Member agencies of MAST Travel Network, based in Oakbrook Terrance, IL, have responded to the credit crunch and economic downturn by increasing their direct mail and e-mail marketing, holding cruise nights, and holding travel talks for consumers, according to John Werner, president and COO. Sales are down by as much as 30 percent since September 1, he estimates, based on an informal telephone survey of MAST agents. The survey also shows members working with area businesses in joint marketing initiatives and planning to develop more group business.
“Our telephone survey shows that group bookings keep the phones ringing,” Werner reports. “Business travel sales are holding steady, but vacation travel is travel way down. Sales are trickling in for some last minute bookings of shorter duration trips. We see the middle-class affected more than high-end travelers. Clients are not so much trading down in hotel category or quality but instead saving money by taking shorter trips and staying fewer nights.
“It's been real quiet for most agencies the past three weeks. Some agencies are experiencing decent sales activity, all things considered. Customers are inquiring about their 2009 travel plans but not booking. They seem to be waiting for better news in the financial markets, waiting for the elections to take place, and waiting for prices to come down. Many are spending time working on their databases, websites, and training for their staffs,” Werner said.
MAST members are saying that the reasons for client travel include family reunions, groups, honeymoons and destination weddings, celebrations and pursuing personal interests such as hobbies, sports, and special events. Among destinations and types of travel that are selling: Disney, Orlando, Mexico and the Caribbean. Cruises include three, four, five, and seven nights and Alaska cruises. MAST agents report some Europe cruises sales, shorter trips and fewer nights. Some exotics for travelers not concerned about staying closer to home and for a shorter time, MAST reports.