The pandemic-era trend toward booking closer together is one that many travel advisors and suppliers wish didn’t persist as long as it did.
And while some companies are still seeing strong last-minute demand and are even increasing capacity to meet it, many say the booking curve is finally rebounding to historic levels.
G Adventures said travelers are booking farther out, with more bookings about five months before departure, almost matching the six-month lead time the company typically saw before the pandemic.
EF Go-Ahead Tours is also seeing its reservation window lengthen. “Bookings two to four months in advance of departures through May are up 23% from last year and 7% from 2019,” said Jessica Trammell, vice president of marketing at EF Go Ahead Towers.
An EF Go Ahead Tours group visiting the beaches of Normandy. Photo credit: EF Go Ahead Tours
ColletteThe plane’s booking curve has returned to pre-pandemic levels more than 200 days before departure, said Jeff Roy, the company’s executive vice president of revenue management.
“Our booking activity has returned to historically normal patterns,” he said, adding that because most departures are with some remaining availability, we can accommodate close-in bookings when travelers are flexible on their dates.
Respond to last minute requests
Intrepid journey is one of the travel providers that not only still sees a large number of last-minute bookings, but is trying to accommodate them, sometimes with great difficulty.
“This is a very hot topic for us right now,” said Matt Berna, Intrepid’s president and general manager for the Americas. “Our European team is inundated with late requests, which require a lot of manual work.”
At the end of May, Intrepid added more than 300 new departures to its most sought-after destinations around the world, citing data showing that 85% of Americans intend to travel this summer. These “high-capacity destinations,” which include Italy, Greece, Portugal, Iceland, Morocco and Japan, are places where Intrepid said supply has not caught up with exceptional demand for summer 2023 trips.
To accommodate the additional departures, Intrepid said it is working to ensure there are enough hotel rooms, staff and tour guides available to properly execute the trips.
“We have staff in our DMCs in these key countries working around the clock to reach out to hoteliers and staff to open up more capacity,” Berna said. “We also contacted our hoteliers to see if we could extend our allocations closer to departure, so that we could hold last-minute rooms up to two weeks before departure.”
Even though G Adventures’ booking curve returns to pre-pandemic levels, demand remains close. A page on its website is dedicated to last-minute trips and travel deals departing within the next 60 days, and as of July 5, it had 151 tours. The page is “very popular,” said Steve Lima, the company’s vice president of growth for the U.S. and Latin America, “and one that many agents and clients view daily.”
Unimonde said its booking curve has not returned to normal and that there has been increased demand for cruises in the 90 days prior to departure compared to historical norms.
The river cruise line is offering up to $3,000 in savings to customers who bundle cruise and flight on almost all 2023 itineraries for trips booked before July 31, CEO Ellen Bettridge said, “is perfect for travelers who are looking to make last-minute savings on travel. for this year.”
Lower satisfaction for last minute bookings
Although some companies cater to last-minute bookings, the shorter booking curve has a downside for both advisors and their clients.
“We still have a fair number of people who think they can get to Europe in four weeks on a regular budget and ask ‘avoid the crowds,’ which is almost impossible,” said Angela Hughes, owner of Travel and ships Luxury travel in Winter Garden, Florida.
Lack of availability, from staff to accommodation, and higher prices, such as for airfare, are some of the main challenges Hughes said she faces when trying to respond to requests. last minute travel requests.
There is also a higher rate of customer disappointment, she said, for those who are willing to spend the most on a last-minute trip but find their efforts in vain when logistical hurdles like staffing fail. cannot be overcome.
“Even at the high end, we don’t have private drivers or tour guides available,” Hughes said. “The job market has not returned and we have fewer drivers and guides to choose from.”
Uniworld says its booking curve has not returned to normal. The demand for river cruises departing within 90 days is enormous. Photo credit: Jeri Clausing
Suppliers say securing additional stock and adequate staffing levels to facilitate more visits this summer has helped ease the burdens typically associated with last-minute bookings.
But suppliers and advisors are also trying to reduce some of that demand during peak periods by promoting low-season travel.
“Stifling airfares and expected crowds around Italy’s summer rush are causing travelers to rethink their trips for this summer season and consider the shoulder season in September and beyond,” said Melissa Da Silva, president of Trafalgar , North America.
“Already, October reservations are up 22% for Trafalgar European Tours“, she added. “And with mild weather, fewer crowds, better prices and the same delicious coffees and family cooking classes – it’s definitely the decision to get the full experience.”