Back in the “olden days,” planning a family vacation was a complicated undertaking, involving numerous phone calls to airlines and hotels to comparison shop about availability and cost. Booking extra excursions and reservations at local restaurants beforehand were all but impossible. Everyone had “their” travel agent who took care of everything and was often the difference between a fantasy voyage and a bad Chevy Chase movie.
The internet made these middlemen virtually obsolete (pun intended), as most travelers were able to book their flights and resorts online in a matter of minutes; eateries, and their customer reviews, were also a click away. Even online travel giants such as Expedia were not safe; in fact, this 2019 Forbes article served as a warning that Google, with its “Flights” tool, was nipping at their heels.
Enter Covid, the ultimate disruptor. The pandemic that has crushed so many industries has proven to be a savior to concierge travel. Travel advisors, as they are now called, have once again become highly sought after for their ability to help travelers stay safe while indulging their wanderlust.
Nowhere is the uncertainty of Covid more evident than with regard to travel, both within the US and internationally. Most states currently have no official restrictions on interstate travel, however, several have nuanced rules travelers must be aware of. Illinois, for example, has no restrictions…unless you are going to Chicago. And if you’re headed to Vermont and have not been fully vaccinated you must be tested for Covid within three days of arrival. Things get infinitely more complex (and scarier) when venturing outside the country. There are new advisories issued almost daily from the US State Department – not to mention the dangers of getting sick thousands of miles from home. The ideal travel advisor will keep abreast of this fluid situation and steer clients toward states and/or countries that are lower risk, or at least more compliant with preventative measures.
Vetting resorts is just as critical. The last thing anyone wants is to arrive at their location and see people partying like it’s 2019. Of course, every resort’s website will list all the things they are allegedly doing to prevent the spread of Covid, but only an industry insider will be able to get the real story. In fact, some travel advisors are only recommending resorts they visited during the pandemic to make mask and social distancing rules were strictly adhered to by guests and staff.
And let’s not forget the rules imposed by other nations. Currently, one hundred and twenty-two countries – including all of Europe, Australia and most of Asia – are “partially open,” meaning entrance depends on where travelers are coming from and other individual criteria. Travel advisors keep their clients informed of last-minute changes and, if necessary, change or cancel the trip. Travelers must also show negative test results, which is where concierge testing services comes in. Concierge medicine has exploded during the pandemic, with providers coming to clients’ homes to administer the test. Results are available within hours.
Modes of transportation have also shifted, most notably with respect to air travel. Planes are flying petri dishes even in the best of times, as reported in this 2019 The Wall Street Journal, so it’s no surprise that during Covid the private jet business is booming. Pre-pandemic, many people who could afford to charter a jet thought it an unnecessary luxury; now, many travel advisors are incorporating it into their list of offerings. It’s safe to say that travel won’t be completely, well, safe for some time to come. There are just too many variables, from the differences in the ways local, state and international governments are handling the pandemic to individuals within those areas who choose not to take precautions. Travelers still won’t be able to completely let their guard down, but with these professionals guiding them they will at least be able to experience a bit of normalcy for a while.