The Travel Factory partner/manager Russell Berry was with a tour group in the Holy Land last year that was one of the last to fly out of Tel Aviv, Israel, before it was shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We were the last ones to leave, and we got back here and since that time – I mean for a year already and it’ll be more than that for it’s all over – we haven’t done very much business,” Berry said.
He was forced to move operations to an 800-square-foot space on the second floor of the Plaza Park Central office building, 4150 Southwest Drive. Since 1984, the agency had been located in a 2,000-square-foot suite on the building’s first floor.
He also has reduced hours and staffing.
Cruises lines continue to delay operations until May and June, he said. Alaska cruises that originate out of Los Angeles or Seattle have not resumed, in part because foreign-flagged ships cannot transport passengers from one U.S. port to another unless stopping in a foreign port in between. Canada recently extended its ban on cruise ships until February 2022.
Berry recently was notified that an Alaska cruise booked for June was canceled “because they can’t stop in Victoria,” he said.
But, Berry said, he is hopeful that the fourth quarter of 2021 will see a turnaround in business, thanks in part to increased COVID-19 vaccinations and relaxing of guidelines by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In the past three to four weeks, he has been fielding a few more calls from customers inquiring about vacations.
“I just got off the phone with a lady from Odessa. She said, ‘Russell, we’ve got to get out of here. Can you fix us a trip?,'” Berry said.
One positive sign is that resorts in Mexico are offering COVID-19 tests on the grounds for the convenience of customers who must show a negative test within 72 hours before returning to the United States.
By contrast, a couple that booked a May honeymoon to Costa Rico is having to arrange the COVID-19 test away from the resort. Cost is about $150 a test, Berry said.
“I’ve had some people go in the last three or four weeks down to Mexico without a hitch,” Berry said.
Once the turnaround in the travel industry occurs, Berry expects the 18-month pause in cruising to lead to brisk business, he said.
Laura Gutschke is a general assignment reporter and food columnist and manages online content for the Reporter-News. If you appreciate locally driven news, you can support local journalists with a digital subscription to ReporterNews.com.