Late bookings among new travel trends impacting tourism sector

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Tourism Authority CEO Colin James (File photo)
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The global travel industry may be returning to normal levels – but some trends in the sector are changing.

This is according to CEO of the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority (ABTA) Colin James, who said there has been a shift in how people plan their travels.

He noted that the main new trend impacting the twin islands’ economic mainstay is late bookings.

“Before, people would make a vacation or holiday booking like six months out, but now you can be looking at your books and two weeks out it looks low, and then all of a sudden, all the bookings come in,” he said.

“You know why? Because there is always this uncertainty in folks’ minds [that] something is going to happen. ‘Is there going to be another outbreak?’ – and so they book later, but they are booking,” James explained.

His comments are backed up by the fluctuation in bookings that hotels across the country have been experiencing for the upcoming summer season.

James attributed this to the fear that some travellers still have concerning the coronavirus and travelling overseas, along with worldwide increases in the cost of living and fuel prices brought on by the conflict in Eastern Europe.

He offered some suggestions that the ABTA could take on board to alleviate the issue.

“We just have to continue doing what we are doing in raising the awareness of the destination, continue to expound on how easy it is to get here, how safe it is to get here, the fact that you can travel now without any quarantine mechanisms once you are fully vaccinated, and producing a rapid test if you are not, the ease of travel restrictions,” James said.

“The fact that other countries on the outbound side, like UK and Canada, don’t need you to take a test to return has also eased those concerns that persons may have.

“So, I think that we have been progressing along a good path and we have tried and proven certain mechanisms that are working for us,” he added.

Despite the uncertainty and late bookings, James said there appears to be an unprecedented desire to travel during the usually quiet summer months as many persons have been cooped up at home for two years.

“I mean, I am sure that most Antiguans are telling you that their families are coming home for the first time in two years. They haven’t been able to travel [and] it’s a lot safer now … we have high vaccination rates.

“So, you see that surge not just for persons who are coming back home, but those visitors as well who are vacationing.

“We are seeing that pent-up demand and we have been positioning the destination, particularly with our airline partners, to take advantage of that demand so that we can have that strong second half of the year, going into December,” James concluded.

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