Clients are thinking big for 2021, Internova agents say

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Clients are thinking big for 2021, Internova agents say

Executives at Internova Travel Group shared bullish sentiments on recovery during a virtual media event on Tuesday, with CEO J.D. O'Hara reporting tha

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Executives at Internova Travel Group shared bullish sentiments on recovery during a virtual media event on Tuesday, with CEO J.D. O’Hara reporting that agents are finding that “an overwhelming majority” of U.S. and Canadian travelers say they plan to take a vacation at some point this year.

J.D. O'Hara

J.D. O’Hara

“Go big or stay home — that’s the theme many of our advisors are seeing for 2021,” said O’Hara. “Their clients are asking about bucket list destinations, private villas, private island rentals, longer stays and working remotely for an extended period of time for their next vacation. And we’re seeing travel queries pick up steadily.”

O’Hara added that vaccine rollouts will continue to “be a game-changer for traveler confidence,” alongside the implementation of widely recognized digital health passes like Common Pass.

“We’re seeing a lot of future bookings for the second half of the year,” said Angie Licea, president of Internova’s luxury division, Global Travel Collection. “Festive [season] for 2021 and 2022 are almost completely booked.”

Still, myriad challenges remain. Peter Vlitas, Internova Travel’s senior vice president for airline relations, said that the recovery of air travel remained at the mercy of “bilateral negotiations” among various foreign governments.

“The world is more closed than ever before,” said Vlitas. “Right now, it’s probably the hardest time to fly anywhere, especially with the closures of the United Kingdom, Canada, France and many other countries. And then, of course, with the United States government [now requiring] a negative test to come back into the United States.”

With vaccination distribution picking up speed, however, Vlitas remains optimistic. He cited data indicating a spike in North American airline seat capacity for this March and April, suggesting that airlines are ramping up capacity in preparation for an anticipated summer travel boom.

Peter Vlitas

Peter Vlitas

Should vaccination efforts remain on track at the current pace, Vlitas projects that around 73% of all flights operating in 2019 could be back up and running by the end of this year.

On the hospitality front, Faisal Sublaban, Internova Travel’s senior vice president for hotel relations, reported solid booking trends for this year’s spring break and summer periods, with the most in-demand domestic U.S. destinations being Florida, Hawaii, California, Texas and Georgia.

“Mexico, Cancun and Los Cabos have also been top destinations consistently through the pandemic and continue to show strong signs throughout this recovery,” added Sublaban. “And there are strong trends around all-inclusive resorts. A lot of our partners in Cancun and Los Cabos are already sold out for spring break and Easter.”

According to Vlitas, the CDC’s Covid-19 test requirement for flying into the U.S. hasn’t put a significant damper on air travel to Mexico and the Caribbean.

“In the first week [the testing restriction] had an impact,” said Vlitas. “But after that, I think once the traveler realized the ease of where they’re going, which primarily was in Mexico and the Caribbean, and that they can get a test, it really was a little blip and just came back up.”

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