A vast majority of Travel Leaders Group travel agents polled in a new survey by the group indicate their holiday travel bookings are on par with or higher than last year; more importantly, the timeline for booking such holiday trips - particularly those requiring travelers to fly to their destinations - is tight.
The agents' resounding advice is to book holiday travel six months or more prior to their departure, which means those still on the sidelines for Thanksgiving or end of year holidays need to act fast. Agents also advise clients planning to travel over Spring Break 2013 to begin their planning shortly.
This data on holiday travel is based on responses from 653 U.S.-based travel agency owners, managers and frontline travel agents who indicated that they specialize in leisure travel. These results are part of the larger 2012 Fall Travel Trends Survey conducted by Travel Leaders Group from July 30 - August 23, 2012, in which 871 agents participated. Agents from Travel Leaders Group, along with those affiliated with Travel Leaders Group‚Äôs Luxury Travel Network, Nexion, Results! Travel, Tzell Travel Group and Vacation.com units participated.
"The holiday travel advice of our travel agents throughout the U.S. undoubtedly factors in peak travel costs and restricted airline availability. It is simple supply and demand, and we wouldn't be doing our job - which is to be an unbiased advocate for our clients - if we didn't counsel them to lock in their holiday travel plans right now," stated Travel Leaders Group CEO Barry Liben. "If travelers want maximum flexibility with travel dates, times and prices, action is required."
Liben notes that 72.3 percent of agents report Thanksgiving travel booking on par or better than last year and 76.7 report end of year holiday bookings are equal or higher to 2011.
Among the survey results:
When asked to compare 2012 Thanksgiving travel bookings so far to bookings at this time last year, a vast majority (72.3%) indicate that their bookings are equal to or higher than last year.
When asked "Based on your knowledge and expertise, when would you advise clients to book their Thanksgiving airline tickets?" the majority (58.6%) of Travel Leaders Group agents indicate clients should book their Thanksgiving airfare 6 months or more prior to the holiday. Thanksgiving is now less than three months away.
However, some clients are taking a chance that their desired flight dates, times and price-range will still be available closer to the holiday. When asked "When do a majority of your clients start inquiring about Thanksgiving airline tickets?" 45.3 percent of Travel Leaders Group agents indicate 3-4 months prior to the holiday, while 21.8 percent said 2 months prior to the holiday.
Holiday Travel (End of Year)
When asked to compare end-of-the-year holiday travel bookings (those immediately prior to Christmas and through the New Year's holiday) to their 2011 bookings at this time, again a large majority (76.7%) state their 2012 bookings are equal to or higher than last year.
When asked "Based on your knowledge and expertise, when would you advise clients to book their airfare for travel taking place immediately prior to Christmas through the New Year's holiday?" 74.9 percent of Travel Leaders Group agents say they would advise booking 6 months or more prior to the desired departure date.
When asked "When do a majority of your clients start inquiring about air travel for dates immediately prior to Christmas through the New Year's holiday?" 68 percent say clients inquire 4 months or more prior to the holidays.
Spring Break Travel
To ensure clients have their top destination options available to them and to lock-in the best airfares and resort pricing, the surveyed travel agents recommend:
Booking in Advance: When asked "Typically how far in advance do you advise your clients to make their Spring Break reservations?" 62.3 percent of Travel Leaders Group agents advise more than 6 months in advance, while 33.9 percent stated 4-6 months in advance.
Don't delay: When asked "What are the Top 3 reasons why clients should not wait until the last minute to book their Spring Break travel?" the top responses were:
1. Reduced airline seating capacity - 75.9%
2. Lock in airfare costs - 61.7%
3. Lock in hotel/resort pricing -39.4%
How to Get What You Want
Whether making plans for holiday travel or Spring Break travel, here are the top ways the surveyed Travel Leaders Group travel agents say they are counseling clients on getting the most value for their dollar - particularly for peak air travel dates:
1. Be flexible on dates to travel - 84.4%
2. Be flexible on time of day - 59.5%
3. Book air as part of tour or cruise package - 58.4%