During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the travel industry came to a near standstill. Those of us who longed for adventures outside of our four walls did what we could online—taking virtual tours of faraway lands and tourist attractions—but nothing could truly replace the adventure that comes from exploring new places.
Now, halfway into 2021, the travel industry is steadily bouncing back as vaccines become more easily accessible and restrictions lift. Recent statistics from the American Hotel & Lodging Association show that 56% of Americans are expected to travel for leisure this year—including family events and vacations they likely put on hold.
Debra Levin is an experienced travel agent who has been in the industry for more than 30 years. As the owner of Travel House, a boutique agency that specializes in luxury travel, she is one busy travel advisor.
“The demand for the travel agency services increased dramatically,” she says. “It went from practically zero inquiries to an overwhelming amount of new business.”
Levin explains that the Travel House is a full-service travel agency specializing in leisure travel (cruises, tours, and independent resort vacations), business travel, and group travel.
“Our agency is a member of Signature Travel Network, the oldest and most prestigious travel cooperative in America with sales in excess of over seven billion dollars,” she says. “With this exceptional buying power we are able to offer customers the most competitive pricing in the marketplace.”
Her agency does everything when it comes to planning its clients’ travel itineraries.
“We plan every detail,” she says. “This can include international airlines and cruise details, private tours, guides, and luxury accommodations.”
Like many businesses in the travel and hospitality sectors, in 2020, Travel House saw a decline in the demand for its services.
“One day it was business as normal, and the next, it was not,” Levin says about the pandemic’s impact.
Reflecting on the sudden boom in business, Levin suggests that those who want to travel—especially internationally or on cruise ships—should book sooner rather than later.
“All types of travel experiences are filling up quickly,” she says. “There’s obviously a pent-up desire for travel.”
Levin not only helps others realize their travel dreams, but she has traveled extensively herself—she’s jet set to every continent except Antarctica, which she hopes to eventually visit.
Her own travel plans and those of her clients depend on vaccines and mitigation efforts for COVID-19.
“Travelers will need to get vaccinated to make travel possible,” she says.
Moving into this busy, unprecedented time in the industry, she predicts that cruise business will bounce back and grow in popularity in this post-restrictions world. Levin says that if someone wants to go on a cruise in 2022 or 2023, now is the time to book.
“Cruise ships are great because they are all-inclusive and can have something for everyone,” Levin adds. “For those who are hesitant to travel on them, most major cruise lines require proof of vaccination for anyone to board.”
In addition to cruise liners, many luxury resorts are opening back up and are in high demand. Many require vaccines and/or have COVID-19 testing available on-site. All-inclusive resorts in Mexico have become very popular choices among families and groups.
Despite a rough 2020, Travel House is emerging stronger and busier than ever.
“I’ve been in this business over 30 years; it’s all about building relationships, excellent customer service, and the value you bring,” Levin says. “If you treat people well and run an agency that is ethical and fair, your clients will refer you to others and you’ll build a loyal base—one that is ready to travel after being home for a year!”
Those who are still nervous about traveling will relax as more and more people become vaccinated.
“To be able to enjoy your trip, you need to be comfortable traveling with others again,” she says.
When you ask Levin what some of the best places to travel to are, she answers with a laugh, and refuses to pinpoint one destination.
“They [places she’s traveled] are all amazing. Your destination should depend on your interests,” she says. “Travel is exciting and an amazing experience. There's something for everybody.”
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