while 9% noted potential group size limitations of up to 50 people, and 8% selected up to 10 people. Roughly 5% responded that coach limitation could be set at up to 15 people, while another 5% selected a limitation of up to 100 people. Only 2% selected coach size limitations of up to five people maximum. The remaining 19% selected “other.”

When it comes to health and safety practices, an overwhelming 91% of DMOs say they will use their own governments’ health and hygiene protocol. More than half (57%) reported that they will rely on UNWTO/WHO guidelines, while 31% noted that other health organizations’ guidelines will be utilized.

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