Was 2022 travel’s big comeback? After the pandemic slowed travel in 2020 and 2021, 2022 has seen a return to pre-pandemic travel numbers in many regions. Despite inflation sending flight and other travel costs sky high, even international travel – the hardest hit with border closures – finally took off towards the end of 2022, as travelers who put off big trips abroad finally made it happen.
So, what were the biggest stories, trends, and changes in travel we see at the end of year recap?
Easing of Covid travel restrictions
As the year progressed mandates were slowly dropped, and travel was the significant benefactor. Early in 2022, mask mandates on flights loosened, then borders started opening around the world with vaccine requirements and testing rules disappearing overnight. The U.S. held firm about vaccine requirements to enter the country, which loosened in June. With these easing travel restrictions, the impact on travel volumes was immediate, helping lead to a surge in summer travel.
While the Omicron covid variant cropped up towards the end of 2021 causing a slight stall in an expected holiday travel surge, it remained a salient factor for travel into 2022. By January 2022, it seemed the entire travel industry had called in sick. According to Hospitality Services Group, 30% of the housekeepers, servers and cooks working in hotels and resorts were either infected or exposed to Covid in the first weeks of 2022.
Staff shortages in travel industry
As 2022 travel numbers rose, a serious worker shortage in the travel industry was brought into focus. The ‘Great Resignation’ also impacted the travel industry significantly in 2022. By June, travel industry leaders at the U.S. Travel Association’s largest conference, IPW, warned that there were 1.5 million open jobs in leisure and hospitality in the U.S. and that increased staffing was critical to travel’s rebound. Globally, hotels were among the industry segments struggling most with labor scarcity, and they got creative in their efforts to lure new hires and retain the ones they had. From higher wages and gas cards to childcare, properties put significant effort into taking care of workers.
High travel prices
Travel prices rose in 2022. In October, Skytra reported that, within the U.S. and Canada, premium fares rocketed 36% compared with 2019, and the Consumer Price Index showed that September airfares were up 42.1% compared with the same month in 2021. This impact was not limited to airlines. Hotel rates also reached new heights, with average daily rates in the U.S. surpassing even record-setting 2019 levels.
Business travel returned slowly, but there was a new way of combining business and leisure travel – the continued rise of ‘Bleisure’ travel. This is a trend that forecasters don’t see slowing down anytime soon, with professionals wanting to attend a conference or business meetings, but also wanting more authentic, personalized, and sustainable experiences as part of their trip. Another option is to bring their loved ones along with flexibility in the itinerary to relax, explore, and have family time. Another key driver of bleisure is the general growing demand for sustainable lifestyle options. Many people care for the environment, and they want to travel in a more sustainable and responsible way.
Even with people heading back into the office in 2022, remote work continued to increase, and people even began to work from new and exciting destinations. Countries are jumping on the remote work bandwagon, too. Spain launched a digital nomad visa in January 2023. Hotels and home rentals were also catering to this style of hybrid travel, and in 2022, Airbnb emphasized the importance of having speedy Wi-Fi and a dedicated workspace for hosts to attract remote workers and bleisure travelers.
City travel is back
City travel made a comeback in 2022. After almost two years of avoiding urban centers (and crowds of people), travelers were eager to return to their favorite metropolis and swan dive into the sights, bites and sounds of a city. TripAdvisor saw over 11 million traveler searches for Bangkok, Thailand, and more than 43 million interested in London, England and 20 million looking up Las Vegas.
Conclusion: 2022 travel recap
The 2022 travel year was a major comeback for the industry after the pandemic-induced slowdown in 2020 and 2021. With easing of Covid travel restrictions, travel numbers rose, just as staff shortages increased in the industry and prices skyrocketed. However, this did not deter travelers, who embraced the trend of “Bleisure” travel, combining business and leisure. Remote work also continued to increase, with people traveling to new destinations to work, while city travel made a comeback with travelers eager to return to urban centers. Despite some challenges, the 2022 travel industry recap showed resilience and adaptation to changing circumstances.
By partnering with vendors that can help streamline parts of a hotel or agency business, hospitality companies can set themselves up for success as the industry continues to recover in 2023 and beyond.