After a torrid 2021, the travel industry is getting ready for a boom this year as travelers are booking at a higher pace than in pre-pandemic 2019. However, the roaring comeback is not without its challenges, and several industry insiders are wary of the capacity to meet the demand.
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Brandon Berkson, founder of Hotels Above Par in New York told CNBC that the surge in bookings is because “People want to make up for lost time.” He further asserts that people’s hunger for travel this year is higher than ever before.
This view is shared by Viator president Ben Drew, a company owned by travel giant Tripadvisor Inc (NASDAQ:TRIP), who said in December that upcoming travel is surging at an “extraordinary” level.
“Travel came roaring back… Even in the face of omicron, travelers are booking more experiences than at this time in pre-pandemic 2019,” he added.
For him —despite the challenges 2022 may pose for the business— this will be “a chapter of resilience, resurgence, and growth for the travel industry.”
Are They Ready?
Coming back with a bang is certainly good news but for the executive vice president of WNS, Manoj Chacko, “The speed and force of demand could catch some travel industry players off guard.”
As Omicron becomes the dominant strain, “Airlines, for instance, could struggle to re-hire pilots. Moreover, pilots might need additional training and skill refresher programs.”
The loss of travel industry workers who flocked to other businesses due to the crisis is also set to play a role in this year’s comeback. According to a report by the World Travel & Tourism Council, one in 13 travel-related jobs in the U.S. could remain vacant.
Last year, Jon Bortz, the CEO of the Pebblebrook Hotel Trust (NYSE:PEB), told CNBC: “It’s hard to find cooks and enough servers to deal with the surge and the recovery of demand in the industry.”
In this outlook, technology is expected to fill the gaps as AI and robotics are offering businesses the possibility to do certain jobs amid the lack of personnel.
“Using AI wisely can significantly reduce labor costs without sacrificing the level of personalized services,” said Rachel Fu, chair of the University of Florida’s Tourism, Hospitality and Event Management department.