Sunday Morning Coffee — January 31, 2021 — Find Suitcase. Will Travel?

January 31, 2021 Travel, Uncategorized 12 Comments

Do you even remember where you stashed your suitcases? No doubt they’re somewhere in that utility closet where, over the last 11 months, more and more junk has accumulated while the Tumi and Samsonite sets move further and further toward the back like a Ted Cruz run for the White House.

Dee Dee Rubin and Fran Fishman hope you can find that luggage. They’re ready to go back to work. Both ladies are travel agents: a combined 70 years in the business and among the industry’s premier. Rubin is with Frosch Travel and Fishman with Protravel. They’ve been busy the past year. But it’s the wrong kind of busy.

Travel, a multi-trillion-dollar industry has been leveled by Covid. According to Virtuoso Life magazine, globally it’s estimated that 197 million of the 330 million travel and tourism related jobs were lost in 2020. In 2019, 10% of the workforce worldwide was in a travel-related field.

So, how soon are you ready to help jumpstart the industry and get back on the road? Will two shots in the arm be the catalyst to resume the life we enjoyed a year ago?


Fran Fishman (l); Dee Dee Rubin (r)

“This past year has been my most challenging year as an agent,” Chicago based Rubin lamented. Fishman, just north of New York City in Westchester, agreed. “By far the most unique,” she said. “Business, other than cancellations, was basically non-existent.”

Travel, literally flying high last February and shot down in March, came to a grinding halt with the pandemic. Itineraries were scrapped, airplanes put in storage, boats docked, mothballing the industry with no promises it would ever see the good times again. Or at least for a long, long while.

Rubin and Fishman deal in high end luxury travel and both hope the vaccination will instill enough confidence in their customers’ return to the air and sea.

“Every trip I booked from last March 15 forward was canceled,” Rubin said. “I would say maybe 20-25% have rebooked. Those who had an option for a full refund chose to take it while others have a credit but they are just not ready to use it. The travel requests I’m getting for this year are more domestic than anything else, but I think we’ll see some last-minute international bookings in the fall if things get better. Right now, it looks like heavy interest for 2022, so fingers crossed that this will be behind us by then.”

Fishman also had all of her clients cancel but she too is confident things will return.

“The first thing we’ll see is domestic trips and the Caribbean,” she said. “Cruises and Europe may take until 2022, but lately I’m sensing that this fall may be red hot, also. As soon as people get vaccinated they will be raring to go.

“My clients are bursting to travel almost anywhere,” Fishman added and laughed, “me too!”

Most experts agree that domestic travel will jumpstart the industry perhaps as early as this fall. We’ll see an increase in personal getaways and the resumption of some business travel domestically.

Joe Brancatelli has spent his career as a travel writer, mainly on the business side, and now is a nationally recognized resource for trends.

“I think we’ll see small business and individual corporate business travel trickle back in the second quarter of the year and pick up steam in the second half as long as the vaccine rollout improves,” he said.

However, Brancatelli is cautious long term. “We won’t see big conventions and meetings return until 2022 because of how long it takes to organize these events,” the editor and publisher of the popular weekly newsletter/blog said. “I think there will be a cascade. Generally, 2021 will still be bad for business travel; 2022 will be much better. In 2023 we’ll begin to see how much business travel never returns because the boss will say, ‘No reason to take that trip, do the Zoom.’ And of course, all of this depends on the economy staying healthy and not cratering.”

While Frosch’s Rubin and Protravel’s Fishman make a living booking trips and Brancatelli counsels business travelers, Geoffrey Weill represents the destinations. Weill is founder and president of Geoffrey Weill Associates, a leading New York City high-end leisure public relations firm. He is confident the industry will see a sharp uptick sooner rather than later.

“The general consensus among the international properties we represent is things might slide back to ‘normal’ by late summer,” Weill said. “The general consensus is Europe will come back first and some predict that October will be Italy’s best October ever for tourism. We think the wealthy are aching to travel and once they’re vaccinated they’ll be on their way to the airport in droves.”

Weill, who’s excited about the late February publication of his travel memoir, All Abroad, agrees with Brancatelli about the long-term questions of business travel.

“I think we’ll see a massive reduction in business travel. I’m just not sure companies are going to be flying their staff to Maui to sit in a conference room and watch a PowerPoint,” Weill, a native Brit turned NYC street tough said. He added, “A year of Zoom has proven that extensive business travel is no longer necessary.”

Brancatelli (l) and Medjet’s Miller (r).

Bill Miller, VP of sales and marketing for Medjet, senses momentum building among its members. Medjet, the corporate sponsor of Sunday Morning Coffee, offers a travel assistance membership program ( that transports its hospitalized members back to the hospital of the members’ choice.

“We are hearing from our members there is a great pent-up demand for leisure travel,” Miller said. “However, travelers are more aware now than ever that it is risky to travel and we have seen an uptick in interest in not only our standard assistance membership but our Medjet Horizon program that offers an additional layer of safety and security while away from home.”


Weill with his new book (l); CBS’ Greenberg (r).

Peter Greenberg has been a longtime colleague, friend and Medjet member. I know Peter well enough to know that even a worldwide pandemic isn’t going to keep him grounded in his professional role as the travel editor for CBS News and the host of Eye on Travel, his popular weekly radio show. Peter’s been everywhere, man.

And he keeps going. Over the last few months darting across the USA and on-assignment visits to Mexico, Dominican Republic, Turkey and Croatia.

“I’m not worried about traveling at all,” the personable Greenberg said. “I’m traveling as smart as I can, as safe as I can. On the airplane I double mask and make sure my air vents are open and blowing at full tilt.

“Right now, about 60 countries are open to Americans,” the former NBC Today Show travel editor continued. “Getting somewhere is not the issue, the behavior is what concerns me. In Croatia, for instance, everyone is wearing masks and social distancing, I felt very safe. But if I go somewhere and people are being morons, I leave.”

All the travel experts I spoke with were optimistic about the return of the industry. Greenberg was flat out bullish.

“By the middle of March, I think you’ll see an explosion of domestic travel,” the Manhattan native who celebrated his 70th birthday covering the presidential inauguration in D.C. said. “What will really turn the corner, obviously, is the vaccine which I think will become a passport to travel. Cruise lines will insist on proof of vaccinations and I think they will see their bookings begin to escalate in May. Upscale leisure travel will first happen in the Caribbean because they have their act together. My guess is the fall for Europe; September should be a very hot travel month.”

Now it’s our turn. Time to make Dee Dee Rubin, Fran Fishman and the entire travel biz happy. Find the suitcase. Book the trip.


  • Ken Rich says:

    Sounds like you are ready to travel. Cabin fever is real. Double mask.

  • Great post, Roy, and I am honored to be quoted with such esteemed names. I particularly like being described as a Brit turned New York street tough. You’ve got me down to a tee. Of course you could have added the link to Amazon to buy the book, but it would be petty of me to mention it, so I won’t.

  • herb greenberg says:

    Roy, by all accounts cruise bookings for 2022 are enormous. I agree that there is pent-up demand for leisure travel. However, we have cruise a booked for year-end (that has been booked for 2 years – for South Africa) and I’m not convinced it will go or that we will go. Normally our air would have been booked by now. It really depends on how well tamped down Covid is by then and what happens with the variants. Plus, for those who cruise, what ports will be open… or how different will cruising be in the early going? I knew early in the lockdowns that the trip we had booked two years earlier for last December to Southeast Asia would be cancelled – and we pulled out early; that was a no-brainer. At the time I thought that by the end of this year we would SURELY be back on the road, albeit possibly with masks. Now I don’t know, and I’m saying broader travel will return (or simply be safer and more fun) by mid-2022. I hope, however, my non-relative Peter is right because we sure as hell need to get away!

  • Roy Abrams says:

    I don’t agree with the experts. Human nature always wins out. People learned to do without. That’s why I agree that business travel will NEVER be the same. Everyone uses Zoom. They got used to it. It works and there is basically no cost to it. Conventions will still be around but Newark to Chicago air for a day meeting is over…in my opinion, We learned another way. It is similar to the early spreadsheet programs came out in the late 70’s and early 80’s. That was the demise of adding machines and Friden calculators. BTW…in college from 1961-1965, I used a slide rule…and still have it. I never used an abacus.

    Personal travel…here’s hoping. I agree with your friend Herb Greenberg. I wanted to go to South Africa. Not going to happen.

    Why do they still call them suitcases? Who wears suits anymore? People learned casual Fridays and then it became casual everyday.

    Enjoyed your thoughts though. Be safe everyone. See you sometime on the Oceania.

  • Mat Whatley says:

    Another great “Cup”! I enjoyed hearing from the experts and look forward to the return of travel! “All Aboard” is on order and look forward to the read! Thanks Roy!

  • Jeff Gingold says:

    Looking forward to being able to use those 5 vouchers to Denmark that have piled up over the past 12 months. Can’t wait to get back in the air.

  • Wade Binford says:

    Many businesses have the same or better revenue with Zoom. Hard to justify future travel in light of success.

    When people feel safe pleasure travel will explode! Of course, the odds makers will define the new SAFE.

    Always enjoy your work, as it is well known, writing is harder than golf.

  • Fran Fishman says:

    Great article Roy and thanks for the shoutout!! I am still quite confident in what I shared with you regarding travel. I’ll be fully vaccinated within a week and rearing to go cautiously! Question is where? Probably Florida to see my Mom first.

  • Gil Fishman says:

    Interesting information from an industry that has been halted from the beginning of COVID.
    I can’t wait to travel cautiously once destinations open.
    I’m optimistic that come summer bookings will rise dramatically.

  • Lew Matusow says:

    Yep, we’re ready to go. Last year’s New England cruise CC (Covid cancelled), this year’s trip to Paris and Spain and cruise to Italy all CC’d. We’re rebooking for May, 2022.

    Getting our second shots Feb. 12 and, we’ll no doubt run into Super Bowl winner Patrick Mahomes soon.

    “Lew and Millie, now that you’ve gotten your second vaccination, what are your plans?”

    “We’re going to Disney World!”

    GSAU, RB. And nice way to work Medjet into the story. You’re a PR guy’s dream.

  • Helen Claire Quarles says:

    I truly live your blog and Tynes and I are ready to go ANYWHERE

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