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Looking Ahead to Travel in 2022

As the second year of the Covid pandemic comes to a close,

Doug Cooke

it is time to reflect upon this past year and look ahead to 2022. As we do every year, JAX FAX uses the annual USTOA Conference as our barometer of the state of the industry and what the coming year has in store for the travel industry, and more specifically, travel advisors.

 

In this column at this time last year, we were projecting a rebound for the travel industry as the world was starting to come to grips with the pandemic and with vaccines promising to fast track the rebound in international travel. And while early indicators looked promising through spring and early summer, travel bookings were once again impacted by the Delta variant’s rapid spread. And while most travel suppliers and travel advisors reported stronger bookings for the first half of 2021, the third and fourth quarter of 2021 looked much like those of the previous year. Now the world is contending with the rapid spread of the Omicron variant and questions about the efficacy and dwindling protections many of the vaccines afford. So what do industry experts think about the rebound of travel in 2022? Read on for highlights of USTOA annual membership survey.

 

USTOA 2022 Travel Forecast 

According to the survey, which was conducted in early November with an 86% response rate of USTOA Active Members, nine out of ten members (93%) anticipate growth in sales in 2022. Two thirds (65%) of those respondents are “optimistic” and forecasting a “boom year” with growth anywhere from 7% to 10% and higher. When asked about their company’s outlook on when the travel industry will see a full recovery of business, half (53%) said by end of 2023, while 20% responded end of 2022.  

 

Biggest Challenges for the Road to Recovery

Terry Dale, president and CEO of USTOA said, “While this year’s survey reveals more confidence moving into 2022, our members are not blind to the challenges that lay ahead on the road to recovery.” 

 

He continued, “We asked members to name the biggest challenge or obstacle to operating in 2022 and border closing confusion across countries/states topped the list, followed by customer confidence to travel.” Coordination of protocols across states/borders/suppliers ranked third, followed by threat of quarantine, news media cycle, COVID-19 vaccine mandates, flight connectivity, insecurity about suppliers (closure of hotels and others, inconsistent pricing, etc.), staffing/hiring, and COVID-19 travel insurance. “It is not surprising that pandemics or other health crises were named as the number one potential threat to consumer confidence for the second year in a row,” said Dale. Global financial instability was named the second global risk that could impact consumer confidence in 2022, followed by recession.

 

Passenger Booking Patterns

USTOA Active Members report that 59% of existing bookings for 2022 are new bookings and 41% are rebooked passengers from cancelled trips in 2020/2021. Three fourths (75%) of 2022 Active Member existing bookings are to international destinations, the remaining quarter are to North America destinations (US, Canada, and Mexico). 

 

Roughly a third (36%) of responding tour operators reported that consumers are booking within four to six months of departure. A quarter (24%) report bookings being made within seven to 12 months of departure, while another quarter (27%) report no discernible pattern. Roughly 11% say travelers are booking with up to three months of departure, while the remaining 2% report mostly seeing customers booking more than a year in advance.

 

Travel Advisors – The Good News

Reinforcing the significant contribution travel advisors make overall to USTOA members’ businesses:

87% of responding members plan to utilize travel advisors to generate sales as they continue to resume business in 2022.

Three fourths (76%) of members report that travel advisors will play very important or important role in their business in 2022.

Nearly nine out of ten (89%) of members expect business booked by travel advisors to increase or maintain the same in 2022.

 

Trends and Forecasts

When asked about the top three international destinations travelers are booking for 2022, Europe continued to have a strong presence. Italy topped the list, followed by France and Greece tied in second, and Ireland ranked third.  

 

On the home front, Active Members report that travelers are gravitating towards locations with wide-open spaces. National Parks were named the top domestic destination for 2022. Alaska followed in second, with Hawaii in third.

 

Based on existing customer bookings, Active Members chose small group tours as the most popular travel product for 2022. FIT ranked second, followed by private groups, classic group tours (25+ passengers), river cruising, and small ship cruising. Ocean cruising (medium to large ship) rounded out
the list.

 

This survey was completed on November 10, 2021. Tour operators responding represent the following travel services: escorted/guided tours 73%; FIT packages 60%; custom packages 56%; student travel 13%; and cruises 40%. For more information on USTOA,
visit www.ustoa.com. 

 

JAX FAX Travel Marketing Celebrates 50 Years in 2022

2022 marks a milestone for JAX FAX with our celebration of 50 years of serving the travel community since our humble beginnings in 1972. I would like to thank both our travel advisor readers for your many years of engagement with JAX FAX, and our supplier partners (many of whom have been with us since the beginning) for allowing us to help you build your own businesses over these past 50 years. We are both proud of, and humbled by, the role we have played in travel and tourism promotion over these past 5 decades. Thank you all for your many years of support and friendship. We look forward to continuing our journey together in 2022 and beyond.

 

Best Wishes for a Prosperous and Healthy 2022!

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