The United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA) released findings from a survey of its Active Members about post-COVID 19 plans for recovery and resumption of business.

According to the survey, more than half (57 percent) of Active Member respondents reported that business on the books for 2021 is rebooked guests from cancelled 2020 departures. One-third (32 percent) of Active Member business for 2021 is existing reservations made prior to the coronavirus outbreak, and 11 percent represents new reservations made in 2020.

Jon Grutzner, president of Luxury Gold and Insight Vacations, told Recommend that, “From March to April the majority of our reservations had been guests moving their reservations to a later departure date, however of the last few weeks we are seeing new bookings. This is exciting to see as our guests are feeling more comfortable and wanting to get back out there.”

Survey results point out that 80 percent of current Active Member traveler bookings are to international destinations, and the remaining 20 percent of traveler bookings are to North America (US, Canada and Mexico).

In fact, says Grutzner, “Guests are looking at staying closer to home and wanting to explore the United States. We have developed three 7 -day Domestic Escape trips with a smaller group size. We have had a surprisingly strong response to these trips. We are hopeful these domestic trips will allow guests to get out there and explore after being homebound for so long.”

Adding that, “We are hopeful to resume operations in early fall, but the well-being of our guests is our first priority. We are carefully monitoring, with our partners in destination, how each country is handling re-entry. In addition to the well-being of our guests, we also need to ensure the quality once they arrive in the destination they come to expect from Insight Vacations.”

Region by Region
When asked when they anticipate restarting operations in destinations around the world, the results are as follows:

  • Africa: A quarter (26 percent) of tour operators foresee restarting operations in September 2020, while an equal number (26 percent) anticipate returning to the region in the first quarter of 2021.
  • Antarctica: More than half (54 percent) of the respondents with itineraries to Antarctica anticipate resuming operations between November and December 2020.
  • Asia: the most selected response for a potential operations restart in the region was the first quarter of 2021 at 27 percent.
  • Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands: Almost half (44 percent) of tour operators with programs to this region anticipate resuming operations in the first quarter of 2021.
  • Canada: One third of Active Members foresee September 2020 as a potential return to operations in Canada (32 percent).
  • Europe: Half (51 percent) of respondents anticipate resuming operations in Europe between September and October 2020.
  • Mexico: 17 percent of tour operator respondents with programs to the destination anticipate returning in June 2020; another 17 percent named September 2020, with an additional 17 percent foreseeing the second quarter of 2021 for a return.
  • South America: Almost half (44 percent) of tour operators with programs to countries in South America anticipate resuming operations between September and October 2020.
  • United States: 30 percent of respondents anticipate domestic operations restarting in September 2020; another quarter (26 percent) of members foresee a July 2020 start.

“While short-term uncertainty remains, the survey of our tour operator members reveals that the desire among consumers for international travel remains promising, especially looking ahead to 2021,” said Terry Dale, USTOA president and CEO, in a press release statement. “Our Active Members are taking a destination-by-destination approach to resume operations around the globe, with cautious optimism for an anticipated return to business in various regions this fall.” 

Acknowledging the present uncertainty and need to continually assess the situation as recovery unfolds, three fourths (79 percent) of Active Members say their marketing message will change. When asked how marketing messages may change, tour operators cited an emphasis on health and safety most frequently, followed by a focus on the advantages of small group/ship size.

For more information on USTOA, visit ustoa.com.