'People are feeling more comfortable': London-area travel agencies see a boost

After months of lockdowns and hesitation, a few Londoners are thinking about travel again.

A clear sign of the change is visible in some local travel agencies where agents have returned to their workstations.

Kelly Balderston, a travel agent with Robert Q Travel in London, is back to full-time and recently was joined by another co-worker at her east London satellite office.

“The last 20 months have been a challenge. We’re hoping the worst of it is over, and going into the new year we’ll see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

Balderston says light has already begun to peek through with a sudden mini-rush of travellers looking for an escape.

“People are feeling a lot more comfortable. It’s not to the levels that it should be, but it is starting to rebound.”

COVID-19 has made travel difficult or impossible since March of 2020. But with vaccine rates increasing, a push for affordable sun destinations is on.

This time people are not just looking to escape winter, they are looking to escape the pandemic reality.

“People are now thinking they just need to get south.”

But getting south, or even overseas, comes with some tension.

People are not only worried about catching the virus while away, they are also stressed about the paperwork and testing needed to ensure you don’t face a hassle getting home.

Balderston says the concerns have those who booked travel online themselves in the past, turning to agents.

“When before it was just as easy as booking a plane ticket, right now, it’s a little bit more complex. Every country, even region, has a little bit of different regulations, and it takes us a little bit of time to do the research and make sure that people are prepared when they leave the country.”

But if you are ready, Balderston says pricing has made countries including Mexico and Cuba far more affordable than they usually are during the winter months.

And in Cuba’s case, she says the island nation is providing return PCR tests to Canadians for a low rate of $30 to $35.

All the incentives have boosted her business to about 75 per cent of pre-pandemic levels, but she says not all agents are seeing those results yet.

She hopes that changes soon, but at the same time, she doesn’t want to rush customers. She is particularly hesitant with those who may not have access to proper insurance or health concerns.

“If they seem nervous. Then we really say, ‘Then wait’. Nothing is worse than putting your hard-earned money down on a trip and then worrying about going for the next three months.”

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