The last two years have been an unprecedented time of change and challenge for the travel industry. Not surprisingly, these issues were high on the agenda at this year’s World Travel Market (a major global gathering of travel professionals, held in London in November). There was no shortage of discussion about travel in 2022 and beyond, and several clear themes emerged.
People Are Desperate To Travel
Although most countries had international travel bans in place for at least part of 2020, around 20% of Britons managed at least one foreign trip during the year. However the total number of visits was 73% down on 2019, and worldwide a billion fewer trips were taken.
This means that there is considerable pent-up demand for travel. A survey by World Travel Market showed that 70% of UK consumers plan at least one foreign holiday in 2022. An added factor for some travellers is that they have saved the money they would have spent in 2020 and 2021, and are prepared to upgrade their travel arrangements next year.
The Challenges Of Coronavirus
The problems raised by coronavirus are twofold. Firstly, people continue to be cautious and to take precautions against the disease. For instance, the majority of travellers are in favour of continued mask-wearing on planes, and many have modified their travel style, for instance by favouring road trips over cruises.
Secondly, holiday makers are now having to cope with an often bewildering variety of requirements, including testing and form-filling. These vary from country to country, can change at short notice, and are often confusing. For some customers the combination of paperwork and expensive tests has created a preference for domestic travel.
The Return Of The Travel Agent?
The last few years have seen a shift towards people making their own holiday arrangements, facilitated by online booking and one-to-one transactions via the sharing economy. However, there is some evidence that travellers are turning back to travel agents and that the traditional package holiday is making a comeback.
It’s not hard to see why. Travel agents and holiday companies can guide their customers through the complexities of form-filling, and provide much needed financial protection if things go wrong. And people may be more reassured by the cleanliness standards of large hotels than by unregulated accommodation via companies such as AirBNB.
Sustainability And Responsible Travel Continue To Be Important
The coronavirus lockdown has given people the opportunity to reflect on what is important to them, and at the same time there has been an increased emphasis on the environment. However, the desire to travel is unabated, and there is a recognition of the worldwide economic importance of the travel industry.
This means that the trend towards more conscious travel has gathered momentum. Over half the respondents to the WTM survey said they prioritise sustainability and responsibility, and a significant minority claim to be offsetting their flights.
What Are The Most Popular Destinations?
The increase in domestic travel is likely to carry on. However, for UK travellers the top overseas location continues to be Spain, particularly the islands. Other favourites include France, Italy and Greece.
More generally, Eastern European destinations such as Croatia, Romania, Albania and Poland are attracting more visitors. One destination that is marketing itself heavily is Saudi Arabia, but it remains to be seen whether tourists are deterred by human rights issues.
Beach holidays and city breaks are currently the most popular choices. Many respondents to the survey indicated that they would be taking longer trips than previously, favouring a few long trips over several short ones (perhaps as part of an attempt to reduce the amount of flying).
Predictions For Travel In 2022
Finally, a few predictions that WTM attendees made for 2022:
- Travel in 2022 will return to pre-pandemic levels
- Covid has changed the industry’s relationship with technology, and there will be more online interaction and technological innovation
- People will prioritise taking a few longer trips over several shorter ones
- There will be more demand for package trips, with their associated levels of protection
- A combination of Covid precautions, testing requirements and the effect of lockdown on the travel industry means that the cost of holidays is likely to rise.
Do you agree with these predictions? Do you think your travel habits will change in the long term? Let me know in the comments below.