MINNEAPOLIS — Brian Nystedt says the past two years have been a "nail-biter" for everyone in the travel industry and everyone hoping to travel. The CEO of New Departures Intelligent Travel says he feels like they're stuck in a rut they can't get out of.
"This year was actually harder than last year to get through — not only businesswise, but emotionally," Nystedt said. "You keep on thinking it's going to be over, but it's not over. It just never ends."
It's a sentiment felt by many throughout the pandemic, and especially recently, as we continue to learn more about the new omicron variant. Ninety percent of Nystedt's agency's bookings are for international travel. He says when he found out about omicron, the first thing he thought of was a family of six he had helped book a trip for next June to South Africa, which is the country where omicron was discovered and is proliferating.
"They were thinking of pulling the plug because of delta," he said.
For now, Nystedt says it's key to have patience and "wait until the dust settles." Meanwhile, he offers the following advice for those looking into booking internationally:
Buy travel insurance.
"Always. Even if you’re buying a ticket to Chicago," he said. "Just always buy travel insurance."
Nystedt said those who bought insurance over the past year were fortunate.
"All we did last year was refunds or help people process their insurance claims," he said.
If you plan to fly internationally, stick to just one country.
"Pick one country. Stay inside its borders because that way, you only have to worry about one set of rules and regulations," Nystedt said. "Because even in the EU, it changes from country to country."
Bill Gartner, a U of M professor who specializes in economic development of tourism globally, says navigating each country's rules can be a costly hassle.
"If you go to Europe in one country, the rules that are in another country may be different; you have to go and get tested," Gartner said. "The more you add on obstacles, the more you increase the cost. There’s time cost, there’s monetary cost."
Lastly, try to be patient
Nystedt says, because travel guidelines are changing all the time, try not to make any big, travel-related decisions, like cancelling any pre-planned trips.
"My immediate reaction to any news is to just wait," Nystedt said.