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Where to next? FCTG Independent travel advisor predictions for 2022

While the pandemic has created so much uncertainty for us all, one thing is certain – whether we realise it or not, travel in a post-pandemic world has changed for good. Allie Sparr from Flight Centre Travel Group Independent explains why and the main themes to look out for in 2022.

While the pandemic has created so much uncertainty for us all, one thing is certain – whether we realise it or not, travel in a post-pandemic world has changed for good. Allie Sparr from Flight Centre Travel Group Independent explains why and the main themes to look out for in 2022.

It’s clear that many Australians are ready to book travel as soon as borders open, but the future of travel and what motivates us may look quite different in this “post-COVID” travel world.

We reached out to a number of travel advisors across our Australian brands: Travel Partners, Travel Associates at Home and Flight Centre Independent to collect their insights.

While responding agents are varied in their specialisations and customer base, it all came down to five main themes.

Here’s what Australian travellers are looking for as we begin to venture overseas again from mid-November 2021.

1. Ticking off the Bucket List

Walt Disney World 50th Annivesary
Image: Walt Disney

Jetting off at a moment’s notice, going overseas every year, and popping over to Bali or New Zealand for the weekend are all things many Australians previously took for granted.

We’ve had a lot of time to reflect on our values and review that bucket list over the last 18 months. We’ve also realised that the ability to move about freely can be taken away from us.

As a result, several of our expert consultants told us they are seeing a high demand for bucket list experiences. The focus for many Australians is shifting from cheap flights and quick getaways to once in a lifetime experiences.

Here’s what they said:

“I strongly believe more of my clients will be more daring and venture to more expedition style of travel. As a recent Virtuoso article said, ‘a travellers bucket list is now their to-do list.'” Amanda Reed, Travel Associates at Home

“Bucket List trips will be ticked off, and that one hotel you always wanted to stay at or that destination you wanted to visit will happen because – we may only have one opportunity. Think Nepal, Antarctica, Disneyland, Gorilla Trek, Africa and The Northern Lights.

“Premium cabins will be another bucket list thing that many will want to try. This time around, price will not be the decider – experience will.” Matthew Coyle, Melbourne Travel Project (Travel Partners)

“Many clients will have been reviewing their buckets lists over the past two years, with destinations such as Antarctica inching towards the top. I will think we will see them prioritise these to ensure they can tick them off.” – Anna Lowe, Anna Lowe Travel (Travel Partners)

2. Flexibility

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Takeoff_Sunset

What happens if you’ve got a trip planned somewhere and the border closes just days before you are scheduled to arrive?

Our world of travel will be in flux for a while, and though we can do our best to prepare, we’ve all learned to expect the unexpected these days.

As a result of COVID-19, the travel industry, in general, has had to learn to be highly flexible. This trend is set to stay put as travellers require the peace of mind that they won’t be out of pocket if a situation arises.

“Travel is undoubtedly more complicated now, and we are fielding lots of questions around vaccination passports, PCR tests and quarantine requirements, so more than ever, we see people wanting guidance on how best to book. Flexibility is essential, and fortunately, many airlines are still offering flexible booking conditions. “Jane Dolahenty and Russell Pierce, Travel Partners Ocean Shores

“Clients will also be looking for flexibility like never before, and agents will be critical in assisting them through the minefield of terms and conditions in the new travel world.” Anna Lowe, Anna Lowe Travel (Travel Partners)

3. Connection

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It’s a fact that almost 1/3 of the Australian population was born overseas.*

Add to that people living in Australia with grandparents, cousins, close friends and other loved ones abroad, and it’s no surprise that our desire to visit those people and reconnect face-to-face is fierce.

Much of our population has spent a substantial portion of the last 18 months in and out of lockdowns, separated from those we love most – even when they’re in Australia. As international and state borders reopen, Australians will be making up for lost time and prioritising trips to visit family and friends.

“Travel is certainly bouncing back fast with a huge surge in confidence in travellers looking to get away in 2022. Our first wave of enquiries has come from residents of NSW wanting to travel to the UK, South America, Canada and the USA to catch up with relatives after an 18-month hiatus finally.”Jane Dolahenty and Russell Pierce, Travel Partners Ocean Shores

“There has been a huge interest in Christmas to visit family and friends we haven’t seen for some time. Most of that traffic is going to the US and UK.” Melanie Clout, Clout Travel (Travel Partners)

Many professionals experiencing zoom fatigue will also be pleased to know that businesses are increasing travel, acknowledging that virtual meetings do not have the same impact on long-term professional relationships.

“Many businesses will look to reconnect with their teams around Australia and prioritise international travel. The role of a corporate travel specialist has been integral for companies to steer their way through the pandemic, the constantly changing travel restrictions and domestic flight cancellations.” Anna Lowe, Anna Lowe Travel (Travel Partners)

4. Having the support of a travel professional

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While travel is returning imminently, and destinations are opening to Australian travellers without quarantine requirements every few days, we know that the way we explore is different now.

Having a trusted, experienced travel advisor will be essential for travellers to ensure that they are informed, prepared and protected.

Across FCTG Independent, all our consultants are equipped with tools to give them live updates relating to testing and quarantine requirements, border restrictions, vaccination requirements, and more.

These agents can also help customers secure flexible accommodation and flights and guide them through various travel insurance options to ensure they are covered for COVID-19 related interruptions – something not all travel insurance will include.

“Speaking to a number of my clients, I’m aware that the key concern is to feel safe with whatever arrangements are made.

“Clients want to be sure they have the proper knowledge about vaccination status when they fly internationally, and how to avoid lengthy quarantines (as do the other passengers) and that safety protocols are in place by the tour companies, cruise lines and hotels to give them peace of mind to venture forth once again.

“We all acknowledge that things will be different – be it reduced capacities, testing requirements, etc. but [travellers] are prepared for the change to have the freedom of movement yet again.

Clarity around cancellations or changes is still vital and knowing what coverage they will get from insurance. Placing their trust in [travel consultants] has never been more important to navigate the new normal.” Samantha Baohm, Flight Centre Independent

“I think the role of a travel specialist will be critical to assist clients in navigating the inevitable hurdles and long checklists that international travel will involve. Agents who have genuinely put their clients first throughout the pandemic will have proven their worth, knowledge and expertise.

Clients will also be looking for flexibility like never before, and agents will be critical in assisting them through the minefield of terms and conditions in the new travel world.” Anna Lowe, Anna Lowe Travel (Travel Partners)

5. Sustainable travel

G Adventures, Peru

The last theme we noticed in our feedback from consultants is something that was on the rise before COVID but has undoubtedly gained momentum, and that is sustainable travel.

Whether that involves choosing carbon-neutral providers, booking small group tours that support the communities they operate or opting for luxury resorts with solid and sustainable initiatives – the desire to leave no trace is growing.

“One thing Covid seems to have enhanced is a need to connect with people and nature, and we see demand increasing for leisure travellers wanting to travel in conscious, sustainable ways: People want to see less and experience more.

“With many cities and indeed countries, reluctant to return to the madness of mass travel and the impact on local life, we are so pleased to see many travel companies aligning to small groups, low footprint, culturally rich travel experiences.

“We have always encouraged personal, curated travel journeys that connect people with people, nature and culture, and we think this will be the future of international travel.” Jane Dolahenty and Russell Pierce, Travel Partners Ocean Shores

“Barefoot Luxury and Sustainable Lux will be very hot concepts, and these are found hidden in some amazing locations around the world. Where? Come to see me, and I can tell you.” Matthew Coyle, Melbourne Travel Project (Travel Partners)

While it may look different than it did in 2019, there are still many enriching experiences to be had in diverse locations across the globe.

We’re proud to have a strong and growing network of such committed, reliable agents to help Australians navigate the world as we begin to explore again.

FCTG Independent is a collection of over 300 highly experienced travel consultants and entrepreneurs across Australia. Collectively, our knowledge and expertise cover just about every travel experience and specialisation you can imagine.

*Source: abs.gov.au