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Far and away a good time to travel

By Mercury Staff

Put your feet up and let someone else do the planning. Photo by Richard Van De Water.

Contrary to popular belief, the Internet did not spell doom for the full-service travel agency industry — and in early 2021, travel services are more in demand than ever.

It’s certainly understandable. After a year of lockdowns and restrictions, odds are good that every Mercury reader is yearning to get up and go … but to where? What destinations are welcoming travelers? What are the restrictions upon arrival? And what if one element of the trip is canceled and a cascade of complications follows?

It’s those issues that have eager travelers turning to the services of travel professionals who’ve spend their careers studying and understanding the nuances of the industry — and solving problems for clients in real time.

Hazel Willis, owner of Travel Leaders of Charleston, says the travel bug is definitely back, but the complexities have millions of Americans too frustrated to plan a trip. This has resulted in a spike in inquiries about full-service travel planning.

“Everything is so fluid,” said Hazel. “There’s a confusing maze of guidelines and restrictions, which apply not just internationally but domestically … sometimes within each state and resort. There are testing issues, the possibility of quarantine demands, airline restrictions —not to mention the potential for a sudden cancellation by a travel provider.”

“Studying, understanding and planning around this maze — that’s what my team at Travel Leaders does all day,” added Hazel. “An individual might spend days just trying to make sense of it all. We have the answers and solutions ready right now.”

Hazel reports there’s no shortage of travel options available, and they currently have clients booked and headed on luxury trips to Costa Rica, Hawaii, the Rocky Mountains, the Florida Keys, Disney, the United States Virgin Islands and locations throughout New England. Options for international travel are surprisingly robust and include such destinations as Mexico, Belize, Turkey, Dubai, Egypt and Chile.

“If you have in mind a destination that’s not currently available, connect with a us anyway,” Hazel added. “Full-service travel agencies will be the first to know when things are open and can have you ready to go in advance.”

Although COVID-19 has devastated the travel industry for a full-year, that doesn’t mean all the restaurants, attractions, tours and shops have vanished. Most are still there, and in need of tourism dollars. As a result, crowds at virtually every destination are small, and people working in hospitality are rolling out the red carpet for the visitors that do arrive.

“At this point, we can't guarantee a trip will happen,” remarked Hazel, “but we’re willing to press ahead and do the planning. If some element of a trip gets canceled, we can guide a client around it. If an entire trip gets canceled, we can handle the details … if there’s one thing we know, it’s how to handle travel vendors who might be less than enthusiastic about returning 100 percent of a client’s money.”

So there you have it, readers with wanderlust. If spending another year being told to wear ever-increasing numbers of masks sounds less than palatable, perhaps it’s time to pack your bags and reengage with life — it’s a big world out there, and everyone’s hoping you’ll visit.



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