Americans should ‘avoid cruise travel’ regardless of COVID vaccine status, CDC says.
By Hayley Fowler Miami Herald December 30, 2021.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is urging people to avoid cruise travel — regardless of vaccination status — amid an uptick in COVID-19 cases propelled by the omicron variant. In doing so, the CDC changed the COVID-19 Travel Health Notice level for cruise travel from a Level 3 to a Level 4, which the agency described as the “highest level.”
“The virus that causes COVID-19 spreads easily between people in close quarters on board ships, and the chance of getting COVID-19 on cruise ships is very high, even if you are fully vaccinated and have received a COVID-19 vaccine booster dose,” the CDC said in its guidelines updated on Dec. 30.
Officials said anyone who does decide to travel on a cruise should be fully vaccinated with their booster shot, if eligible. A person is considered “fully vaccinated” two weeks after they receive either a single-dose vaccine (Johnson & Johnson) or the second dose of a two-dose vaccine (Pfizer and Moderna).
Individuals who have only received one dose of a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine and have recovered from the virus are not considered fully vaccinated, according to the CDC. All cruise ship passengers, even if they are fully vaccinated, should also get tested for the coronavirus one to three days before the trip and between three and five days after they return, the CDC said. The agency additionally recommends that passengers who are not vaccinated against the coronavirus quarantine for five days after they return. Travelers who may face an increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19 should avoid travel on all types of cruise ships regardless of whether they are vaccinated, according to the CDC.
Omicron Spurs Spike in Cases On Cruises
The number of COVID-19 cases on board cruise ships has swelled in recent weeks — due in large part to the omicron variant. At least three COVID-19 outbreaks have hit ships operated by Carnival and Royal Caribbean that left ports in Miami and Fort Lauderdale over the last week, the Miami Herald reported on Sunday, Dec. 26. That includes a Carnival Freedom cruise that docked in Miami after it was denied entry into Bonaire and Aruba because of an undisclosed number of COVID-19 cases among the ship’s 3,609 passengers and crew members as well as an Odyssey of the Seas ship that left from Fort Lauderdale and was similarly denied entry into Curacao and Aruba.
Federal officials also said more cruises are now meeting the threshold for investigation by the CDC, meaning coronavirus cases have been reported among 0.10% or more of passengers (on a ship with 6,500 passengers, that would equate to seven or more cases) and among at least one member of the crew. Nearly 90 cruise ships were under investigation by the CDC as of Dec. 28, Business Insider reported.
Cruise Industry Responds.
The CDC’s decision to update its travel recommendations for cruises was met with ire by the Cruise Lines International Association, one of the largest trade associations for cruise lines in the world.
“The decision by the CDC to raise the travel level for cruise is particularly perplexing considering that cases identified on cruise ships consistently make up a very slim minority of the total population onboard — far fewer than on land — and the majority of those cases are asymptomatic or mild in nature, posing little to no burden on medical resources onboard or onshore,” the association said in a statement. The statement went on to say that cruises offer “one of the highest levels of demonstrated mitigation against the virus,” including greater levels of testing and vaccination than other modes of travel.
Royal Caribbean Group echoed that sentiment in a Dec. 30 news release, saying “cruising remains one of the few places one can vacation knowing that almost everyone you meet is fully vaccinated.” “We don’t like to see even one case, but our experience is a fraction of the comparable statistics of virtually any other comparable location or industry,” Chairman and CEO Richard Fain said in the release.
“Few businesses are subject to such intense scrutiny, regulation, and disclosure requirements by so many authorities, and we welcome that scrutiny because of our commitment to safety.” Chief Medical Officer Dr. Calvin Johnson said in the release case counts have spiked on Royal Caribbean cruises but noted “the level of severity is significantly milder.”
By Jen Murphy: Bloomberg: December 30, 2021
A more sustainable, less colonial experience awaits.
John De Fries still recalls fishing the waters off Waikiki Beach in Oahu as a kid in the 1960s. “Growing up, my family fishing grounds were a source of food first and recreation second,” he says. “Today they’re a playground surrounded by hotels.”
Born and raised in Waikiki, De Fries was appointed president of the Hawaii Tourism Authority in Sept. 2020, when coronavirus shutdowns had the state’s economy reeling but the community and environment thriving. In 2019, the state of 1.5 million people hosted a record 10.4 million visitors—unsustainable figures that had residents feeling sour. Though tourism netted $2.07 billion in tax revenue that year, Hawaiians lamented its effects on traffic, beaches, and the cost of living.
For locals, the quietude of 2020 “was somewhat euphoric,” says De Fries. “It felt like we got our islands back.”
But that wasn’t sustainable either. Nor was the boom that happened in July, when visitor arrivals exceeded their 2019 level by 21% despite strict Covid-19 testing protocols, mask mandates, capacity restrictions, and staff shortages. That, says De Fries, “was like putting 220 volts of electricity through a 110-volt circuit.” Rental cars became so scarce that U-Hauls were found in beach parking lots; resorts jacked up rates, with average stays at hotels in Maui of $596 a night in August; new taxes were sought; and vacation-starved visitors didn’t flinch.
What comes next is a radically transformed experience for visitors—and locals—hopefully, in a good way. For the first time, Hawaii’s tourism authority is majority-run by Hawaiian natives, rather than white mainlanders with hospitality degrees. With the input of locals, who range from farmers to hotel owners, each of Hawaii’s four counties has created a strategic plan that stretches into 2025 and focuses on sustainable destination management rather than marketing.
The plan relies heavily on community involvement and visitor education. “In the past, visitors were spoon-fed what outsiders thought they wanted,” says Kainoa Horcajo, founder of the Mo'olelo Group, a Maui-based consultancy that helps hotels to reimagine their cultural experiences. “Now, it’s time to take a risk, challenge the visitor, and give them something real.”
Here are the ways your experience of the state might change in the near future, and possibly forever.
You’ll Need a Reservation to Visit Popular Natural Attractions
Want to see the black sand beach at Wai'anapanapa State Park in Maui or cross the Kauai’s Kalalau Trail off your bucket list? You’ll now have to make a reservation anywhere from 24 hours to 30 days in advance, depending on the site and season.
The new system, which covers roughly a dozen of Hawaii’s most visited parks, is meant to curb traffic in local communities and tread more lightly on natural resources. Parking and entry fees for non-residents, which can cost from $5 to $15 per person, will also help to better maintain the sites.
Take Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve in Oahu, a marine area that had been seeing 3,000 daily visitors before the pandemic. New measures there caps entries at 720 visitors a day and hikes fees from $5 to $25 for non-residents. Before entering the water, everyone is required to watch a 9-minute educational video that talks about coral regeneration and marine life, and the park is closed two days a week to let the ecosystem rest.
Sean Dee, executive vice president and chief commercial officer at Outrigger Hospitality Group, which operates nearly two dozen properties across Hawaii, calls this the future of sustainable tourism. “The water is cleaner, visitors are educated, and the revenues help manage the bay,” he says. “It’s a win-win for everyone.”
You’ll Have to Get a Crash Course on Being a Good Tourist
The informational video at Hanauma Bay is just one example of how the state is trying to stoke cultural and environmental awareness among visitors. This September, Hawaiian Airlines started airing a five-minute video reminding guests to only use reef-safe sunscreen, keep distance from endangered animals such as monk seals, and be cautious of rip currents and shore breaks in the ocean.
Meanwhile Jon Benson, the general manager at the Hyatt-managed Hana-Maui Resort, has removed all of such former amenities as towels and lounge service at nearby Hamoa Beach, home to a sacred Hawaiian burial place. He’ll reinstate them only if the site can be properly honored with guidance from local kupuna, or elders, he says.
“Guests complain,” Benson admits. “But when I explain why the services are on hold, they begin to understand the land around them isn’t just for photos and enjoyment. It has deep cultural significance. It’s our responsibility to educate them.”
You May Be Charged a Conservation Fee on Arrival
Currently Oahu is lobbying for the establishment of a regenerative tourism fee that would apply to all arriving tourists and directly support conservation and environmental management programs. The state seems keen on approval, given that it cannot spend more than 1% of its annual operating budget on natural resource management.
Expect this to look a bit like the $100 fees that are charged upon port entry in the Galápagos, or embedded into airfares to the tiny Pacific island-nation of Palau. (In the latter destination, it’s called a “Pristine Paradise Environmental fee.”) The government is looking at both examples to model what soon may come.
You’ll See a Less Colonial Version of Hawaiian Culture
In the past, tourism fed into the stories marketing executives thought White people wanted to hear, says Clifford Nae'ole, cultural adviser for the Ritz-Carlton Maui, Kapalua, and former president of the Native Hawaiian Hospitality Association. Hawaiian food was pineapple pizza and spam; a luau was just about girls dancing in grass skirts. Now, chefs are proudly incorporating native Hawaiian ingredients such as ulu, or breadfruit, into dishes, and luaus have become historical lessons about the Polynesian migration to Hawaii just as much as they are entertainment.
Those luaus, for instance, won’t include grass skirts—a costume that was introduced by 19th century missionaries as a more modest alternative to traditional skirts and lioncloths made of kapa, or bark cloth. “Now when kumu [hula teachers] are told costumes are too revealing, they push back and say this is the traditional dress,” Nae'ole says.
You’ll also see this change when you receive a lei upon arrival. Now they will be made from locally grown flowers instead of orchids, which are imported from Southeast Asia at high financial and environmental costs and have been used for decades only because White mainlanders found them pleasing.
At the Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea, local florist Lauren Shearer, owner of Hawaii Flora + Fauna, teaches visitors how to make the garlands from foraged native fauna such as blue jade, crown flower, and ferns. “Ancestors didn’t just use lei for personal adornment,” says Shearer. “They were also used for peace treaties and to establish hierarchies.”
Other cliches are also being rejected. The newly renovated Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Resort on Oahu, for instance, shines a spotlight on modern Hawaiian music, not just traditional ukulele, hosting such award-winning slack key guitarists as Sean Na'auao nightly. And at the Grand Wailea, a Waldorf Astoria property on Maui, cultural ambassador Kalei 'Uwēko'olani goes beyond offering outrigger canoe paddles and brings in storytellers such as navigator Kala Baybayan Tanaka to share tales of her father’s historic, technology-free Hokulea canoe crossing from Hawaii to Tahiti.
You’ll Be Encouraged to Give Back
Last November, the Hawaii Tourism Authority launched a campaign in conjunction with Hawaii Tourism USA (formerly the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau) to introduce the concept of malama, or caring for the land. “Everyone relates to aloha,” says De Fries. “Malama is emerging as its sister value.”
“We’ll always have tourists who come to sip mai tais by the pool, but programs like malama are helping us target a more mindful traveler,” says Ilihia Gionson, public affairs officer with the Hawaii Tourism Authority. Since its initiation, the program has grown from having 16 hotel and airline partners to today’s 110, which have all committed to rewarding guests with a free night’s stay if they spend a day helping to clean beaches or reforest land.
Teraj Allen, a 36-year-old recording artist from New York, and his partner, Barry Hoy, 42, recently made their first trip to Hawaii and spent a day planting trees on Kauai with the Waikoloa Dry Forest Initiative to partake in malama. “In my head, I thought we were going to a beach destination, and one of the highlights was this experience,” says Allen. “It felt special to be able to leave a legacy.”
Less than two weeks ago, sun-seeking tourists in Cancun’s fabled hotel district were greeted by armed members of Mexico’s National Guard. President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador [AMLO] sent 1,500 troops on permanent assignments to Quintana Roo following gang-related shootings that have tarnished the region's image, including the murders of two female tourists. AMLO explained the troops were there mostly for intelligence gathering.
Benito Juarez-Cancun Municipal President ( Mayor) Mara Lezama, a member of AMLO’s party, was there to greet the troops with open arms. Lezama, who was just re-elected to a second two-year term, was effusive, proclaiming that, “It’s a great day, an historic day on the issue of preventing crime and providing security” (Google English translation).
One wonders what Mayor Lezama has done herself, or whether she just might be part of the problem. Organized crime has reportedly been on the rise in Yucatan resort cities from Cancun to Playa del Carmen and further south for years. Recently, though, the criminal violence has begun to take a heavy toll on the area’s profitable tourism industry, already hit by 2020’s pandemic closures.
Numerous popular bars and nightclubs in the hotel district have closed their doors, perhaps permanently, because neither the city, state, or federal government has been able to curtail the violence and strong-arm tactics used by organized criminals to intimidate and extort money (and perhaps commit crimes themselves). As a measure of the intimidation, despite police investigations of 324 attacks on Cancun businesses since 2019, in every case the owners refused to file any complaint against their attackers.
Recently, the brazen gangs posted banners on local streets, warning by name at least 11 bars and nightclubs that their owners, employees, and parishioners would “face the consequences” if they did not ante up the demanded sums. Many of those bars shuttered their doors rather than comply.
Earlier, the state attorney general’s office had closed another bar following the execution of a client by an armed group. Another bar was closed after officers found drugs on the property. The U.S. State Department has issued an advisory warning Americans to “exercise caution” in traveling to Quintana Roo State because of its high crime rate.
Missing from every story on the Cancun crime wave is any mention of ongoing charges of political corruption filed by two civil society organizations against Mayor Lezama and members of her family. The charges were initially filed in 2020 but went nowhere, allegedly because the technical secretary of the city council was a first cousin to a recently removed Financial Intelligence Unit [UIF] official.
But in November, the National Movement for Security and Law Enforcement sued the new UIF head, Pablo Gomez Alvarez, to reactivate their complaint that accuses Mayor Lezama of illicit enrichment and organized crime activities. In addition, the Opus Magnum organization of Mexico is again demanding that the UIF and the Attorney General’s Office reactivate at least three of its complaints against Mayor Lezama and members of her family.
Mayor Lezama’s rise to power, and apparently great wealth, is at the least curious. The former journalist and broadcast celebrity had joined AMLO’s party in 2015 to run for municipal president of Benito Juarez in 2016 but dropped out of the race alleging she had been threatened. Others alleged that members of the Morena party had paid her a huge sum to withdraw from a race she was favored to win.
Two years later, though, she was Morena’s candidate for mayor and won 58 percent of the vote. She was reelected this year with just 41 percent of the vote, her halo perhaps dinged by the very public corruption charges. Undaunted, Lezama is now running to be Governor of Quintana Roo.
Reporter Daniel Rodriguez recently asked how Lezama can expect to win, given that she has been unable “to explain the origin of her fortune or that of her family,” which has increased exponentially since she entered politics in 2015. The family’s recent move to a luxury condominium is just one of the reasons many are questioning how they got rich so quickly.
Lezama, along with her husband, her brother, and her nephew, created the company DesarrolladoraCumpalin 2015 with an initial investment of 60,000 pesos. In just five years, they have purchased17 properties in Mexico and abroad valued at more than 60 million pesos. In addition to the real estate, there are also reports that family members made cash purchases of six luxury vehicles collectively valued at 6.9 million pesos. And then there are the 10 taxi concessions valued at a collective 10 million pesos.
In February 2020, the Lezama tribe moved into a luxurious two-story residence with solar panels, a jetty for yachts, a swimming pool, direct access to the Caribbean Sea and more in the exclusive residential area of Puerto Cancun. The condo, which Lezama claims is just on loan “during the pandemic,” is about 11,840 square feet and has a commercial value of 102.9 million pesos. The entire arrangement is a bit murky, and the optics of the “Mara White House” suggest the mayor and her family have already ascended to royalty (at least in their own minds).
It does appear that Mayor Lezama’s fortunes took a huge turn upward at about the time she withdrew from her first political campaign. With the wolves circling around, perhaps she would do well to withdraw once again, this time from the governor’s race until she has cleared her name (or has been found guilty). Maybe Cancun’s bars and restaurants could then find political leadership with the willpower to stop the criminal gangs from ruining, or even ending, their lives.
Cancun, Mexico, Dec 27 (EFE).- Mexico’s tourist sector is ending the year with a strong recovery compared with pre-pandemic figures from 2019 and with a high hotel room occupancy rate, despite the cancellations of flights from the US and Europe due to the spread of the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus.
The Mexican Caribbean, with Cancun as the main attraction, expects to finish out 2021 with a total of 12.5 million visitors for the year, representing an 83 percent recovery of the figures attained in 2019.
Andres Aguilar, the office manager for the Tourism Secretariat of Quintana Roo state, told EFE that during the current winter season, historically considered to be one of the best times of the year for tourism in the Mexican Caribbean, occupancy rates of between 80-90 percent are expected, with days on which more than 600 air operations are handled at the Cancun airport.
“We’re expecting a rather positive winter season … From Dec. 18 to Jan. 2 we’re forecasting the arrival of 1.3 million visitors,” he said.
“For next year, if we maintain the same trends … the levels of certification in protection and health protection, and the vaccination regimes among the local population, we’re not only going to reestablish activity with respect to what we had in 2019, which was a little over 16 million tourists, but – in addition – expect a slight increase,” he added.
For January, more than 1.6 million seats on incoming flights have been reserved already and a similar number for the months of both February and March, clear evidence leading to the optimism for the first quarter of 2022.
Along the Riviera Maya, where there are more than 43,000 hotel rooms, the first two weeks of December saw an average occupancy rate of 80 percent and for the closing days of 2021 a rate of 85 percent is expected.
These figures, as emphasized by Toni Chaves, president of the Riviera Maya Hotel Association, represent a 95 percent recovery compared to average occupancy in 2019, since last year the borders closures and restrictions imposed because of the coronavirus pandemic resulted in barely 30 percent occupancy.
“The Mexican Caribbean has benefited from the Mexican government’s strategy to implement health measures and keep the doors open, in contrast to other destinations. Also, it shows the (public) confidence that the Cancun/Mexico brand has acquired over the years,” said Javier Monje, the sales director for the RIU hotel chain in the Mexican Caribbean.
“In our case, we’re clearly seeing these figures reflected in the occupancy of our hotels,” he added.
“After how difficult it was to get started in 2020 and with the good rate at which tourism has responded given the spread of the pandemic, Cancun finds itself one of the most visited cities after the pandemic, a result of public-private collaboration,” said Monje.
Jesus Almaguer Salazar, the commercial director for Spain’s Oasis Hotels and Resorts chain for the Caribbean, said that in Cancun and along the Riviera Maya next year expectations are for a significant increase in tourist arrivals.
Almaguer Salazar said that the good results obtained so far and the favorable projections for 2022 are due to the fact that the area has managed to generate confidence among visitors as a tourist destination that has managed itself well during the pandemic.
“We’ve captured the major part of North American tourism that has traveled to the Caribbean region, from important South American markets such as Brazil, Colombia, Chile and even Argentina. If we do things right, we have guaranteed a very good season,” he told EFE.
Meanwhile, Roberto Cintron, president of the Cancun, Puerto Morelos and Isla Mujeres Hotel Association, emphasized the need to strengthen not only the promotion and publicity strategies to continue to attract foreign tourists, but also to see to it that tourists’ experience in the region makes them want to return not just once but many times.
“We already have a forecast of about 75 percent reservations on flights for the first months of 2022, which are months during which travelers historically come here because of the cold in their places of origin,” he added.
However, Cintron warned about the “risk of losing” part of the tourists captured once other destinations manage to reactivate themselves.
“We’ve got ‘borrowed tourism,’ that’s the reality, because Europe has not completely opened up, because people prefer to come to a spot just two or three hours away by air rather than with a six- or nine-hour flight to Europe or to the center of South America where the security situation doesn’t contribute much and people prefer coming to Mexico,” he acknowledged.
“We have to see to it that those tourists return at least two or three more times to the Mexican Caribbean given the future advertising by countries like Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, Cuba and other European nations that need the big (tourism) market that is the US and Canada,” he said.
Carnival loss widens but revenue PCD tops Q4 2019, Omicron affects near-term bookings.
Carnival Corp. & plc's fourth quarter loss widened but cash from operations turned positive in November and revenue per passenger cruise day topped Q4 2019.
The Omicron variant is affecting bookings for near-term sailings but not return-to-service plans.
Some 61% of the company's capacity is operating and Carnival continues to expect its full fleet will be back in service by spring.
US GAAP net loss was $2.6bn, up from the $2.2bn loss a year ago, while adjusted net loss was $1.96bn, compared to $1.86bn.
Cumulative advance bookings for the second half of 2022 and first half of 2023 are at the higher end of historical ranges and at higher prices, with or without future cruise credits.
Customer deposits increased $360m, to $3.5bn, in Q4, the third consecutive quarter of growing deposits.
Carnival has refinanced more than $9bn, reducing its future annual interest expense by approximately $400m per year and extending maturities.
'Since resuming guest cruise operations, we have established effective protocols for COVID-19 and its variants and have returned 65,000 team members and 50 ships, all while delivering an exceptional guest experience to over 1.2 million guests and counting,' Carnival Corp. & plc President and CEO Arnold Donald said.
Positive cash flow
Cash from operations turned positive November, earlier than expected, and Carnival projects consistently positive cash flow beginning in Q2 2022 as additional ships resume operations.
'We enter the year with $9.4 billion of liquidity, essentially the same liquidity level as last year but with significantly improved cash flow generation ahead, as ship operating cash flow and customer deposits continue to build,' Donald said. 'During 2021, we believe we have clearly maximized our return to service and strengthened our financial position to withstand potential volatility on our path to profitability.'
Revenue PCD up
Revenue per passenger cruise day increased approximately 4% in Q4, compared to a strong 2019. The increase was driven in part by exceptionally strong on-board and other revenue.
Occupancy was 58%, better than the 54% in Q3 this year.
Available lower berth days were 10.2m, or 47% of total fleet capacity. ALBDs are expected to be 14.1m for Q1 2022, or 63% of total fleet capacity.
Carnival Cruise Line nearing 90% occupancy
Donald noted Carnival Cruise Line experienced another quarter of double-digit revenue growth per passenger day compared to 2019, operating at nearly 60% of its capacity while also improving occupancy, and is now approaching 90% occupancy levels in December.
Cash burn lower than expected
The company's monthly average cash burn rate in Q4 was $510m, better than expected. Incremental costs are expected as more of the fleet resumes operating and dry dock expense goes up.
28 ships to undergo dry dock in first half
Some 28 of Carnival's 94 ships are planned to undergo dry docking in the company's fiscal first half.
Second half profit still forecast
Carnival expects a net loss for the first half of 2022 and a profit for the second half of 2022 on both a US GAAP and adjusted basis for both periods.
NEEDHAM, Mass., Dec. 14, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- Travel in 2021 may have had its starts and stops, but one thing was for sure this year: travelers' appetite to get out and explore showed no signs of waning. While travel as we know it may have looked different this year, people still got their fix in some way or another. As we close out the year, today Tripadvisor, the world's largest travel guidance platform, looks back over the last 12 months at some of the ways we reengaged the world as travelers connected, supported and guided each other to discover all the good out there in 2021.
The pandemic has continued to make a profound impact on travel and tourism. However, despite lockdowns and travel restrictions far and wide, travelers remained hopeful and positive that travel will recover.
In fact, more than 44 million new travelers joined the Tripadvisor community in 2021 and 2.5 million travelers posted a review for the first time in a year.
As of December 2021, Tripadvisor has 988 million reviews and opinions of 8.7 million accommodations, restaurants, experiences, airlines, cruises, and other travel related businesses. The website is available in 43 markets and 22 languages. In 2019 Tripadvisor had 463 million average monthly unique visitors which fell to 352 million in the 3rd quarter of 2021, 76% of the 2019 total.
Reviews aside, here are some other inspiring insights from 2021 worth celebrating:
Travelers were big on Trips this year
More than 7 million new Trips (travel itineraries) were created on our platform -- If you took a trip a day, it would take you more than 13,830 years to do them all.
The planning was endless, both the little escapes and the big occasions. Just ask the travelers who named their trips "Mom needs a getaway so no Momster comes out" and "Where is Alexis going to propose?"
Travelers took the time to appreciate each other and the interactions they did manage to have, whether virtually or in person
"Thank you" was mentioned over 41 million times in reviews and forums this year.
Despite the impact of COVID-19 and its effect on travel, travelers managed to find bright spots everywhere
Tripadvisor's "Highlight of the day!!!!" forum has 5,000+ posts (and counting) that saw traveler updates both big and small.
As travel recovers, new businesses have been popping up everywhere this year to welcome guests back through their doors
309,270 new accommodations, 109,110 new experiences and 175,286 new restaurants listed their businesses on Tripadvisor in 2021
Travelers were longing for sunshine this year. These were some of the favorite sunny destinations travelers were searching for this year
Honolulu, Hawaii - saw 3.2x more Experiences bookings than pre-pandemic
"Everything in Hawaii seems to come with a story, and that is what makes it special." - longboard
Cancún, Mexico - saw a 17% increase in searches compared to 2020
"I daydream about Cancun during rush hour on my way back home from work." - Adaza
Punta Cana, Dominican Republic - saw a 96% increase in searches compared to 2020. "I can't think of anywhere else so tropical and gorgeous, yet so affordable at the same time." - SunLvr101
Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt - more than doubled (106%) its searches compared to 2020
"The water was so blue and clear and filled with beautiful coral reefs...We will definitely be back!" - Lisa B
Hurghada, Egypt. "Hurghada is less hassle than anywhere else in Egypt, and a great place for activities and relaxing." – khaled elio
In addition to sunny destinations, travelers were *obsessed* with outdoor experiences. Based on bookings done this year, these are some of the most popular destinations for outdoor experiences in 2021
Denver, Colorado - received 65% more bookings in 2021 compared with 2019
Top experience: Hiking Adventure in Rocky Mountain National Park from Denver
Sedona, Arizona - bookings in 2021 grew by 116% compared with 2019
Top experience: The Original Sedona UFO and Stargazing Night Tour.
Ontario, Canada - increased in bookings by 313% in 2021 compared with 2019
Top experience: Niagara Falls Grand Helicopter Adventure.
Moab, Utah - saw 53% more bookings in 2021 than 2019
Top experience: Moab Xtreme 3-Hour Experience
La Fortuna de San Carlos, Costa Rica - received 152% more bookings in 2021 than 2019. Top experience: Sloth Tour in La Fortuna
Looking ahead to 2022, travelers are more than ready to get out of their work-from-home setups and back to exploring the world.
There are over 66,000 Trips with "2022" in the title already saved
"2021 was full of ups and downs in travel but despite that, it was heartening to see how travelers showed up for each other, continuing to support, appreciate and share how they traveled where they could," said Steve Kaufer, President & CEO at Tripadvisor. "While a lot remains unknown in the year ahead, we remain hopeful and positive that travel will continue to recover, and travelers will be able to get back out to finding the good out there. As a company, Tripadvisor and the Tripadvisor Foundation will do its part to help those in need get through this period of change."
Blake Morgan Senior Contributor CMO Network
For the past seven years, I’ve written annual predictions about customer experience for Forbes. Customer experience has evolved beyond anything any of us could have seen back then, and thanks to Covid-19, every company today needs to be two things; an experience company and a technology company.
We thought Covid-19 would wrap up by the end of 2021, but now with omicron, who knows when life will return to normal. We hope it will, but have to be prepared for anything. Digital is no longer an option, it’s critical to any business’ survival, no matter the size, or if you are B2C, B2B, or B2B2C. You’re now all just B2H.
As we head into 2022, brands face a tipping point with changed customers and expectations. 50% of global consumers say the pandemic caused them to rethink their purpose and re-evaluate what’s important in life. Nearly everything about how we live, work and shop is different than it was two years ago.
It’s never been more critical to understand what’s coming down the pipeline to create an effective customer experience.
Here are five customer experience trends to look for in 2022:
1. Ecommerce Booms and Evolves—Customers Are Buying More Through WhatsApp and Other Channels
E-commerce has seen tremendous growth over the last few years and is expected to account for 23.6% of all retail sales by 2025, compared to 11.0% in 2019. That trend is now expanding to other digital channels.
Digital shopping allows customers to browse and purchase items from the social apps they already use. WhatsApps rolled out features that make it easier for customers to shop, including chatting with brands, getting personalized recommendations before making a purchase and receiving automatic responses to their queries. Instagram and Pinterest have also expanded their features so that users don’t just look at images but can actually buy items.
2. Instant Gratification—Online Customers Want A Response Within 5 Minutes or Less
Modern customers want what they want, and they want it now. Speed and convenience matter to customers more than ever, and brands that deliver instant gratification have a huge competitive advantage.
Instant gratification takes various forms across all industries, from urban grocers offering 15-minute delivery to real estate websites using AI for nearly instant listings and banking apps transferring money between users and accounts in seconds. Even micro-moments of instant gratification improve the customer experience by proactively answering questions and offering fast service and value without sacrificing quality. Customer expect a response from a company within five minutes or less according to Forrester.
3. Earth Talk—Customers Want To Know Environmental Impact Of What They’re Buying
Globally, 91% of consumers expect companies to be socially and environmentally responsible. But it’s no longer enough for brands to claim to be sustainable—they must be transparent with their efforts and progress. Vague sustainability claims act as a deterrent for customers.
Fashion brand Rebecca Minkoff uses an AI-powered transparency tool that shows exactly how much water and material it takes to make each item compared to similar products. Retailers like Amazon and Sephora allow customers to sort products that are climate pledge friendly or made with clean materials, making it easier to support responsible brands.
4. Experience Economy Booms—Moving Beyond Products to Services
Shopping is no longer just about products. Modern retailers are expanding to offer creative services that enrich customers’ lives, build community and showcase their products in new ways. It’s now about providing services and experiences to put the products to use.
A growing number of retailers are offering educational events, such as cooking classes at Sur La Table or Williams Sonoma and gardening classes at Home Depot and Lowe’s. Costco has long offered experiences from vacation bookings to home improvement services in addition to its traditional products. Taking a page from Costco’s book, REI recently expanded its services category to help customers book outdoor activities to use the gear they purchased from the store. Customers at the Nike Rise concept store use technology to find the perfect shoes and then test them out at exclusive events and fitness classes. In 2022, more retailers will create experiences and environments where customers are increasingly doing the activity of the thing the business is selling. Such as REI, the company is just getting folks outdoors and to #OptOutside - which doesn’t seem related to selling hiking shoes, but is.
5. Bots Help Staffing Shortages—Robots Taking Over Human Tasks
Widespread staffing shortages and supply chain issues show no sign of slowing down. The lack of human employees has moved businesses towards robotic technology. Through the first nine months of 2021, North American companies ordered a record 29,000 robots, many of which perform front-line tasks traditionally done by humans.
Restaurant chain White Castle uses Flippy, a French fry robot that works alongside its hamburger robot to keep food fresh for customers. McDonald’s is partnering with IBM to develop and test an AI-powered voice system in its drive-thrus.
Customer experience is more crucial in 2022 than ever before. These trends highlight changing customer demands and expectations and how brands can tailor their strategies to create loyal, engaged customers.
The hospitality world is working hard to find its feet after a turbulent 18 months. It’s no secret that technology will play a central role in getting to grips with new feeder markets through targeted marketing and optimizing distribution, to achieve sustained revenue and profit performance improvement.
1. Short booking windows
Despite more travel corridors opening in the last quarter of 2021, the uncertainty caused by Covid is set to continue into 2022 leading many travelers to wait until the last minute to book their holiday. This makes it even more important for hotels to continuously monitor and adjust their room rates and track their comp set to ensure they are always one step ahead.
Likewise, holidaymakers want to take on as little risk as possible when booking a trip. While 2021 was the year of free cancelation policies and flexible travel dates, we expect 2022 to herald an end to such open-ended travel, as the travel and hospitality industries attempt to regain some control.
Another change in guest behavior is the blending of leisure and business trips. We touched on ‘bleisure’ travel (also known as workcations) in our 2021 trends - and we fully expect this to continue during 2022. It provides hotels with an opportunity to upsell additional services during both the business and leisure phases of the guest’s stay and entice them to stay longer. Although after almost two years of lockdowns many travelers need little incentive to get out and explore!
3. Commercial collaborations
Hotel teams are having to do significantly more with less. Distribution, Revenue, and Marketing Managers are increasingly responsible for a wider share of properties compared to pre-Covid times, and they frequently have a smaller team at their disposal to deliver results. Yet, the pressure to increase net RevPAR and profit is unrelenting.
This is set against a backdrop of ever blurring lines between the three disciplines – largely driven by a broadening of services offered by distribution channels such as Google. Forward-thinking hotels are now seeking to combine these three functions into a highly agile and data-driven commercial team that can take a holistic approach to securing bookings and growing profit.
4. The Metasearch master
We predict that 2022 will be the year that metasearch engines, and we really mean Google, will make major strides towards leveling the playing field with the OTAs. Google has significantly expanded its offering for the hospitality industry. Guests can now easily book without leaving the platform, and hotels can advertise on a risk-free “no booking no fee” basis by opting for Pay Per Stay bidding instead of Pay Per Click. Furthermore, the recent introduction of continuous scroll on mobile devices could also influence hotels’ advertising strategies.
The main point to remember is that the growth of metasearch has accelerated. Hotels must have experienced people to manage metasearch if they want to successfully deliver a return on investment.
5. The Metasearch minnows
Following on from number four, as Google makes it ever easier for travelers to find and book great hotel deals and it expands the range of tools for hoteliers to reach guests, all the other metasearch platforms are literally being squeezed out of the market. Not all of them will survive, and we predict more mergers and acquisitions in this space.
6. Hyper local marketing
The recent surge in Covid numbers in several regions is likely to spur on the continued traveler preference for local and drive-to destinations. This has provided hotel marketing teams with a huge opportunity to increase direct bookings and corner the market on their doorstep. But, to do this, they need granular level insights into their target guests’ demographics and expectations. Using this data, they can build highly targeted campaigns to convert searches into stays.
7. Travel apps
This will be the year that hotels wake up to the need to go mobile - developing bespoke campaigns to win guests searching and booking on mobile devices, cell phones and especially apps. There has been a major boom in the use of mobile to book hotels. Summer 2021 saw mobile contribute 60% of all revenue and mobile traffic came in at 77%. This unprecedented growth is expected to continue, so to capitalize on it, hotels must invest in technology that allows them to track in-app competitor rates as well as their own distribution performance on mobile apps, i.e., parity and rate integrity where consumers actually view prices - and move away from data platforms that only provide desktop insights.
8. OTA commission rises
While new strains of Covid-19 may be throwing travel into chaos in the short term, hoteliers remain cautiously optimistic that the returns seen in the summer of 2021 will continue. With that, demand for OTA services to promote hotels in key feeder markets will also increase. As OTAs become ever more dominant, hotels are likely to end up paying more in commission than they did in 2019. In the race to be ever more visible, the OTAs are expanding their offering - helping hotels to segment both the audiences they want to target and the timeframe for campaigns and promotions - now offering extended campaigns of up to six months. Hotels need to balance the cost of these tools with the return on investment.
There’s little escaping the fact that hotels cannot rely on what they have always done before if they are to successfully claw back the revenue and profit lost as a result of the long pandemic. Reshaping teams and empowering them through technology is central to breaking down silos and delivering the end-to-end strategic data-based oversight that is needed to identify opportunities, effectively target markets, and gain a competitive edge for the longer term.
Jim Hepple is an Assistant Professor at the University of Aruba and is Managing Director of Tourism Analytics.