Travel theme for 2022? ‘Go big’

With Omicron cases ebbing, the travel industry is looking for a significant rebound in spring and summer. (Photo: NYTimes)
As governments across the world loosen coronavirus restrictions and shift their approach to accepting COVID-19 as a manageable part of everyday life, the travel industry is growing hopeful that this will be the year that travel comes roaring back.اضافة اعلان

Travel agents and operators have reported a significant increase in bookings in recent weeks for the spring and summer seasons. The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC)which represents the global travel and tourism industry, projects that travel and tourism in the US will reach pre-pandemic levels in 2022, contributing nearly $2 trillion to the US economy. The council also anticipates outbound travel from the US will increase; it projects bookings over the Easter holiday period to be up by 130 percent over last year.

“Our latest forecast shows the recovery significantly picking up this year as infection rates subside and travelers continue benefiting from the protection offered by the vaccine and boosters,” said Julia Simpson, president and CEO of the WTTC. “As travel restrictions ease and consumer confidence returns, we expect a welcome release of pent-up travel and demand.”

While uncertainty remains over the course of the pandemic and government policies on mask mandates and testing requirements for travel, the industry is seeing a strong desire among travelers to take big bucket list trips this year, particularly to far-flung international destinations and European cities.

“Travel is no longer just about ‘going somewhere,’” said Christie Hudson, a senior public relations manager for Expedia. “Coming out of such a long period of constraints and limitations, 2022 will be the year we wring every bit of richness and meaning out of our experiences.”
Our latest forecast shows the recovery significantly picking up this year as infection rates subside and travelers continue benefiting from the protection offered by the vaccine and boosters.

Here are some of the trends you can expect to see.

Air Travel: Fewer restrictions, but for now the masks stay on

Flying in 2022 looks poised to be much like flying in 2021: reminiscent of pre-pandemic normal at times, infuriating at others. A primary difference is that there will be more people on planes and in airports — 150 percent as many passengers are expected to fly this year as did last year, according to The International Air Transport Association, which represents nearly 300 airlines.

In terms of where you can fly, you will have more options than last year. Destinations that have long been closed to most travelers, including Australia, the Philippines, and Bali, have started reopening. Airlines have been gradually adding back old routes and expanding with new ones. In the spring, American Airlines, for example, plans to add six new routes from Boston. JetBlue will soon fly direct from New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport to Kansas City and Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, among other locations.

You will still need to check the latest entry requirements before flying internationally. There are currently more than 100,000 health and travel restrictions in place, according to Meghan Benton, a research director at the Migration Policy Institute. Though that’s around the same number as a year ago, she noted, there has been a move away from quarantines and outright bans of nonessential visitors toward vaccination and testing requirements. Recently, a growing number of destinations, have also reconsidered the merits of entry testing.

That flight for a summer getaway could cost less than it did before the pandemic. Fares are down 18 percent from 2019, according to Airlines for America, which represents seven major airlines. In January, the cost of international airfares hit an all-time low since Hopper, a booking app, began tracking them in 2014. Predicting whether, when and where they will rise is harder than it was before the pandemic, however, as new variants, evolving health threats, travel restrictions and pandemic psychology have upended traditional pricing patterns. Fortunately, most airlines are continuing to waive flight change fees on all but basic economy flights, said Brett Snyder, the founder of Cranky Flier, an airline industry site.

When flying in the US, everyone will need to wear a mask until at least late March. That’s when the federal mask mandate is set to expire. It has been extended before and could be extended again.


Lodging: Hotels fight back, sometimes with robots

This may be the year travelers return to hotels. In a report for the American Hotel & Lodging Association, Oxford Economics, an economic forecasting company, expects total bookings to nearly equal 2019 stays, though a significant source of revenue — more than roughly $48 billion spent before the pandemic on food and drink, meeting spaces, and more — will largely remain missing, given the continued slump in business meetings and group events.

Leisure travelers have kept the industry afloat and in certain areas — especially mountain and coastal destinations — vacation business is booming. With record demand, rates rose at escapist resorts like the Chebeague Island Inn in Maine even in the traditional offseason months.

Now, corporate lodging specialists like Level Hotels & Furnished Suites, which has high-rise apartments in four cities including Seattle, are going after leisure travelers, touting amenities like fitness centers. And why not? During the pandemic, many travelers discovered the privacy offered by rental residences. According to AirDNA, which analyzes the short-term rental market, vacation home bookings were up between 30 percent and 60 percent in small cities and resort destinations compared with 2019, though big-city rentals are down about 25 percent.

Urban hotels hope to compete for digital nomads by adding stylish extended-stay properties, social attractions, and better workspaces. Denver’s Catbird hotel offers ergonomic studios with kitchenettes, plus a rooftop bar and rental gear, including scooters, ukuleles, and air fryers. The Hoxton chain’s Working From coworking spaces are attached to its hotels in Chicago and London.

Adapting to lean times, many hotels have outsourced operations beyond laundry and landscaping, into food and recreational services. The new app-based service Breeze works with hotels to provide room service either from on-site restaurants or neighboring ones.

The pandemic has also hastened the adoption of automation in hotels — such as keyless check-in, digital staff communication and room delivery by robots — as a cost-effective response to the labor shortage.


Destinations: Cities are back

This March, Virginia Devlin of Chicago is headed to New York City with her daughter, a musical theater student, to celebrate two years’ worth of missed birthday trips. They will see Broadway shows and visit Chinatown for dim sum. Tracy Lippes, of Short Hills, New Jersey, is ready to go to Paris. “I can’t wait to stay in a beautiful hotel, shop, visit museums and eat at great restaurants,” Lippes said of her March trip. Greg Siskind, an immigration attorney in Memphis, Tennessee, is thrilled to have an in-person conference in London in March, and plans to arrive a few days early to enjoy the city with his adult daughters.
Bookings are spiking for classic European destinations, particularly Paris and London. Clients want to reconnect with special hotels and restaurants and simply bask in the culture

Yes, city travel is back. After more than two years of avoiding urban centers, travelers are eager to return to their favorite metropolis and swan dive into the sights, bites and sounds of a city that is not their own.

“It was a lift to everyone when the UK dumped COVID mandates on January 26,” said Henley Vazquez, a co-founder of FORA, a travel agency in New York City. “Bookings are spiking for classic European destinations, particularly Paris and London. Clients want to reconnect with special hotels and restaurants and simply bask in the culture.”


Resorts: All-inclusive, beyond the beach

A new breed of domestic resort is pioneering an almost all-inclusive model, taking the guesswork out of where to eat and what to do. Why “almost?” These properties do not include alcoholic beverages in their nightly rate, and, perhaps fittingly, boast enviable wine and spirits collections. A major catalyst for the trend: pandemic-scarred travelers wary of leaving the grounds of a resort once they arrive, according to Erina Pindar, the managing director of SmartFlyer, a luxury travel agency. “The almost all-inclusive is incredibly popular,” she said, “we expect demand to continue to be strong.” reports that searches for this type of resort have increased significantly compared with the same time frame in 2019. “After the stress of the last few years,” said Mel Dohmen, a spokesperson, “travelers are looking for stays where they can be doted on.”

“Our clients see these resorts as a hassle-free option,” said Jennifer Doncsecz, president of the travel agency VIP Vacations.
After the stress of the last few years, travelers are looking for stays where they can be doted on.


Family Travel: Going on the edu-vacation

After two years of quarantines and classroom closures, millions of children across the country have fallen behind in class. Parents, eager for lesson plans that can supplement learning, are now seeking experiences with an educational bent when they travel.

“Previously, families didn’t ask in advance about what educational activities are available at the resorts. Now they do,” said Chitra Stern, founder and CEO of the family-friendly Martinhal resorts in Portugal. Nearly half of her new bookings, Stern said, now include questions about on-site educational opportunities for children. Last year, the luxury resorts began partnering with the United Lisbon International School to offer a two-week educational summer camp for its younger guests at Martinhal Lisbon. Courses, which are available for children ages 3 to 17, begin at 440 euros (around $500).

After a pandemic dip, enrollments are on the rise for family-learning itineraries with tour operator Road Scholar, which produces educational travel programs for all ages. Options for children and their caregivers, which start at $699 per adult and $449 per child, include combining history and geography with spotting grizzlies in the Canadian Rockies, or learning French while taking a scavenger hunt through Paris’ Louvre museum.

Noting an uptick in children road tripping with their parents, the Colorado Tourism Office last summer launched Schoolcations, a series of free itineraries based on Colorado road trips and designed for grades K-5.


Read More Travel