2020 set the bar for one of the worst years for international travel in living memory. The upside? Surely it could only get better.
Well, it did. But only marginally. Covid-19 has once again dominated the headlines in 2021, this time focusing primarily on vaccines. The swift rollout of AstraZeneca, Moderna and Pfizer jabs made a considerable impact and it looked like the world was on the road to recovery.
But the pandemic was not done with us yet. Omicron loomed over the travel industry like a menacing rain cloud. So, as we approach 2022, what were the themes that defined the year? Find out below:
Vaccine passports cause controversy
First mandated in Israel, vaccine passports are essentially proof you have either been fully vaccinated for Covid-19, have recovered from the virus, or recently tested negative. The vaccination certificates were adopted widely around Europe, for domestic use in some countries and as travel passes in others like the UK.
Concerns about privacy and perceived infringements on civil liberties have fuelled the debate around passports. The U.S. is yet to mandate them nationwide, but this could be a major theme we see develop in 2022.
Job losses followed by staff shortages
The U.S. Travel Association reported in May that 17 per cent of leisure & hospitality jobs had been lost. The travel industry accounted for 35 per cent of all U.S. jobs still lost since February of 2020.
Another survey in July also found that just over 50 per cent of hospitality workers who lost their jobs during the pandemic weren’t keen to return to the industry, even as travel and dining services were in demand again.
This became apparent as the demand for business and leisure travel increased in the summer. American Airlines and other carriers had to cancel thousands of flights as they struggled to persuade people to come back to the industry.
Omicron sews doubt throughout travel industry
Just as it looked like the vaccines were doing their job against Delta, Omicron reared its head in winter and had scientists, politicians and the entire international travel industry fearing the worst.
However, Sir John Bell, regius professor of medicine at Oxford University, told the Guardian on Tuesday that Omicron is “not the same disease we were seeing a year ago” and high Covid death rates in the UK are “now history”.
The leading immunologist was talking about the reduced severity of the variant, based on early data, and provided the vaccination rollout continues across the globe, this could be a piece of cautious optimism for travellers to take into the new year.
Sustainability and staycations
A survey in June by booking.com found that 73 per cent of U.S. travellers think sustainable travel is vital, while 42 per cent believed that in 2021 there were not enough sustainable travel options.
Airlines have also been promoting sustainability as United made history with the first commercial flight with passengers on board to use 100% drop-in sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) for one of the aircraft’s two engines.
Staycations and domestic holidays have also been hugely popular this year, offering just that little extra security against quarantines and cancellations. They are also likely to continue into next year as people choose a less risky alternative to international travel.
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