A family planning a vacation. (photo via ridofranz/iStock/Getty Images Plus)
Rising travel costs are not having a discernible impact on bookings – at least for now, travel advisors reported.
“Prices are higher – but not just due to inflation,” said Claire Schoeder of Elevations Travel. “Many hotels, especially the luxury brands, were already at higher price points because of demand. Some are still not operating at full capacity yet so that influences price as well.”
The rising cost of airfares is also not resulting in clients’ canceling or amending their vacations.
“If fuel prices keep going up it might make some people change their minds,” Schoeder said. “It will affect the most budget-conscious travelers first. My clients are more luxury-focused – they are complaining about the price but are still booking.”
Domestic airfares have been on the rise since the end of January, Jennifer Doncsecz of VIP Vacations noted. “We’ve seen the costs for flying to Florida to be the same as flying to Cancun or Jamaica, which was never the case before,” she said, adding that US hotel rates are on the rise for spring and summer.
“It is hard to determine if it is because of inflation or very high occupancy. Either way, the pricing is much higher for domestic travel than it was last year,” Doncsecz said.
“We are trying to educate our clients that gone are the days of $699 air/hotel packages to Mexico or Punta Cana. It is my hope that consumers will grow to understand that last-minute shoppers will end up spending far more because there are no deals to be found.
“Right now, demand is outpacing everything. Honeymooners, luxury clients and those who truly want to travel, will still travel. They may have to shorten their stay or step down in a room category, but thankfully, they will still find a way to travel.”
A segment of the industry where deals can still be found is the cruise industry. “Cruises are providing an enormous value right now,” Doncsecz said. “Virgin Voyages has been a hot seller, with many bonus incentives for consumers and travel advisors.”
Virgin Voyages has been offering booking incentives for agents and their clients. Pictured, Scarlet Lady in Miami. (Photo via Virgin Voyages)
Schoeder has also found good values with such lines as Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises. “Some of my luxury clients do travel on these two lines when cruising with other family members who are not luxury clients,” she said. “I am still finding great rates on these lines as well as on some of the luxury lines as well.”
Similarly, Chris Caulfield of CruiseOne is witnessing valuable offers from cruise lines.
“They are still ramping up service and there are some good offers to lure people back,” he said. “I am seeing onboard credit and prepaid gratuities as the top offers.”
While prices for airfare and cruises are rising, Caulfield noted that demand is nonetheless strong.
“People want to get away and are willing to pay,” he said. “So much travel has been missed over the last two years and people are trying to make up for it.”
Added Tom Karnes of LaMacchia Travel, “I believe we have a ‘double whammy’ happening and prices are going to get even higher.
“The existing limited demand and the increase of fuel costs will definitely increase cost for travelers this year and into early next year.”
Other than a small percentage of clients who have postponed travel plans until the end of the year when prices and inventory tend to be lower, Karnes said he has not witnessed a noticeable drop in business.
Meanwhile, Tammy Levent of Elite Travel Management Group said that it is currently “tough for your average working person who just wants to take their family on vacation.”
As a case in point, family clients are requesting rates of $1,500 per person for a five-day Cancun all-inclusive resort vacation, including airfare, she said.
Airfare to such destinations as Cancun is on the rise. (photo via iStock/Getty Images Plus/Jonathan Ross)
“Now the ticket just to get to Cancun is running between $700 to $900 – plus where are they going to stay?”
Conversely, Levent said her more upscale clients are not balking at higher prices.
“I have a client now spending 35K on first-class tickets from Tampa to Athens for two in November and he is fine with it.”
For the past six weeks, Cal Cheney of Bucket List Travel and Tours has been encouraging his clients to purchase airfare as soon as possible.
“I rent an RV out through my business, and I think gas prices are keeping reservations down a little.”
In the long run, however, Chesney echoed the sentiment of other advisors. “Pent-up demand will outweigh any prices increases.”