Over the past couple of years, the travel industry has been one of the most heavily hit sectors. Planes were grounded, cruises canceled, and protocols meant to hinder the spread of the coronavirus put paid to even trip to neighboring communities.
But as COVID-19 becomes more endemic, airline companies, travel agencies, hotels, and resorts are all very optimistic. They believe 2022 will be when everything changes – if not back to the way things were before the pandemic, then at least to some semblance of normalcy.
According to Lee Thompson, founder and owner of London-based travel firm Flash Pack, the past couple of years have led to a shortage of physical connection with one’s friends and family, resulting in a somewhat desperate need to meet with other people and enjoy a welcome change of scenery.
In recent weeks, despite the looming threat of stealth omicron and other variants, Thompson’s firm experienced a substantial increase in bookings. Even though, thanks to both ongoing restrictions and the prohibitive cost of fuel, airline ticket prices will be considerably higher than they were back in 2019. There is also the additional cost of mandatory testing before one’s departure.
Thompson opines that people are so keen to travel that they won’t mind shelling out a bit more for plane fare or taking the necessary medical tests or exams before a trip.
Coping During the Pandemic
Independent travel firms were the ones that bore the brunt of the pandemic’s impact on the industry, with many folding up as the demand for travel services died down. However, those who survived over the past couple of years could shift the travel experience from actual trips to experiential online classes.
This was the direction that Scots tour operator Flavours went in: creating a series of experiential classes in a range of creative disciplines and lifestyle options that travel-yearning homebodies could enjoy even in confinement. Flavors’ founder Lorne Blythe says it was an excellent way to keep the community spirit alive among their clients. It allowed them to explore their talents in fields like painting or retain a sense of adventure by trying new things through virtual reality wine tastings.
Bookings for Flavours’ signature tours of Spain and Italy are back to pre-pandemic levels. In addition, Blythe is pleased to note that many of those who participated in any of the 80 Zoom classes they offered monthly have built up a community of their own and are planning to sign up for tours together in the future.
Despite these developments, however, many players in the travel industry are still keeping a wary eye on the situation.
According to Bugsang & Associates managing director Mike Bugsang, any travel business that managed to survive over the past couple of years now faces new challenges.
Inflation, mainly where the cost of energy and fuel is concerned, is one such factor that may hinder the travel sector’s recovery. But with people itching to leave home even for a few days, this fear may be unfounded as people are still willing to pay the price to head to new destinations and a much-needed change of pace from their daily lives.