New Research Reveals the Impact of COVID on Frontline Travel Agents and Booking Trends to the PATA Region

With unique, unprecedented access to frontline staff a new study by award-winning training provider Travel Uni, was carried out during March in the first of a regular series of ‘Frontline Findings’ surveys.

The Asia Pacific region is performing particularly well under the circumstances, as the most requested long-haul holiday region according to the new research. Travel agents were asked for their ‘top four most requested regions’ and the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) was interested to understand the breakdown of popularity by destination. This revealed the Indian Ocean and Africa (30%) to be the most enquired about in the region, with South East Asia (23%) followed Australia and New Zealand (21%) then the Indian subcontinent (8%), China, Japan & Korea (8%).

Not surprisingly the UK staycation and European markets lead overall, whilst other long-haul destinations highlighted include, the Caribbean (54%), and the Middle East (26%) and North America (39%).

A third of those surveyed expect ‘international travel to pick up significantly’ from Q4 of 2021 this year and similar numbers for this to occur in Q1 of next year, showing the impact of current travel restrictions easing as the summer progresses.

Designed to provide important insights into how frontline travel staff are impacted by the epidemic and how the industry is adapting as travel gradually returns this year, a total of nearly 400 UK travel agents responded to the survey.

Key workplace findings revealed that 70% of travel agents were working from home due to COVID, 49% were working reduced hours and 14% were job searching with 37% still furloughed overall.

PATA’s Training Spokesperson Ian Dockreay said: “There has been much speculation about the impact on the industry in the last year and how travel will resume but research like this is based on fact, from frontline staff themselves. Insights like these are of great interest to our members as it helps shape training, sales and marketing plans and give reassurance that their destinations are in demand”.

The survey also highlighted the vital role travel agents play in booking holidays. Ranking client needs in order of importance, ‘reassurance’, ‘advice’ and ‘knowledge’ came ahead of ‘price’ and ‘availability’ as the key benefits customers seek in using an agent to book their travel. “this result clearly shows how much the public need travel agents’ expertise to guide them in their options and choices and with this in mind training remains a core focus for PATA to help develop regional experts,” added Dockreay.

On the subject of travel trade training, the survey showed that 91% of agents rated training as ‘very important’ in their ability to do their job well. Almost half (45%) of agents spend 1-3 hours a week and over a quarter (26%) 3 or more hours per week training online to ‘improve their knowledge’. E-Learning continues to dominate as the method most preferred for training with webinars becoming more popular recently as well, due to lockdown.

Access to this data from the study reassures us as an organisation that our trade engagement strategy compliments the trades needs and delivers worthwhile events and training. PATA hosts over 30 different training events throughout the UK and Ireland annually and the number of events has increased substantially over the past five years in response to demand and this is set to continue with even more planned and most excitingly the return of live events later this year.” said Matt McCausland, Account Director – PATA UK & Ireland.