How a travel agency is bouncing back from a devastating year
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Travel agents are seeing more business as restless people planning long-awaited vacations look for help navigating changing pandemic restrictions.
More than 1.7 million passengers went through Transportation Security Administration checkpoints on Tuesday, compared to about half a million at this time in 2020.
Sarah Fazendin owns Videre Travel, a travel agency based in Denver. At the height of the pandemic shutdown in March 2020, Fazendin said she lost a lot of her business as clients began changing their travel plans.
“When it became crystal clear that the world was shutting down, then it was really, really horrible,” Fazendin said. “We were dealing with canceling trips for the summer of 2020 into the fall, lots of rebooking, lots of travel insurance claims and working to get vouchers.”
While lack of business hurt cash flow was stymied from a lack of business, Fazendin said the company was also bleeding money from other expenses.
“It was particularly painful,” Fazendin said. “In many cases, we were giving clients back commissions that had already been paid, so going into the red on that front.”
In the first half of 2021, Fazendin said she noticed interest in travel slowly returning as the vaccine rollout picked up and pandemic restrictions started to loosen across the United States.
“About, I’d say, probably in May, things really started to explode,” Fazendin said. “It’s bananas, it’s been busy. It’s just a wonderful thing.”
Not only is she seeing more customers, but Fazendin said the amount her clients are willing to spend now on a vacation has also increased compared to 2020.
“People are maybe spending an extra couple of days, they’re traveling a bit further, they’re adding on experiences that maybe they wouldn’t have before,” Fazendin said. “As a travel company, we do have fees that we charge in addition to commissions, so when people are spending more, that definitely makes the trip more profitable for us, for sure.”
The pandemic has added an element of uncertainty that she said is contributing to the spike in business.
“For a family traveling to Italy, for example, if children are unvaccinated, that means that they have to have a COVID test every 48 hours to go into museums or eat indoors at restaurants, and that is something that the team on the ground is coordinating,” Fazendin said. “So there’s definitely this bigger picture, ‘I’m investing a lot in travel, and I want to make sure that we’re working with people who really know what they’re doing.’”
Fazendin said she’s keeping an eye on the delta variant and how that could affect travel demand, but she’s optimistic her business will make it through.
“It’s potentially putting us into a situation that reminds us a little bit of 2020,” Fazendin said. “We can’t predict the future, but we’ve made it this far, so I feel good about what’s to come.”
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