The past two years have taken the travel sector on a wild ride—from brutal decimation in 2020 to the renaissance of the road trip in 2021 to the growing, but guarded, optimism of today. Most experts predict that the industry will not fully recover (read: achieve 2019 levels) until 2024. So we’re exploring where that leaves us in the interim by considering the question: “Is the rise of regional tourism here to stay?”
The short answer? It’s complicated. Here’s why…
Regional tourism isn’t going away anytime soon—thanks to the interplay between internal and external factors such as these:
Remember the late spring/early summer of 2021? When vaccination rates were skyrocketing and Covid cases were plummeting? People were in a good headspace and feeling confident about venturing out again for those few glorious months. Then the Delta variant swooped in, with Omicron right on its heels, essentially clipping the wings of many would-be travelers. With ongoing anxiety about the next variant on the horizon, a legion of wannabe wanderlusters will be staying the course with journeys close to home.
Keeping up with travel mandates—which can and have changed overnight—is complicated work. Some destinations require vaccine passports and negative test results no more than 72 hours prior to arrival while others have no restrictions at all. Amidst the uncertainty, a fair number of travelers are leery about venturing afar—preferring to keep their trips local, or local-adjacent.
There is data supporting the continued strength of regional tourism—minimally for sunny domestic destinations. The U.S. Travel Association created this custom dashboard that shows local visitors far and away outpacing other in-state and out-of-state tourists.
All of that is not to say that travel this year will be solely confined to drivable destinations. In fact, international visitation is poised for a comeback, especially when you consider the following:
After long denying themselves the pleasure of vacationing without limits, some are engaging in revenge travel (we blogged about how to leverage this trend back in May 2021). It’s an urge so powerful that an overnight stay in a hotel a few towns over simply cannot fulfill it. Revenge travelers have bigger aspirations—and bigger budgets—and they’re ready to visit their dream destination which, almost certainly, is not a car ride away.
Open for Business
Tantalizingly tropical destinations such as Mexico and the Caribbean have removed barriers to—and brushed off the welcome mat for—incoming American travelers. Other far-flung spots to watch are those in Europe, a continent travel agents are reporting is in demand once again. Of course, the inverse is true as well. Julia Simpson, president of the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) said, “The U.S. opening its borders and easing restrictions to major source markets such as the UK and the EU will provide a massive boost to economies on both sides of the Atlantic.”
Flights Taking Flight
A data point not to be missed in STR’s Market Recovery Monitor dated January 29, 2022: TSA security screenings saw an upswing (following a 33-week low) and bookings are reported to continue climbing for the weeks ahead.
It’s intricacies such as these that make partnering with an agency that maintains an up-to-the-minute, 360-degree view of the industry so important right now. Contact Lynn Kaniper at email@example.com or 609.466.9187 ext. 117 today to learn how Dana can help you unravel the complexities, make sense of the ambiguities and craft an unshakable strategy to attract the right travelers, right now—whether they’re near or far.