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Fasten your seatbelts and prepare for take-off – Australia reopened its international borders to all travellers on 21 February in long-awaited news for the grounded tourism industry.
According to Australian Tourism Industry Council (ATIC) forecasts, Australian travellers are expected to leap out of lockdown and return to pre-pandemic travel habits, starting with visiting family and friends and attending major events again.
However international travel in 2022 will look a little different to the last time you dusted off your passport, booked long-haul tickets and fronted up to the airport.
Amid the volatility of the Omicron variant, once vetted destinations (Singapore, New Zealand) are now verboten with airline schedules in disarray, travel restrictions in flux and hotel quarantines still in effect.
Aviation experts predict that major international airlines servicing Australia – operating at 19 per cent of pre-COVID capacity in January 2022 – are expected to increase flights to 65 per cent in April, contingent on demand and COVID disruptions.
Here’s what to expect for travel in 2022.
Intrastate and interstate travel will continue to lead the tourism recovery, thanks to borders reopening and the scrapping of hotel quarantine. Aviation experts note that domestic carriers were operating at 85 per cent of pre-COVID capacity in January 2022, which is expected to increase to 100 per cent in March, depending on demand and the Omicron variant. Due to fluctuations in airline schedules, road trips will continue to lead the domestic travel revival with the ATIC noting that day trips will likely increase before overnight and longer stays.
In line with the popularity of caravanning during COVID, Sanctuary Cove International Boat Show General Manager Johan Hasser said boat ownership has also risen as Aussies embrace the outdoors lifestyle and the freedom to travel to destinations without boarding a plane.
Visiting family and friends (VFR) is the leisure travel sector expected to rebound first for international travel as Aussies plan to reunite with loved ones after extended periods of separation. This can already be seen by the spike in demand for flights to destinations such as the UK, US and New Zealand.
Like a scorned lover, we’ll be seeking the overseas travel we deserve and have been denied. ‘Revenge travel’ taps into the pent-up demand of housebound holidaymakers for international leisure travel after extended lockdowns. We expect to see Aussies tap into amassed annual leave and discretional funds to make up for lost time now that safe travel is on the horizon again.
If the thought of vaccination passports, tests and quarantine on top of entry eligibility, visas and additional transit requirements has you shook, you’re not alone. The Toronto Star reports Canadian travellers are choosing holidays over hassles at all-inclusive resorts where meals, accommodation, activities and entertainment are part of the pre-paid package.
Well-known destinations such as Fiji, Bali and Thailand will also prove popular with Aussies who are keen on one-stop, safe and relaxing family vacays as that first step back to international travel.
The contact-free, high-tech hotel experience is here to stay. Hotel X Marketing Manager Primrose Caldwell says technology advances, such as mobile check-in, will continue to be integrated as part of the enhanced guest experience. Guests will also expect flexibility around booking terms and cancellations and stay longer for leisure travel, while domestic business travel is set to return to 50 per cent of 2019 levels in 2022 and be slower to rebound as video conferencing replaces in-person meetings for now.
That hop-on, hop-off 32-city coach tour in Europe may become a tourism relic due to capped numbers, border restrictions and visa requirements. Tourists are being encouraged to embrace an ethical, greener and less-crowded style of travel that benefits the local community. Small-group travel options with immersive itineraries that promote high quality over high volume offer a more sustainable way to travel.
Splurging on experiences over things will see tours and activities take off this year. Experiential travel is the fastest-growing vertical in the leisure tourism sector as holidaymakers look to luxury or immersive experiences that are more meaningful and transformative, or tap into an interest such as food, star-gazing or escapism. Hotel X Marketing Manager Primrose Caldwell says travellers will continue to seek unique experiences to discover more of what a destination has to offer.
It comes as no surprise that cooped-up Aussies are keen to commune with nature and avoid crowded places. Hipcamp Australia Government & Community Relations Manager James Jooste said the campsite booking app saw a rise in rural tourism and farmstay accommodation with nature escapes most in demand. Hipcamp users have tripled to more than 100,000 users in the past 18 months in anticipation of borders reopening.
Close on nature travel’s heels is the move towards getaways that promote recreational or active travel and wellness as people seek to continue their healthy lifestyles and wellness routines when away from home. Think sleep retreats, wellness butlers, spiritual healing, therapeutic experiences and pretty much anything you see on Goop. For active travel, expect demand for cycling getaways, epic walking holidays and hiking adventures to continue to climb in popularity.
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