Travel is back, but China still matters to a full recovery

Travel is back, but China still matters to a full recovery
Few could have anticipated the UK’s headlines in 2022 – the death of Queen Elizabeth II, three Prime Ministers in a matter of weeks and the war in Ukraine are just some of the seismic events to shape, and shake, the past 12 months. But, undeterred, we turn our attention to 2023.

Looking ahead to this year, air space closures, flows of Ukrainian refugees and rocketing food prices are likely to cause disruption. For travel, the spike in fuel prices and resulting cost-of-living crisis, as well as global inflation, can only continue to be a headwind on the full recovery of travel.

Nevertheless, with these concerns in mind, the wider picture for travel is rosier.

The Caribbean, with its dependence on the United States’ market is now fully recovered, with some destinations, including Jamaica, see arrival figures in excess of those in 2019. Domestic tourism in the USA itself has led to something of a boom there, while intra-European travel is on an accelerating path toward recovery. So-called ‘revenge tourism’ also appears to be having an impact, with holidaymakers looking to spend the extra cash they may have saved up over the past two or three years.

This year travellers will continue to see air fare prices rise, though they remain below levels seen in 2019 as airlines try to woo passengers back onboard. Hotel room rates, however, now easily exceed pre-pandemic levels and can be expected to rise further as properties continue to struggle to replace talent lost at the height of the slowdown.

For leisure tourism – predictions abound. Travellers will either be taking a rising number of shorter trips or focusing on one longer ‘trip-of-a-lifetime’ depending on which operator one listens to. Overall, though, it is likely there will be a gradual return to a pre-pandemic equilibrium, with visitors flocking to those destinations popular before Covid-19. We may even see the return of ‘overtourism’ in some cities, such as Amsterdam, Reykjavik, Venice and Barcelona.

Much will change but much will remain the same. Many will pine for the ‘old normal’ as it slowly returns, replacing the ‘new normal’ of constant disruption seen over the past two years.

In 2020, we heard a lot about build back better. We hear less of it today. But as in many other sectors, let’s hope that build back better isn’t just an outdated slogan but instead something that inspires all those in travel to progress. Building an industry that better serves travellers, is more sustainable, is more attuned to individual needs, is more inspired.

Then we can really say that out of great challenge comes opportunity.

Until China – and the world – fully reopens its borders to international travellers, there can be no full recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Looking ahead to this year, air space closures, flows of Ukrainian refugees and rocketing food prices are likely to cause disruption. For travel, the spike in fuel prices and resulting cost-of-living crisis, as well as global inflation, can only continue to be a headwind on the full recovery of travel.

Nevertheless, with these concerns in mind, the wider picture for travel is rosier.

The Caribbean, with its dependence on the United States’ market is now fully recovered, with some destinations, including Jamaica, see arrival figures in excess of those in 2019. Domestic tourism in the USA itself has led to something of a boom there, while intra-European travel is on an accelerating path toward recovery. So-called ‘revenge tourism’ also appears to be having an impact, with holidaymakers looking to spend the extra cash they may have saved up over the past two or three years.

This year travellers will continue to see air fare prices rise, though they remain below levels seen in 2019 as airlines try to woo passengers back onboard. Hotel room rates, however, now easily exceed pre-pandemic levels and can be expected to rise further as properties continue to struggle to replace talent lost at the height of the slowdown.

For leisure tourism – predictions abound. Travellers will either be taking a rising number of shorter trips or focusing on one longer ‘trip-of-a-lifetime’ depending on which operator one listens to. Overall, though, it is likely there will be a gradual return to a pre-pandemic equilibrium, with visitors flocking to those destinations popular before Covid-19. We may even see the return of ‘overtourism’ in some cities, such as Amsterdam, Reykjavik, Venice and Barcelona.

Much will change but much will remain the same. Many will pine for the ‘old normal’ as it slowly returns, replacing the ‘new normal’ of constant disruption seen over the past two years.

In 2020, we heard a lot about build back better. We hear less of it today. But as in many other sectors, let’s hope that build back better isn’t just an outdated slogan but instead something that inspires all those in travel to progress. Building an industry that better serves travellers, is more sustainable, is more attuned to individual needs, is more inspired.

Then we can really say that out of great challenge comes opportunity.

Image: Kin Li/Unsplash