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Travel amping up but ride will be bumpy

Airlines, cruises, business travellers all face challenges

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Every year at this time I try to give readers an overview of what the next 12 months in travel might look like with an overview of what I predict, as well as what many experts suggest are coming trends and changes in the travel industry.

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Every year at this time I try to give readers an overview of what the next 12 months in travel might look like with an overview of what I predict, as well as what many experts suggest are coming trends and changes in the travel industry.

Airline image seems irrelevant

After getting through the worst months of COVID — it looked like travel was going to have a dramatic return to previous days with no end to growth in sight. And it started off that way, with bookings up for destinations everywhere until the realities of staff shortages from baggage handling to experienced pilots threw the aviation sector into a tailspin. Cancelled flights, long waits, and jammed phone lines were common.

Photos by Ron Pradinuk / Winnipeg Free Press

The new home office can now be anywhere in the world you wish to work from.

The public felt burned when airlines found as many ways as possible to say no to legitimate reimbursement applications as outlined under passenger protection legislation enacted by the government.

After watching news coverage of passengers screaming for assistance — or worse sleeping overnight on airport floors with small children in tow — the image of the airlines plummeted. It got worse when airlines fuzzed and switched rationalizations for refusing passenger claims.

Yet, none of that has affected the path to strong bookings with these same airlines. Other than massive foul-ups caused by recent weather events, travel is still likely to bounce back again this year and with staffing shortages still a challenge more problems in delivering quality service may continue.

Remember how cruising was going to stay in a deep dive?

Massive COVID outbreaks in the crowded confines of what is referred to as the petri dish of cruise ships almost killed the industry. Ships stood idle for months and sailed almost empty for the first few itineraries. Not so anymore. Some cruise lines are reporting their largest daily sales on record.

Before the pandemic, passenger numbers were predicted to reach record numbers. Once again the lure of exploring a number of destinations on one trip and enjoying the luxury of excellent meals and service at the end of the day seems to be overcoming the fear of the health scares that kept people away over the last couple of years.

Your travel dollar won’t go as far

Global tourism is expected to grow by at least 30 per cent this year. Even with the price increases already a factor as a result of inflation, there is confidence in the near future.

In fact, one of the concerns now is how the industry is going to handle the increase in demand and find and train qualified people, from pilots to chefs and servers.

What’s on your bucket list?

The nature of where people will travel to, may be somewhat different than in the past. Most travellers have always had bucket-list destinations which they hoped they might hopefully experience one day. With some serious reflection by many after being held down during the pandemic, that day appears to be on the more immediate horizon.

What was first defined as revenge travel as the worst of pandemic precautions eased is now morphing into a re-evaluation of the importance of what travellers want to see and do with their leisure life — accepting that for any of us, our plans can be altered or disappear unexpectedly due to forces beyond our control.

Increased demand for shoulder-season travel

While prices may increase across the board, one way to manage costs is to avoid booking travel during the high season when the price of just about everything from accommodations to attractions is at the highest.

Photos by Ron Pradinuk

The public felt burned when airlines found as many ways as possible to say no to legitimate reimbursement applications as outlined under passenger protection legislation enacted by the government.

Despite airline challenges, travel is on an upward trajectory.

I have always suggested off-season travel even before the recent inflationary pressures. In most cases, the attractions are still open, especially in the first weeks of the shoulder seasons, and the crowds are so much smaller.

As with many trends, there may be a potential downside. As these once slower period bookings grow, price increases are sure to follow. For this year at least, there is still the opportunity for money to be saved.

Business travel behind and changing

According to several projections, it might take until 2026 for business travel to return to what was once deemed normal. Companies learned they could manage and save significantly on this expense line without undue impact on their operations from sales to quality control.

While there is a slow business travel upswing, some analysts are suggesting that the new normal may not be work from home, but rather work from roam.

It also became clear that some industries could operate efficiently without employees actually coming into the office. Now these same employees are looking at making their homes in cities like Paris and London for longer periods of time than they would for vacations. They have access to all the technologies and can experience different destinations in a completely immersive manner while still providing complete and satisfactory work performances for their employers from as far away as they like.

Home sharing continues its growth

Travellers continue to be drawn to the homes and apartments offered through sites like Airbnb and VRBO. The availability of these options from castles to ordinary residential homes and condos, satisfies a desire to be independent from the large hotel chains, which likely was the first choice of most in the past.

In some cities home sharing has become a problem for the city administrations as inventory for local residents disappears, leading to rent and housing cost escalations. The hotel industry similarly needs high occupancy numbers to survive and is now often unable to meet target expectations.

The industry has been looking at ways to modify their properties to keep clients booking by adding something akin to home sharing. But it is a steep climb and the demand for home sharing will not slow down.

pradinukr@shaw.ca

Ron Pradinuk

Ron Pradinuk
Travel writer

A writer and a podcaster, Ron's travel column appears in the Winnipeg Free Press every Saturday in the Destinations and Diversions section.

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