Travel Advisors React to Impact of Delta Variant on Small Businesses

A new study found that small businesses closures and bookings in the travel and hospitality industries are down compared to other sectors.

According to Facebook’s 2021 Global State of Small Business Report, closure rates in July 2021 for the small businesses in the hospitality and wholesale and retail industries were at or below the global average, totaling 15 percent and 17 percent, respectively.

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The survey also found that most small businesses in the travel retail and hospitality sectors reported lower sales (an estimated 52 percent), contrasting with the downward trend seen in aggregate closure rates.

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Epperly Travel CEO Lindsey Epperly said that despite the downturn associated with the coronavirus pandemic and the Delta variant in particular, optimism is growing thanks to a positive overall summer travel season.

“There’s always this overhanging fear that we could repeat 2020. The message I shared with the team was one of optimism based on the recent events we’ve seen,” Epperly said. “Thanks to the true realization of pent-up demand that we experienced during the 2021 summer season, we received an amazing glimpse into what it means to do what we love.”

“It was a reminder of how passionate we are about helping people create memories,” Epperly continued. “And even when the world seems to be on shaky ground, we have the knowledge that each day gets us closer to the other side of this – and that we have already survived much, much worse.”

Travel by John’s John Maddox also spoke about the impact of COVID-19 on his bookings in 2021 and beyond.

“While I remain cautiously optimistic for the return of travel, the rise of the Delta variant has certainly put a dent in my overall bookings,” Maddox said. “While bookings are strong for 2022, I am finding that people are thinking longer before deciding to book.”

“I book a lot of cruises and cruisers are very concerned about vaccine requirements,” Maddox continued. “That seems to be one of the biggest barriers to booking travel right now.”

Small businesses in the hospitality and transport sectors were also the most likely to report reduced employment due to the pandemic, totaling 52 percent and 42 percent, respectively.

Last month, a study from the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) found that the rising number of COVID-19 cases associated with the Delta variant has caused business travelers to plan fewer trips.

“The ongoing pandemic cost my travel agency over $1 million in commissionable volume over a 15-month period, which does not count the hundreds of thousands of dollars of cancellations where suppliers like the cruise lines protected commission,” Fantastic Endeavors’ David W. Hartman said.

“Demand picked up slightly in 2021 but the lost volume is irreplaceable because most of my clients rebooked for 2021 and 2022 and are not adding more vacations,” Hartman continued. “Plus, the spread of the Delta variant stymied the positive trend in new sales. I expect a return to normal sales trends in Spring 2022 and ideally an end to the ongoing trend of pandemic cancellations and rescheduling of client vacations and events.”

The latest surge in COVID-19 cases has also caused investors to pull away from cruise lines, airlines and other travel-related stocks, as consumers are slowing their spending, according to The Associated Press.

“During COVID and even now, I get lots of calls about cruising, yet many of my clients are strongly anti-vax,” Scott Lara of TheCruiseGenius.com. “I’ve been telling them about my travels over the past 15 months to the Palladium Hotel Group resorts in Mexico, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic.”

“I’ve booked a wedding and over 100 rooms during COVID and I continue to see huge interest in all-inclusive resorts,” Lara continued. “I feel that when COVID subsides, cruising will resume full force. I’m strongly optimistic about the future of travel.”