It’s no secret that travel has been unpredictable and hard to manage over the last two years. Travel guidelines have shifted often and quickly because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and demand for travel, especially business travel, has changed dramatically.
Here are six trends that we predict will drive the travel industry in 2022.
Longer-term and extended-stay lodging
Hotel revenue per available room dropped almost 50% in 2020 from the previous year according to data from STR, and occupancy was 33% lower than 2019. While all hotels were impacted by this decrease, extended-stay brands saw a less significant drop in revenue and occupancy, a report from Business Travel News said.
Many employees who book extended stays come from the healthcare, construction and energy industries, all of which have continued to travel to do essential work throughout the pandemic. These jobs often include week- or month-long stays at hotels to last the entire duration of an on-site project or assignment. A focus on infrastructure will increase these types of jobs around the country, and we predict that extended-stay hotels will see more growth as they provide travelers a more comfortable, affordable lodging experience.
More local and domestic travel
The pandemic made many travelers more comfortable sticking with trips close to home. Instead of managing international travel restrictions and requirements, travelers could take a road trip to a local or outdoor destination to minimize contact with other travelers. Even as travel continues to increase, it’s likely that many trips will be closer to home.
Increased health and safety awareness and protocols
Don’t put away your hand sanitizer just yet—many Americans are still concerned about public health while traveling. In an April 2021 survey by PwC, 85% of respondents reported that they either had already been vaccinated or planned to be. Out of those respondents, 19% still planned to avoid flying, and 31% planned to avoid public transportation.
Travelers want hotels, airplanes, and other stops along their trips to be as safe as possible, and cleaning protocols will remain a crucial part of ensuring this safety and peace of mind.
Virtual payment options
Travelers are always looking for ways to simplify their trips, including the ways they pay, and digital options make payments easier than ever. Instead of using a physical card or cash, travelers can make purchases on the go with mobile wallets and virtual per diem options, making it easier for them to track their spending. Not only can these options streamline payment for both employees and their companies, they also help travelers stay safe by minimizing physical contact.
Focus on savings and flexibility
Travel is expensive, and the unpredictability in demand has also created unpredictability in rates for hotels, flights, and rental cars. Average daily rental car rates doubled from July 4, 2020, to the same day in 2021, according to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index. The increase in price of jet fuel may also cause higher airfares.
Hotel rates have also been unpredictable as demand for rooms goes up and down. Hotel prices are expected to increase by 13 percent in 2022, according to recent research from the Global Business Travel Forecast.
Travelers will look to save anywhere they can, especially on hotel and transportation rates and with flexible reservation options. Booking with pre-negotiated, discounted rates can help travelers and their employers save on travel.
The continued return of business travel
Business travel declined more than 50% in 2020, according to the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), and recovery proceeded at a slower pace than expected. In 2022, however, GBTA reported that global business travel spending is expected to surge, rising 38%. Business travelers are getting more ready and willing to return to the road, which may help fuel recovery for the entire travel industry.
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