Post-COVID Offers New Opportunities for Travel Advisors: J.D. O’Hara

In the post-pandemic world, the role of the travel advisor is more important than ever, Internova Travel Group CEO J.D. O’Hara told an audience at ILTM Cannes. Speaking to representatives of popular luxury travel brands, O’Hara also shared the top destinations booked by Internova’s advisors for the coming year, and discussed plans for 2023.

“We know that many people prefer a personal touch when planning their travel,” O’Hara said. “We conducted our own survey last year that showed 79 percent of Americans would rather work with a human being over an online travel agency.”

By working with a human being, consumers say they have access to information that can’t be found online; they can get recommendations on where to go, where to stay and what to do, and they can request upgrades or amenities for their trip.

With over 100,000 travel advisors worldwide, Internova is the largest cruise, vacation and luxury travel seller in North America and the U.K. O’Hara said travel advisors not only provide value to consumers by saving them time and money, but are vital for the health of the travel and tourism sector. As well, consumers who use a travel advisor take leisure trips more frequently and for longer periods of time, spend more on average per night and have a larger overall travel budget. Travel advisors are influencers, using their expertise to plan a trip that’s the right fit for each client, even if the client comes to them with a destination in mind.

Looking ahead to 2023, Italy, France, the U.K., Mexico and Israel are the top destinations booked by travel advisors with Global Travel Collection (GTC), Internova’s luxury leisure and corporate division. Japan, Greece, Spain, the Bahamas and South Africa round out the top 10. “We’re seeing more interest in travel to Europe in general, due to the favorable currency rate,” added O’Hara. “Interest in travel to Mexico is seeing a big shift as the demand for luxury, all-inclusive vacations increases.”

When it comes to cruises, the top destinations for GTC clients in 2023 are Canada, Italy, Greece, Norway and France, followed by Spain, the Netherlands, Malta, Japan and Singapore. Luxury cruising was one of the first cruise segments to rebound post-pandemic, and O’Hara sees strong momentum going into next year. “Luxury travelers want a higher level of service, elevated cuisine and a more sophisticated cruise experience—and are willing to invest in the experience,” he said. Cruise lines are continuing to refine their voyages, from dining choices to pre- and post-cruise travel to immersive itineraries.

In 2023, Internova will continue to ramp up its investment in travel advisors, providing opportunities for marketing and communications, besides new and innovative tools. The company, O'Hara says, will take steps to "reinvent" the luxury travel category in 2023, including enhancing Internova Select Hotels & Resorts, a value-added amenity program consisting of over 1,600 properties. As part its effort to strengthen its commitment to Global Travel Collection, Internova will also launch a quarterly magazine, “Oltre,” which will be distributed to clients of GTC’s 1,500 luxury travel advisors.

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