Forget 2023 – Travel Agents Are Booking for 2024 on Inflation Worries

Skift Take

Travel agents are loudly telling their customers time is of the essence in regards to booking. There’s no telling how expensive travel will become as fuel prices show no signs of falling yet.

Rashaad Jorden

Travel companies have seen a surge in bookings in recent weeks as consumers unable to hit the road for much of the last two years due to the pandemic are making plans to travel this summer in record numbers.

But travelers aren’t just preparing for trips later this year – or even 2023. Travel agents are booking trips for 2024 as consumers worried about rising prices are eager to finalize travel plans before their planned trips become even more expensive.

“I’m telling people if they are planning something at the end of 2023 into 2024, grab it now,” said Sarah Kline, president of Maryland-based agency Time For Travel, which has already booked five destination wedding packages for 2024.

“If (the price) goes down, we can adjust it. If (the trip) goes away or goes up, there’s no going back. “

Joshua Bush, the CEO of Pennsylvania-based Avenue Two Travel, believes the concerns that customers have surging prices are justified, especially regarding airfares and cruises. “(The war in Ukraine) has put a strain on oil prices,” he said. “There (will be) fuel surcharges put on cruise lines and airlines that are tacked on base fares.”

Kline provides another reason why travelers are justified in worrying about rising prices. She said resorts in Mexico and the Caribbean are moving to take advantage of the pent-up for travel to those areas by upping their prices. She’s seen prices for packages she booked last year for people traveling this summer already double and triple.

“We’re just contracting now (for the summer of 2024),” Kline said. “But we’re even noticing if someone checks a price with us and we go back a couple of weeks later when they’re ready to (book), (it’s) already started inching up.”

John Lovell, the president of Internova Travel Group’s Travel Leaders Group, cites another reason aside from suffering further sticker shock as to why travelers are already booking 2024 trips. Consumers, he believes, are prioritizing trips they can make with travel credits extended through end of 2022, which has led them to push back vacations they planned for this year.

“Many trips that were originally planned for 2020 or 2021 are now being taken in 2022, meaning that travel schedules are off,” Lovell said.

But as dozens of travel companies have already released itineraries for 2024 excursions, what challenges do travel agents face in booking trips far in advance of their departure date? While Lovell answered that while companies such as cruise lines and tour operators may not have set itineraries yet, Kline responded that resorts often aren’t ready to accept bookings two years into the future.

“They don’t have the rates loaded. They’re just not prepared to book that far out, ”she said.

Kline provided an example of a booking she made last week for a 2024 stay at a resort which hadn’t unveiled its terms and conditions for that year. Staff at the property told Kline the resort would be using its 2023 terms and moving them over to the following year because, as she said, it just wanted to have business on the books.

Kline acknowledged it’s unusual that travelers are interested in booking travel two years into the future as she stated consumers would typically book a year prior to a trip. But as travel booking patterns have changed in the last two years, she believes that many travelers want the pandemic to be over before committing to a major life event.

“Everyone really wants to have something to look forward to,” Kline said.

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