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Travel cheaply?  Not so fast

Susan Wolfson

Want to get a great deal on travel? Assuming the travel industry has been devastated by the coronavirus, you’d think there would be loads of deals available, right? Not so fast.

 

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Photo courtesy of AmaWaterways

River cruises as a case in point

Let’s look at river cruises as a case study. So all river cruises have been shut down for most of 2020. There are a few European lines (ex: Arosa) that will start again this summer, carrying German passengers within Germany. Maybe the big US based lines like AmaWaterways and Viking will start again in late summer or Fall. Maybe.

The fact is most Americans will either be unable to or opt out of flying to Europe this year to take a river cruise. Some customers are over 60 and therefore especially at risk of Coronavirus. Many don’t want to expose themselves in airports and airplanes for social distancing concerns. Travel restrictions may still be in force in many countries. And many customers are concerned there will be another coronavirus wave in either (or both) Europe and America in the Fall of 2020.

2022 bookings

Most of our customers scheduled to travel in 2020 have rebooked for either 2021 or 2022 (or both). Most cruise lines offer incentives for their booked customers to rebook, rather than cancel. For example, AmaWaterways offers a 115% future cruise credit if you rebook. So that means that while 2020 cruises will be either non-existent or empty, 2021 and 2022 cruises are booking up much faster than normal.

And even though the river cruise industry has grown quite a bit over the past years, there’s still a very finite number of ships and cabins. Inventory is essentially fixed. So with a fixed number of cabins to sell and much of 2020 bookings reassigned to 2021 and 2022, ships are getting booked up especially early. Plus, we really don’t know the full impact of coronavirus. Will the ships sail at lower capacity to accommodate social distancing at meals (for example)?

Can you get a great deal?

So with river cruise ships booking up early, it’s no wonder there aren’t loads of great deals available. Lots of demand (pent up from a lack of sailing in 2020) coupled with limited inventory means there’s no need for the river cruise lines to drop their prices.

That doesn’t mean there won’t be spot opportunities of course. There will always be special circumstances. Certain sailings might not be selling well. Perhaps a large group unexpectedly drops out and a specific sailing needs to be filled. These are examples that happen all the time, even in normal times.

Other cases, other conclusions

Here we looked at just river cruise lines. The situation is different for ocean cruise and even group land tours. Ocean cruise inventory has rapidly ramped up in recent years and of course the images of the virus on the large Carnival owned ocean cruise ships is indelible. So demand might be soft for awhile while inventory is available.

Next steps toward a great deal

Working with a great travel agent is a first step towards finding a great deal for yourself and travel companions. River cruises might not have bottom of the barrel pricing, but you can be sure there will be sufficient competition to ensure good pricing.

We get notified of specials all the time. But just as importantly, we can check inventory to make sure you get the cabin and cruise of your choice. Plus we can make sure you make the right choices on insurance and travel protection.

 


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