Hospitality & Tourism  January 10, 2022

Flexibility key to winter vacations this year

Winter vacations are supposed to offer a time to relax, both for the trip takers and the travel agents who booked them. 

Just a couple of weeks ago, before the super spreading Omicron variant of the coronavirus (or “COVID-19 III: This Time It’s Catching,” if you prefer) swept across the world, Nicole Anderson of New Horizons Travel in Fort Collins was enjoying the downtime. 

“Everyone is traveling already,” Anderson said in mid-December. “They’ve already booked, and they’re on their jets now.” 

Surprise! As of Dec. 27, not only was COVID-19 making things more difficult because of the especially contagious nature of Omicron — family members were getting it, for instance — it was canceling thousands of flights because airlines didn’t have the people to operate them. 

Then again, the canceled flights didn’t appear to be greatly affecting the Colorado region and where most clients were traveling, Anderson said. And travelers have been under the shadow of the virus since March 2020. 

“The only thing that Omicron is affecting for us is just keeping up with the ever-changing regulations and restrictions,” she said.

Given that, Anderson was only a “little” insane at the end of December, but that’s the travel business, she said with a laugh. 

Regardless, even in early December, COVID-19 WAS affecting winter travel this year in all ways, whether that meant travel plans being cancelled or changed or where people were hoping to go for trips. 

Most people want to go someplace warm for winter, Anderson said, and that didn’t change this year either, although where they went depended on the virus. The countries that displayed the least restrictions were the more popular bookings. Those included Mexico, the Caribbean Islands and the Dominican Republic. 

“The places closer to home are better,” Anderson said of South America. “They rely so heavily on tourism that they try to be as accommodating as they can.” 

Travelers also booked more domestic vacations as well, since that meant a virtual guarantee they would be allowed to go back home. Florida, Hawaii and Texas were popular places because of beaches and amusement parks, as well as California, which had strict regulations but also has Disneyland. 

“Just about every client asks about restrictions now,” Anderson said. “Hawaii was super popular because you won’t have as many restrictions because it’s domestic, and yet it still has that foreign feel.” 

Europe tended to be popular in past winters, but COVID-19 restrictions or even closings thwarted those plans. 

Just last week, J. Skyler McKinley, the regional director for public affairs for Colorado AAA, anticipated a surge of Omicron and said people still wanted to travel. Flights were up 185% over last year nationwide.

“This year it has returned in many ways to normalcy,” he said. “We aren’t seeing those huge cancellations. Now it’s up to traveler discretion.” 

That is, as long as the airlines can operate. Orlando, he said, was number one in travel destinations for AAA bookings for those who flew, a trend Colorado tends to mirror pretty closely, and Anaheim was number two. Vegas was third, New York was fourth and Honolulu was fifth. 

“They are all going to warm weather places if they aren’t seeing family and flying,” McKinley said. “People are driving up to Vail or Aspen.” 

Even before Omicron was canceling flights, both said travelers needed to remain flexible this winter. 

“If you make plans, you can keep them,” McKinley said, “but everything WILL change with restrictions, so make sure you do homework.” 

Anderson said travelers should be experienced at changing plans at this point. 

“That’s not even really something new at this point,” Anderson said. “It’s something we can help out with and try to keep up on, but in the end it’s still the client’s responsibility to also keep up with the regulations.” 

Winter vacations are supposed to offer a time to relax, both for the trip takers and the travel agents who booked them. 

Just a couple of weeks ago, before the super spreading Omicron variant of the coronavirus (or “COVID-19 III: This Time It’s Catching,” if you prefer) swept across the world, Nicole Anderson of New Horizons Travel in Fort Collins was enjoying the downtime. 

“Everyone is traveling already,” Anderson said in mid-December. “They’ve already booked, and they’re on their jets now.” 

Surprise! As of Dec. 27, not only was COVID-19 making things more difficult because of the especially contagious nature of Omicron —…

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