The past year has not been a stellar year for travelers.
Perhaps that is why so many hopes are pinned on 2022.
According to insiders, bookings and travel requests are on an upward trajectory that, if implemented, could both benefit and challenge travelers in the coming year.
“People want to make up for lost time”
Travel in 2022 will be even busier than it was before the pandemic, said Brandon Burkson, founder of New York-based travel company Hotels Above Par.
“People want to catch up,” he said, adding that potential clients have said their desire to travel next year is greater than ever before.
Ben Drew, president of travel company Viator, owned by TripAdvisor, said in December that the demand for upcoming travel was “extreme.”
Beach and mountain destinations are popular from 2019 to 2021, according to Viator, with bookings growing by 1,665% from 2019 to 2021 in Tulum, Mexico (see here), and almost 700% in Denali National Park.
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“Travel came back with a roar,” he said. “Even in the face of the omicron, travelers are booking more experiences than this time in pre-pandemic 2019.”
Viator’s 2022 data shows that bookings also increase from summer to fall, when travel tends to slow down.
While acknowledging that 2022 could “be fraught with challenges,” Drew said he expects him to be “the head of resilience, revitalization and growth in the tourism industry.”
While the news of the business boom probably sounds like music to the ears of the beleaguered travel industry, it can be problematic if it happens too quickly, said Manoj Chakko, executive vice president of business management company WNS.
“The speed and strength of demand can catch some players in the tourism industry by surprise,” he said. “Airlines, for example, may struggle to recruit pilots. Moreover, pilots may require additional training and professional development programs. “
Airlines are not the only part of the tourism sector that may be struggling to recruit staff this year.
Approximately 62 million travel-related jobs were lost in 2020, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council. While many of those jobs are now returning – in October, the WTTC estimated the industry’s employment rate would rise 18% in 2022 – former employees are in no rush to return to their old roles.
Burned by layoffs throughout the industry, some workers have moved to other industries. Others are unwilling to be at the forefront in an era of growing customer anger and aggressive behavior.
According to the WTTC, Spain, Italy, France, the United Kingdom, Portugal (pictured) and the United States are some of the countries facing talent shortages in the travel industry.
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One in 13 travel-related vacancies in the United States is expected to remain blank. HR Report WTTC published in December. In Portugal, the figure rises to 1 in 9, according to the report.
“It’s hard to find chefs and enough servers to handle the surge and rebound in industry demand,” John Bortz, CEO of US Pebblebrook Hotel Trust, told CNBC’s “The Exchange” last year.
To fill this gap, he said, employees work overtime and managers “work in shifts.”
For travelers, a shortage of workers can mean delays in travel and reduced services, from fewer restaurant orders to giving up daily cleaning services.
“We were one of the first industries to hit; we will probably be one of the last to fully recover, ”Borts said. “We certainly ask customers to be patient.”
Striving for technology
The shortage of workers underscores the industry’s shift, which began long before the pandemic, to use technology to carry out certain jobs in the tourism sector.
Tasks such as Room service and cleaning at airports can be done by robots, says Rachel Fu, head of the Department of Tourism, Hospitality and Events at the University of Florida. Hotels can also use “concierge robots” to help customers make reservations, she said.
“Smart use of AI can significantly reduce labor costs without compromising the level of personalized service,” Fu said.
It could help businesses close some of the workforce gaps, but innovations that directly affect travelers may be even more important as companies continue to compete for travel dollars.
Some hotels allow guests to check in and out, book airport transfers, and book spa appointments through apps. like the luxury brand Four Seasons…
“Unlike many other hospitality apps, Four Seasons Chat uses real people on site,” said Ben Trodd, senior vice president of sales and hospitality marketing at Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts.
A technology called “HoverTap” makes lifts contactless. Created by technology company NZ Technologies, the elevators are used in Canada and the United States, according to company representatives.
“Next year we will see a lot more contactless elevators”, said Nima Ziraknejad, founder and CEO of the company.
This is how they work:
Elevators are just the beginning. According to Ziraknejad, this technology can be used on any surface with a high level of touch. The company plans to expand with self-service kiosks at airports, restaurants and hotels, as well as ATM machines and aircraft seat back entertainment systems, he said.
WNS’s Chaco said companies with these technological advances will soon have an edge over those without them.
“In some countries, passengers still have to fill out paper forms and comply with official regulations for handling passports and other travel documents,” he said. “Elsewhere, like Spain, most of the information … can be downloaded in one application.”
As customer expectations rise and contactless technology becomes available, these advances “will undoubtedly become a key competitive differentiator,” he said.