2022 travel predictions: This is the new normal
No one knows what will happen to travel next year, and that's making a lot of us nervous
There will be no need for a story predicting travel in 2022 because we're already living in the future.
This, right now, is the new normal.
And by "this," I mean the constant uncertainty. Will the vaccine card still be accepted when I travel? Will the country I want to visit shut down? Will a new COVID variant kill me?
This is the reality of traveling in 2022. It's far from ideal. Making it even less ideal is that people are lying about the future. Yesterday the AP published a story that asked (seriously) when the pandemic would officially be over.
How about "never"?
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We had a fascinating discussion about the new normal on Friday. It seems many of you feel the same way. This unpredictability is here to stay.
How will we travel in 2022?
I could bore you with predictions from other travel "experts." Certainly, the 2022 travel predictions from the World Travel & Tourism Council were a little surprising. It expects the U.S. travel sector to grow by a stunning 28 percent, reaching nearly $2 trillion in economic contributions. That's a new record.
But I'm not so sure about that number. It came from a survey taken before the omicron variant emerged, an event that put a lot of travel plans in doubt. I think it's safe to say the U.S. tourism industry is hoping for a record-breaking 2022, but we will have to see …
In terms of other trends, I think I've heard it all. Pet travel? When has that not been a trend? Budget travel? Same. Road trips? Yawn. Splurge-cations? I'm not even sure what that is. Mileage devaluations? Already happened.
Prediction: Here's how will people travel in 2022
The real issue for 2022 is: How will we deal with this uncertainty?
What does all of this uncertainty actually look like? Here are a few figures from Morning Consult's State of Travel & Hospitality, released just last week, after the omicron variant was already spreading. Take note of those downturns at the end of November, when the traditional travel season starts.
Are you thinking what I'm thinking?
Yeah, $2 trillion, right.
Considering omicron or pi or whatever comes after it, that number becomes doubtful.
If you read Friday's discussion about the new normal, you'll see that folks are alternatively tentative and defiant. They're tentative in that they don't want to overplan their trips for 2022 because COVID could take a turn for the worse. But they're also defiant in that they don't want to stop making plans because of the uncertainty.
So you see some domestic trips falling and some international trips rising, but the curve is more or less flat. That'll probably continue in 2022.
Travel in 2022 means living with constant uncertainty
What's the new normal going to be like?
Here's my travel prediction for 2022: The only thing that comes close to this new normal is living in a war zone. Maybe you've seen the stories about people who inhabit an area of constant military conflict. They factor the ever-present threat of death into their everyday lives and somehow keep living. Oddly, they even stop fearing death even when death is around them.
Will travel be that way, too? Will it be so uncertain that we'll have to factor that variability into our lives and just keep going?
For some of us, it already is. We've traveled during the pandemic and we already know there are no guarantees. There could be another outbreak, another variant. The hotel could shut down. The flights could stop. You could get sick — or die.
But here's another theme from all those stories about people living in places where rockets rain down on them every day: There's that defiance, heard from many of this week's commenters. It's a refusal to live in fear.
Do we know what's happening to travel in 2022?
We have no idea what lies ahead. Anyone who tells you they know should have their head examined.
I may not be able to protect you from the seemingly constant barrage of travel predictions for 2022 that lie ahead. You know, the articles that will declare with great confidence that 2022 is the Year Of The Travel Comeback or The Year Of International Travel.
But do we know anything about anything? Haven't we learned from the constant ups and downs, the twists and turns of the last two years, that COVID is nothing if not unpredictable?
But I think we have a good idea about a few things:
The roller coaster ride isn't over. COVID is sticking around. That means you need to continue planning as you have been. Book refundable airline tickets and hotels when possible. Get your boosters. And please don't forget travel insurance.
The travel industry will try to raise prices. It always does, but in 2022, I have a feeling it'll try harder and we might just let it because we feel sorry for the airlines, car rental companies and hotels.
Watch out for extras. More fees are inevitable, as I recently reported. And this time, travel providers will get pretty creative. I have a feeling they will succeed.
But I've been around long enough to know that I could be completely wrong about all of this. So please don't hold me to it.
I'm feeling certain about only one thing: The new normal is already here. It's a feeling of never knowing what will come next. Yeah, you know what I'm talking about. That feeling.
So as we go into 2022, my advice is: Get used to it.
Time for your comments, my friends. How does the new normal feel to you? What are your predictions for next year?
About the art
Dustin Elliott wanted to portray the energy and chaos of holiday travel, and nothing says that better than Amtrak. Some of us are so vaccinated that we're like walking syringes. Then he turned the colors down a notch. "During the holiday shuffle, why not inject some soothing lavender to go with our infectious-ridden holiday travels?" he asks. OK, Dustin. You've had enough fun with this one.