Travel Returns in a Rush This Summer - Is the Industry Ready? | Sports Destination Management

Travel Returns in a Rush This Summer - Is the Industry Ready?

Apr 10, 2022 | By: Mary Helen Sprecher
Photo © Colicaranica |

As far back as last fall, we saw the demand for youth sports making itself known. Now, the next wave of the resurgence has arrived: the return of travelers who are ready to spend some time in new cities. With infection rates continuing to drop and consumer confidence spreading its wings again, tourism is expected to return to the skies and roads.

Back in February, the New York Times reported that the World Travel & Tourism Council which represents the global travel and tourism industry, projected that travel and tourism in the United States would reach prepandemic levels in 2022, contributing nearly $2 trillion to the U.S. economy.

And it looks like this has come to pass. TravelPulse notes that confirmation of the good news has arrived in the form of a new study from arriva, the booking technology platform. The study found that travelers are ready and eager to travel in 2022, with 69 percent of respondents revealing plans to travel this year, while another 24 percent already had a vacation booked.

But we’re nowhere near the “Go Big Or Go Home” philosophy that might have been suspected to take priority this summer. The survey notes that as eager as travelers are to get back on the road, price is still their top concern; many lost money in the months since the pandemic began. In other words, while they want to travel, they won’t be booking big-ticket vacations.

It’s all the more reason we can expect sports-cations to become even more popular this summer, with parents bookending extra days around tournaments in order to allow kids to visit theme parks, historical areas, seashores and other diversions. (A great analysis of the sports rebound can be found at this link).

Because of the increase in airfares, more travelers are expected to be looking at their loyalty programs (including points, miles and rewards) as a result, event owners can expect to see an increased demand in a variety of hotels so as to be able to take advantage of free or discounted nights. They may also be interested in drivable destinations that would allow them to get around flying. (The New York Times article found that rental cars were likely to remain expensive and harder to get, making it even more likely families would drive to their destinations).

It would be easy (and nice) to be able to say the big winners are expected to be hotels – who, after all, have suffered badly starting in March 2020. Unfortunately, labor will be an issue, according to Skift:

“The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics monthly jobs report released on Friday showed that leisure and hospitality sector jobs accounted for 112,000 of the 431,000 jobs gained overall during March. The sector’s unemployment rate dropped from 6.6 to 5.9 percent, still a good amount over the national average of 3.6 percent in March. While the numbers in the March report have undeniably shifted in a positive direction, hotels still have a very long way to go. The summer season is coming, and agencies are seeing pent-up demand for travel and lodging — with a lack of employment to respond.”

Skift also noted that according to the U.S. Travel Association, out of the 1.6 million jobs left to recover to pre-pandemic levels, 1.5 million are in leisure and hospitality. In other words, the leisure and hospitality industry now accounts for 93 percent of all jobs in the U.S. left to recover. 

But the news, however worrisome for that sector, also has some upsides. Although many hotels have cut back on services like housekeeping, guests have begun to prefer that their rooms remain accessible only to themselves during their stays.

Hotel breakfast buffets, a favorite of sports travel crowds, are making a comeback as well – although rules may vary by state, and even by jurisdiction. However, as health concerns continue to fade away in the rear-view mirror, it’s likely an increasing number of buffets will reopen.

That pent-up demand will continue to fuel the summer’s boom, according to TravelPulse.

“After many canceled vacations and months spent at home, consumers are mindful of planning their trips in 2022,” arrivia Chief Marketing Officer Jeff Zotara told reporters. “They want it to be special, but they also want value for money.”

About the Author