This month we take a look at a few of the stories that shaped travel in 2022 and are setting the stage for travel in 2023.
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Even at the end of 2022, you cannot talk about events that affected anything, without first mentioning COVID-19. Three years later, we are still discussing and feeling the pandemic's effects. Fortunately, 2022 had lots of good news for travelers and the travel industry as it proved to be a comeback year for travel, with borders reopening and travel restrictions and pre-departure testing dropped in most countries. Travel bounced back to near pre-pandemic levels, even with all the different COVID variants that popped up throughout the year.
Going into 2023, there are still some countries with travel restrictions, including the United States, which requires all international travelers to be fully vaccinated before entering the country. Also noteworthy is the popular Caribbean destination Turks and Caicos, which also still has vaccine requirements for anyone age 18 and up wishing to visit the islands. If you cannot provide proof of vaccination status, look to the other Caribbean islands, most of which have returned to pre-pandemic rules and restrictions (or lack of). Get a quick look at some other places with travel restrictions heading into 2023 in this article from Forbes Advisor.
Suffice it to say, 2022 saw travel open back up, but heading into 2023, it is still a smart idea to check the requirements of your destination before you book those tickets. And don’t throw away that mask quite yet, as some mask mandates are still in place and vary greatly from place to place, even within a city, based on comfort levels and local rules.
Revenge Travel & Blended Travel
2022 saw the rise of revenge travel and blended travel. Neither concept is necessarily new, but both gained popularity over the past year as people worldwide became weary of staying at home and started feeling more confident about being able to travel safely. "Revenge travel" had people taking bucket list trips while "blended travel" saw more and more remote employees combining work and play, either tacking on time at the beginning or end of a work trip or alternating between business and vacation, maybe squeezing in some beach time before (or during) a work call. These trends added to the fact that in 2022 travelers were out in numbers not seen since 2019.
Heading into 2023, these trends are likely to continue and gain even more traction, with travelers embarking on adventures of a lifetime and lucky remote workers taking advantage of being able to work from almost anywhere they choose.
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Airline Staffing Shortages
With all this good news about travel and people being out in droves to take advantage of lessened travel restrictions, the burden was on airlines to keep up with demand. Unfortunately, many were unable, and staffing shortages left many travelers stranded while airlines scrambled to keep up. While many travelers made it to their destinations without issue, just as many did not. Travel delays, trip cancellations, and baggage delays had travel complaints up nearly 270% over pre-pandemic levels. By the time we entered the fall travel season, airlines tried to balance staffing shortages and the number of necessary flights by eliminating routes from their schedules, which meant higher fares, less chances to upgrade, and more crowded flights.
2023 will see more of the same, with tourism expected to grow significantly but airlines and hotels still struggling with staffing shortages. As always, patience is key when traveling these days, as is a good trip cancellation plan.
Extreme heat waves. Record-breaking hurricane season. Severe winter storms. 2022 had no shortage of newsworthy weather events from around the world that shut down airports and cities and impacted travel.
While we cannot know for sure what's to come in 2023 weather-wise, we know that severe weather can have a big impact on travel plans. Traveling during hurricane season or in the middle of winter storms can cause travel delays, cancellations, trip interruptions, and more. And, as we saw during Summer, even extreme heat can cause problems in places that are not used to it, as we saw in the UK. Having the right travel insurance plan can help you be prepared and enable you to make travel plans worry-free any time of the year.
Learn how travel insurance can help if you run into weather-related travel issues in the Travel Insurance and Bad Weather travel guide.
Cruise Industry Comeback
2022 was the year that cruising finally made a comeback. The cruise industry was among the hardest hit by the pandemic and the most closely watched and heavily restricted. Finally, in July 2022, the CDC ended its COVID-19 Program for Cruise Ships, giving the cruise lines back the ability to set their own guidelines. That led to most major cruise lines dropping testing requirements for vaccinated cruise-goers and some allowing unvaccinated cruise enthusiasts more of an opportunity to join the party at sea, beginning with August and September cruises. Black Friday and Cyber Monday saw record-breaking numbers of cruises booked and an early start to the yearly wave season.
2023 is expected to continue the momentum that started in 2022 and cruise lines are hoping to see a full recovery, with more and more countries welcoming cruise ships back to their ports.
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Visa Wait Times to Enter the US
Lengthy visa wait times are not only causing stress for travelers, but also for the travel and tourism industry. Wait times for visitor visas exceed 400 days for first-time applicants from some of the top countries, and in India getting an appointment to get a travel visa (B1/B2 visa) is close to 1,000 days.
To combat this, in October U.S. Representatives María Elvira Salazar from Florida and Susie Lee from Nevada introduced the Visitor Wait Time Reduction Act in Congress. The bill’s main goal is to reduce the wait times for visitor visas by requiring the State Departments to outline specific steps to address the problem at each individual embassy or consulate where the wait time exceeds 100 days.
In a statement, the US Department of State said, “The Department of State is successfully lowering visa interview wait times worldwide. We have doubled our hiring of U.S. Foreign Service personnel to do this important work, visa processing is rebounding faster than projected, and in Fiscal Year (FY) 2023 we expect to reach pre‑pandemic visa processing levels.”
Still, the delay in issuing visas could prevent up to 6.6 million people from traveling in 2023, resulting in a loss of more than $11 million in spending.
If you are traveling to the US, purchasing a travel medical plan is essential to ensure you are covered for emergency medical expenses while in the states.
In 2022, the world saw the highest levels of inflation since the 1980s. Pricing on food, gas, electricity, clothing, and more has increased to uncomfortable-for-most-of-us levels. Travel was definitely not immune to inflation, and in October alone airfares were up 42.9% over previous years, according to this article from CNBC.
The good news is that inflation numbers seem to be leveling out, but that doesn't mean lower prices. that just means not as high of increases. Nerdwallet's Travel Inflation Report: December 2022 reports that travel prices are coming back down after hitting highs this summer. Many of the biggest costs of travel even decreased. But prices are mostly still higher than what they were this time last year — and even higher than what they were pre-pandemic. Hotels are up about 3% versus this time in 2021, and up 13% compared to the same time in 2019. Airfares are up 36% compared to this time last year.
Heading into 2023, expect to still pay higher prices. For travel, planning is essential to save some money. Simple things like booking early, traveling in the off-season, and not checking luggage can all help you keep costs down while still taking your trip.
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