What did you do during the pandemic? Chances are, you didn’t get out much. The fear of a deadly virus, travel restrictions implemented by countries, and lockdown protocols everywhere meant the travel industry was virtually grounded overnight.
As COVID-19 dissipated into weaker strains and vaccinations became common, travel slowly began to make a comeback. At first with hesitation and then with a little more enthusiasm, those homebound by quarantines have emerged to explore and travel again.
Despite commercial hopes, the bounce-back has been gradual and tempered by caution. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) recorded that international travel in 2021 was just over 50% of the pre-COVID peak (as recorded in 2019). In 2022, it was at 67% of the 2019 benchmark, and it’s expected to return to normal in 2024.
What’s impacting travel today?
Understanding the travel experience means appreciating how it has emerged after being through the wringer. Going, a flight deal alert website, surveyed potential travelers to check in on their practices, preferences, and plans. About a quarter (3,274) responded that they took fewer trips than expected, citing a few different reasons:
- 27% claimed the primary travel obstacle was a lack of money in 2023
- 26% said work and school pressure were the underlying cause
- 15% stated that it was owing to COVID-19 leftover issues
- 13% cited family commitments
- 12% simply said, “I don’t want to”
Affordability in travel – what is it? It’s a two-edged sword – too little spare cash and rising prices work in unison to attack one’s ability to travel. Inflation galloped ahead in 2022, fueled by sudden surges in travel demand after a sustained 18-month lull, insufficient air traffic controllers, other staff shortages, and soaring gas prices. What’s worse is that airline fares are outpacing inflation, adding the to slow recovery of the travel industry. This restriction took many leisure travelers out of the arena as they opted instead for road trips (versus air travel), thus diverting attention away from international to domestic destinations (relatively nearby locales).
However, while travel has not yet reached an all-time high, people are still traveling. So, let’s dive in the trends and preferences of leisure travelers to learn what to expect in 2024.
Where are people traveling post-pandemic?
While many destinations have suffered significantly, others have picked up the slack. Indeed, numerous places report record tourism in 2022, with trends peaking in 2023. Consider the following examples:
- The not-for-profit marketing organization, Discover Puerto Rico, reported that visitors parted with $8.9 billion in revenue in 2022 – up nearly 40% versus 2019. The island’s Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport welcomed 5.1 million passengers, extending a 12.8% increase in leisure and hospitality business relative to pre-pandemic numbers.
- It appears that island vacation spots have a magnetic attraction, judging by Hawaii tourism rising beyond all expectations – up nearly 11% in November 2022 versus three years earlier – when people were tripping over themselves to enjoy the sun and beach lifestyle.
- The Nassau Paradise Island Promotion Board (Bahamas) informed travel publications that air arrivals in 2022 (ending in December) were at 90% of pre-pandemic levels and expected the volumes to far exceed that historic milestone in 2023. Why? More airlines added nonstop service to the local air hub – Lynden Pindling International Airport.
One may argue that the island upticks are close to the US mainland, so categorizing them as international is a bit of a stretch. Still, it indicates that the travel bug is revving again, and the stay-at-home drive – energized through COVID–19 – is losing its mojo.
Also, don’t feel sorry for the Airbnbs, brand hotel groups, and boutique stay-overs. While families and individuals are slowly regaining their travel legs, the businesses across the arena are booming.
There has been no let-up in accommodations for business purposes. It’s been evident from the minute enterprises and SMBs could reorganize their employees on a stable track. Hospitality entities structured their lobbies around co-work and life spaces, and as a result:
- Pick up the low-hanging fruit of the over one trillion dollar business travel marketplace, thus operating beyond capacity.
- Cater to a new breed of Millennial and Gen Z travelers known as digital nomads (i.e., travelers who settle into hotels to work remotely.)
How travelers have been saving money on travel
No matter when and how you roll out your travel experience strategy, you can never get enough travel tips to save money on airlines, hotels, hostels, and Airbnbs. With inflation impacting daily life, saving money on travel is going to be a part of consumer behavior moving forward.
That’s why here are a few things consumers tend to keep in mind:
- Instead of sticking to schedules in your mind, people are looking to be flexible regarding their dates and destinations as far as possible – it’s all about finding the best deal for the best experience.
- The second big move is delving into every opportunity to pick up on privileges, from being on the lookout for deals, accumulating (and cashing in on) loyalty points, as well as investing in travel credit cards to make every cent count.
Other creative saving tactics converge on taking shorter trips and getaways outside of peak periods. Key Data (a renowned research platform) evaluated activity over the first three weeks of January 2023, discovering that US reservations on Airbnb and Vrbo jumped by 27% (YoY), with a corresponding drop in hotel nights of 4%. In short, there are more travelers, each staying over for significantly shorter durations.
While travel is gradually picking up, it’s important for the travel and hospitality industry to focus on ways to encourage and engage with travelers. However, while businesses need to double down on customer retention, the question remains: how?
The answer is simple. Just ask your guests!
Reach out and ask guests – both past and present – which benefits they would like to see and what drives their travel plans? In order to deliver offerings that truly resonate with your guests, you need to first understand what they think and how they feel.
Sogolytics can help! Our platform empowers you to connect with people across platforms. The intuitive surveys are meant to engage, making them quick and easy for participants to share their insights, while the powerful analytics will give you the answers you need to take the best next step!
Ready to get started? Let’s get on a quick call and we’ll share just how we can make a difference for your business!