SANTA MONICA, Calif. — For some, walking into a brick-and-mortar travel agency might seem like a thing of the past.
But for Bahar Schmidt, CEO of Eluxit Travel, opening the doors to her travel agency is like unlocking a door to go anywhere in the world.
“After 9/11, a lot of them closed down,” Schmidt said, adding that airlines started cutting commissions to travel agencies, and that the industry began shifting online with the dot-com boom.
So in 2018, she opened her store to revive the in-person experience.
“To bring the human connection back and to bring back the come and sit in front of a travel advisor and let’s book your trip,” Schmidt said.
According to December data from the U.S. Travel Association, the pandemic has resulted in over $500 billion in cumulative losses for the U.S. Travel economy since the beginning of March. Those who travel are navigating uncertain waters with changing rules on border restrictions, quarantine, and COVID-19 testing.
While this time has brought heavy losses for Schmidt’s business, she anticipates travel advisors will become popular again.
“Yeah, sure, you can do your research online, but are you going to get accurate information that is constantly changing? I don’t think so. I think it’s better if you just pick up the phone and call an advisor and have all of your answers right there,” Schmidt said.
Data also shows that two-thirds of Americans say the current pandemic situation makes them less likely to travel in the first quarter of 2021.
The Nehdar family, however, said they’re ready to jump back into the travel waters, as they’re headed to Mexico for a surfing trip.
“The waves in Sayulita are so much better for me specifically,” said Rina Nehdar. “They’re smaller, longer, the water’s warmer.”
Nehdar and her family are savvy travelers. She is the editor of the digital magazine L.A. Family Travel which helps Southern Californians find and optimize their vacation time.
As she helped her youngest son Knox pack, Nehdar explained they aren’t fearful of taking their first trip outside the country since COVID-19 because they are hyper-aware about staying safe.
“We follow all the rules, so we just want to live our lives, because COVID isn’t going anywhere,” she said.
While they haven’t used a travel advisor for this trip, Rina said she believes the general public would be more apt to utilize that support in light of COVID-19 and its uncertainties.
“Google can’t help you find the things that might be only available to an actual person who has experience in the area who has contacts who can bail you out of a sticky situation,” she said.
And if there’s one silver lining in this pandemic when it comes to traveling, as Nehdar explained, organizations such as hotels are finally taking the responsibility to make everything clean.
“As customers, we just assumed they were like that, but they weren’t, but now they are,” she said.
While the lights in this office have mainly been dark since March, Schmidt keeps the faith that the future will be bright again for the travel industry.
“With the vaccines coming out, hopefully, I know things will look different, and I’m optimistic.”