Expedia CEO predicts ‘busiest travel season ever’ this summer
It is not only the ease of travel that will presage his return; it’s the combination of high volumes and high prices.
“Airlines expect to be back to historic levels by August,” Kern continues. “And yes, the prices will be high. But at this point, I think people are willing to pay whatever it takes to get away and go where they want to go. After all, he explains, part of pent-up demand is pent-up savings – people tired of spending on material goods for the home are willing to shell out for experiences, whether in cash or points. loyalty that have been gathering dust since 2020.
As for where they might go, Kern is looking at cities. “People are tired of going to national parks. They want to go to New York and see a show on Broadway,” he says, adding that cities in Europe that are full of cultural attractions and dining options – think Florence, Paris, London – will also support a huge demand.
Bold claims in the industry
Kern isn’t the only one seeing a great summer season. On February 9, the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) updated its economic modeling with forecasts that U.S. travel and tourism would exceed pre-pandemic levels by 6.2%, which accounts for nearly $2 trillion of US gross domestic product. In Europe, data from the council shows that summer 2022 bookings have already exceeded 2021 levels by at least 80%.
Misty Ewing Belles, vice president of travel agent consortium Virtuoso, has seen it firsthand, telling Bloomberg this week that summer bookings are already accelerating, bucking the trend of last-minute travel. that has dominated the past two years of pandemic uncertainty. In the UK, where vaccinated travelers no longer need to provide Covid-19 test results before arrival, Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary recently said he expects summer 2022 reports 115% of the passenger volumes the airline recorded before the pandemic, in 2019.
For parts of the world where travel was more limited in 2021, travelers are particularly keen to make up for lost time. According to data from Expedia, almost a third of Australians have at least three trips planned for 2022.
Kern says summer is traditionally the busiest and most profitable season for Expedia, and the travel industry as a whole, by a “significant” margin. And while he’s made similar claims in previous pandemic cycles, there’s reason to believe 2022 will be different.
As more governments treat the pandemic as endemic, he says, the rise and fall of restrictions – and changing entry rules – should become simpler. As a result, Kern expects any future wave of infections to impede tourism less as governments and their citizens become “increasingly numb” to the fight against the pandemic. “With every wave that comes along, they ask, ‘How big of a fight am I going to start this time?
Just like last year, when European governments felt pressure to salvage their busy summer seasons by reopening borders with testing and vaccine requirements just before Memorial Day in the US (May 30 this year), governments are again expected to do whatever it takes. takes to ensure summer travel runs smoothly. European Union talks on easing restrictions in recent weeks, for example, have had the strategic advantage of helping to inspire confidence in airlines that have yet to reintroduce their long-haul transatlantic routes. Encouraging them to add this capacity before too many travelers materialize their summer plans could help normalize prices and see international travel rebound.
And the fact that many workers remain flexible with their hours – albeit limited to their children’s school holidays – means taking extended time off during the summer holidays should be very attractive.
“You could skim through this whole thesis about how people work from anywhere and break away from the traditional schedule,” Kern says, aiming directly at his rival, Airbnb’s Brian Chesky. “But in the summer the kids are out of school and the weather is nice so everyone goes everywhere – summer will always be summer.”
Kern is quick to caution that this does not mean the travel industry will recover evenly. The cruise industry, for example, will take longer to recover than hotels or airlines, simply because of the time it endured heavy restrictions from the Centers for Disease Control. Regionally, Asia and Latin America are unlikely to see strong rebounds in 2022, due to both tighter lockdowns and higher ongoing caseloads, he says. Business travel is still significantly behind schedule.
Families with children under 5 and immunocompromised will also likely travel differently, he says: “They’ll make different decisions, maybe they’ll rent a VRBO at the beach instead of going to Paris and to take a walk. But, you know, people are eager to get somewhere. So I think people will find a way to get around.
When asked if there’s anything else that could threaten his vision of a golden summer, Kern stands by his convictions: “We’re pretty leaning.”