A recent American Express Travel survey of 402 agents on trends for holiday travel this year found that more clients will be traveling between Christmas and New Years than traveled at Thanksgiving. In calls to agents across the country, Travel Agent indeed found that Christmas week travel is very strong—but that there was still some availability if clients had fat wallets and flexible dates. The advice we kept hearing is to encourage clients to book as far out as possible—even now for next year.
In the opinion of Rabia Shahenshah of Tzell Travel Group in
More people are booking vacations farther in advance: Shahenshah says that many of her clients began booking their holiday vacations as far back as February. Those clients were rewarded with prime rates and the safety of knowing that whatever they wanted would most likely be available. "My clients know what they want," explains Shahenshah, "and they won't book unless they can get it."
Shahenshah says that most of her holiday travelers look to
book in warm climates and she lists
For those who don't heed her advice and book closer to the
holidays there are still some options available, but clients either have to be
willing to spend a lot of money or be creative and open minded. "The
middle inventory is gone for the most part," she says. "Spots like
According to Melissa Garrison, vacation manager of Altair
Garrison has faced obstacles when clients come looking to book a holiday vacation only weeks ahead of time. "We get calls now and space is just gone," she says. She does book customers who wait until the last moment on charter packages, which she says are still available, but these packages give clients less flexibility.
Where Are Clients Traveling?
For this holiday season, Garrison says that the Caribbean is
still the place her clients are most interested in, but she has booked some ski
"Our Christmas bookings are up considerably over last
year," says Tom Bukaty, president, All-Inclusive Resort Travel in
Year after year, Roy Twiste, manager of the Leisure Division
and VIP Desk for Carlson Wagonlit Travel, says he is used to receiving a
last-minute phone call from a client inquiring about booking a Christmas
vacation not only late, but also to a popular destination. This year was no
exception. Last week, Twiste got a call from a man asking if there were any
nonstop flights to Aruba from
"When I told him the price, he thought it was for two people," Twiste says. "The fact is if you wait too long, you better be prepared to pay."
And that's why Roz Resnick, vice president of leisure travel for Austin Travel, now knows what most agents have learned over the years—those who book late are those who have money.
"If you have the money to spend, it doesn't matter when you book your holiday vacation," says Resnick, whose company currently generates more than $100 million in sales, 50 percent of which is in upscale leisure.
This wasn't the case immediately following September 11, 2001, when travelers were able to find bargains and last-minute deals up to a week before Christmas. But things are bound to change in the travel industry, Resnick says.
"The one thing I've learned in this industry is that there is no such thing as trends," she says. "Once you expect one thing, you get the other."
And now that holiday traveling is popular again, if your clients don't have the money to burn, Twiste recommends that they book at least three months in advance.
The main concern with booking that early, Twiste says, is that plans change over time. To avoid that problem, he suggests insuring vacations. "It takes care of a lot of problems (if you insure your vacation)," Twiste says. "And it helps encourage people to book early. If you don't book early, be ready to spend. A lot of my last-minute clients aren't."
"I am hearing all good news," says Marsha Wienert,
The limiting factor this year for Hawaii-bound holiday travelers will be rooms, she predicts.
Those looking to stretch their dollars and have the
flexibility to travel by mid-December will benefit from
Meanwhile, the outlook for holiday travel to
Although she didn't provide any specific numbers, Austin Travel's Resnick says holiday sales have been significantly down this year and blames in on the "overall hassle" of traveling near Christmas. "I think people are sick of it," she says. "They're sick of spending the money, they're sick of trying to find flights. I think they're settling for vacationing another time when it's easier."
To avoid losing the business of clients whose pockets aren't
that deep, and to insure availability, it's not a bad idea to start talking to
your clients this summer about their winter holiday vacations.