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Summer travel trends for 2022: Are you digitally ready for peak travel season?

December 21, 2021 By: Tom Arundel

Welcome to the new era of post-covid travel! Omicron is waning, and traffic and bookings are spiking. Travelers are dreaming of their next big trip, splurging on the vacation of a lifetime. 2022 has already been deemed the year of the GOAT – Greatest Of All Trips, with 68% of U.S. consumers planning to “go big” on their next trip. They’re forecasted to spend an estimated $2 trillion on travel in 2022, up 6.2% over pre-pandemic levels. So what does all of this mean for summer travel trends in 2022?

With the spike in traffic comes big opportunities – and big challenges – for travel industry leaders. There’s growing frustration among consumers, 83% of whom want to plan and book their trips online, and many of whom have less brand affinity after two years of little to no travel.

The world’s largest travel brands increasingly look to digital for the competitive edge to win back the hearts and wallets of travelers, but also driven by the need to do more with less. A double whammy of labor shortages, inflation and health regulations has created the need for contactless automation across the journey, while brands must continue to deliver personalized and customer-centric travel experiences.

Every micro-moment can make or break their decision to book their first trip or become a repeat customer. And it’s not just building a great digital experience one time – it’s building cultures focused on continuous innovation and winning back eager and conscientious travelers.

Here are a few trends we expect to see in 2022 as summer peak travel demand surges post-covid.

Business travel is steadily on the rebound. 

When the pandemic struck, companies embraced virtual tools like Zoom and Slack. Even conferences went virtual. 

As business travel steadily bounces back, it’s expected to reach  pre-pandemic levels by 2025. In the meantime, hotels are finding creative ways to cater to the work-from-home culture, transforming rooms into flexible office and creative spaces.

But leisure travel will soar to new heights.

With leisure travel reaching new heights, hotels are focused on the why of travel, vs. the where. The pandemic made people pivot from visiting famous cities, to more secluded locations off the beaten path. 

Hotel search used to be destination focused. Now, hotels are enabling guests to explore personalized travel experiences, as well as select the type of destination they desire, such as beach, outdoor, family, cultural, and wellness. 

In terms of Covid-19, more and more hotels will also provide insight into how safe it is to travel to a specific destination.

Contactless is about more than safety – it can elevate the experience.

If you’ve been on a plane recently, you’ll know that cleanliness has become extra important. On many airlines, flight attendants now hand out sanitizing wipes as you board. Hand sanitizer is widely available in airports and hotel lobbies. We expected this travel trend to continue in 2022 and beyond. 

But contactless wasn’t always about just cleanliness. Airlines and hotels were already heading in the direction of contactless pre-covid in order to provide speed and convenience for travelers. Passengers have been able to board their flights with mobile boarding passes for some time. Hotels already offered mobile check-in and keyless entry from their mobile apps. These were not previously thought of as “safety” measures, but they did provide seamless experiences.

In terms of travel predictions for 2022 and beyond, I believe that airlines and hotels will further double down on the contactless experience–not just for protocol, but for speed, convenience and loyalty. From digital menus and ordering to service requests, this will become especially important as more and more travel destinations require vaccination status and PCR tests. 

Today, much of this information is still saved the old fashioned way: on paper. With new digital vaccine cards like CLEAR already up and running, I predict more passengers (especially international) will be able to prove their vaccination status and test results via mobile in 2022. 

Flight reservations will remain unsteady. 

If you have booked a flight in 2020 or 2021, there’s a good chance the airline modified or canceled your flight. Reservations are changing multiple times, moving earlier or later, if not getting canceled all together. What is more, prices continue to fluctuate widely. 

Why? Well, there’s a few reasons.

Airlines are dealing with constant changes in staff, including pilots and flight attendants. More travelers are canceling with no penalty. Fewer people are flying. All together, these factors make it difficult for airlines to predict who will actually get on the plane. 

In 2022 and beyond, airlines should find ways to more clearly communicate and mitigate traveler impact from unpredictable flight schedules. 

Travelers will seek more authentic and localized experiences…

2020 and 2021 prompted travelers to explore destinations off the beaten path, which meant they came into contact with local communities and cultures. 

In 2022 and beyond, airlines, hotels, and travel companies will start finding new ways to educate travelers about activities and experiences available in any given location. 

…as they become more aware of their impact on the environment.

Earlier this year, Google added a new feature that allows travelers to see their carbon footprint when selecting a flight. As concerns about climate change continue to take center stage, airlines, hotels, and other travel companies will continue to find innovative solutions to monitor and reduce their social and environmental footprint. 

Hotels will continue to invest in homeshares. 

Airbnb’s impact on the hotel and hospitality industry has been significant, and is influencing our travel predictions for 2022.

As younger travelers seek more authentic and localized experiences, like Airbnb, hotels will continue investing in home sharing and rental plays. Airbnb is still the giant, but traditional hospitality chains have entered the market with more upscale offerings, like Home & Villas by Marriott. I predict that the travel industry will see this area continue to expand in 2022 and beyond. 

…and continue to double down on personalizing the guest experience to rebuild loyalty. 

87% of consumers are more likely to do business with travel brands offering personalized experiences. It’s never been more important to speak to guests wherever they are in the customer journey

Leveraging guest profiles, hotels can offer virtual concierge services (greeting guests before they arrive), along with personalized menus, activity and spa offerings. They can better understand guest desires and represent that knowledge through meaningful experiences that drive stays and build a continuous cycle of learning and optimizing.

…. but to do this, hotels must revamp their data strategy. 

Many hotels are still using outdated legacy and backend technology, which prevents them from being able to innovate faster and personalize front end guest experiences. 

As data becomes critical to their loyalty strategy, hotels will continue to revamp their tech stacks so that they can deliver personalized recommendations while staying within the confines of global privacy regulations. 

When making our list of travel predictions, it made sense to assume that hotels will offer various levels of opting in for data sharing–even more levels than before. This will comfort travelers who are weary of sharing too much personal information. 

Interested in learning more about how the travel industry is evolving? Join our discussion about the changing travel landscape at our annual virtual conference Quantum LEAP on Feb 8-9, 2022.

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