Feb. 7 – Travel bookings are on the rise as feelings of missing out and the rescheduling of special events boost industry spending to near pre-pandemic levels.
Total travel spending for December 2021 reached $92 billion, just 2% lower than December 2019, according to the US Travel Association.
Industry experts nationwide and in Norman say the travel landscape looks very different in 2022 as people start planning getaways again.
More than 70% of US travelers engaged in trip planning last week, a 7% increase from last month, according to Destination Analysts.
Brenda Hunsberger, senior vice president of travel services for AAA Club Alliance, said the agency saw a significant increase in new bookings in January 2022.
“People are showing an interest and a willingness to talk about travel that they may not have felt before,” Hunsberger said.
Hunsberger cited pent-up demand and a desire to escape pandemic-related stressors as the main reasons for the recent increase in travel planning and booking.
Shelly Ramirez, owner of Michelle’s Destinations, said her Norman-based travel agency started seeing a surge in travel interest last summer.
“We’ve been booking travel, whether domestic or international, pretty much all this time, we’re just being very careful and making sure customers know what to expect because traveling during COVID is a different travel experience. “, Ramirez said.
Ramirez said domestic and foreign companies are understaffed, so traveling with patience is paramount.
The most common questions right now for Ramirez and many other travel agents are, where is it safe to travel and what is the best value? The answer to this question may change, and Ramirez advises potential travelers to consider speaking with an agent to help them navigate the new travel landscape.
“We have enough uncertainty right now in general, and we’re working really hard to make sure our customers feel comfortable with travel, and a big part of that is education,” Ramirez said.
Hunsberger said cruising has been impacted more than any other method of travel since COVID-19 began, but cruise lines continue to work closely with the CDC to ensure the resumption of cruising goes smoothly. responsible manner.
A popular concern among cruise passengers is ensuring that pre-cruise documentation is in order. Hunsberger, who cruised the Caribbean last week, said passengers should take supervised tests at home and receive a negative result.
“We had to show our vaccination status as well as the results of those tests to be able to board,” Hunsberger said.
Ship capacity reduced from 2,700 to less than 900.
Hunsberger said some positives stemming from the capacity restriction were no lines or problems booking with enough room for social distancing. Masks were mandatory on the ship except when actively eating and drinking, she said.
“We felt very safe,” Hunsberger said. “I would say if you go on a cruise now, expect a great experience, but be flexible.”
Hunsberger said in recent weeks that the CDC has warned travelers against cruising; however, many choose to disregard this advice.
According to the Cruise Lines International Association’s 2022 Industry Outlook, member shipping lines will launch 16 new cruise ships this year. The association reports that more than 75% of cruise ships have been returned to service and nearly 100% of ships will be in service by August.
While some are still reluctant to board a boat or plane, Amy Short, director of travel, strategic partnerships and online sales at AAA Club Alliance, said the agency has seen an increase in number of people doing the “Great American Road Trip”.
Short said two-thirds of travelers indicate they look forward to family travel, including family reunions, romantic getaways and destination weddings. She also sees an increase in what industry experts call revenge spending.
“People are spending more money and taking longer vacations to make up for what they missed in the last [two] years,” Short said.
If one chooses to travel in 2022, Hunsburger said, “remember to be patient.”
Jeff Elkins covers business, life and community stories for The Transcript. Contact him at [email protected] or @JeffElkins12 on Twitter.