Just weeks after the federal government announced that vaccinated international travelers were re-allowed into the country, more than 500 people – including 100 tour operators – sailed to the Huntington Convention Center in Cleveland for the 2021 Travel conference. Exchange the National Tour Association to hear an expert speakers and find the next hot destinations.
The meeting, which ran from November 14 to 17, came as the industry emerges from pandemic closures, prompting a reinvention of what travel and tourism will look like in 2022 and beyond.
A critical part of the meeting was an expert meeting where industry officials discussed when they expected their businesses to meet or exceed pre-pandemic activity levels. .
“We gathered information and projections from two groups of our members: tour operators, who are travel buyers, and members who sell travel products to operators. There are representatives from destinations, cities, states and provinces and countries, as well as travel suppliers. (like) hotels, museums and bus companies, ”said Bob Rouse, editor and vice president of the National Tour Association of Lexington, Ky.
In a survey of these NTA members, the vast majority, 92%, of travel buyers (including tour operators) said they plan to close 2021 with lower revenues than in 2019. More than half of tour operators, 58%, believe it will only be 2023 that activity surpasses 2019 levels, while 22% believe it would take at least 2024 before that happens. About 14% expect to catch up next year, and 3% said they’ve hit 2019 metrics this year. The remaining 3% responded that businesses may never revert to pre-COVID conditions.
Members who sell travel products, such as bus tours and hotel rooms, are more optimistic, with 44% expecting to complete 2022 by 2019 and 32% expecting next year. equal to 2019 in terms of income. This optimism, Rouse said, is most likely the result of the 25% that surpassed 2019 revenue figures in 2021.
The survey also asked members an important question: “As you look to 2022, what factors will drive the biggest change in the way you do business?” “
Most buyers, 77%, cited COVID-19 and other health issues as a major factor that could affect business through 2022. Meanwhile, 53% were concerned about research challenges suppliers and 49% were concerned about price increases.
Almost 50% of sellers and 38% of buyers cited “changing consumer behavior and interests” as a factor in how they plan to do business by 2022.
These changes in consumer behavior and interests, many of which are the result of increased awareness of environmental and social justice issues, are shaping the future of tourism towards responsible and sustainable travel, said Stephanie Jones, consultant in tourism development and founder of the National Blacks in Collaborative Travel and Tourism Initiative.
“Travelers’ expectations are no longer just focused on the big shiny objects,” said Jones, who spoke to NTA members about diversity, equity and inclusion (DCI) in the industry. “They want to support small businesses in underserved communities.… They want to drop off more than they take when traveling. They want authentic local engagement experiences and immersive cultural experiences and they want to be more. socially and culturally aware of what is happening in the destinations they are going to. ”
DCI and sustainability are crucial concepts for some travelers who want to go “beyond the iconic experiences and spend time … really learning about the culture by participating in it, not just watching it from a bus, but putting your feet up. on land and walking in communities and meeting locals, having conversations and getting into small businesses, ”Jones said.
Creating a cultural experience means that groups like Destination Cleveland, which market the city and region, represent destinations inclusively and market small businesses and attractions.
“It’s really important that the travel experience, the experiences that we bring to potential travelers truly reflect our community,” said David Gilbert, President and CEO of Destination Cleveland and the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission.
Tourist destinations such as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and sporting events are big drivers for visitors, but there are plenty of other neighborhood experiences that get overlooked because visitors don’t know they’re there. , did he declare.
Destination Cleveland plans to use the DCI principles when selecting suppliers and in the group’s promotional decisions as part of the city’s overall brand. There are 255 black-owned businesses in the Cleveland area related to the tourism, travel or leisure industry, and it is a priority for the organization to promote these businesses, Gilbert said.
Cleveland is also seeing an increase in hotel occupancy rates and percentages as regional road trips continue to be popular, he added.
“We do a lot of research to discover these diverse neighborhoods and we plan to tell a lot of stories not only in our marketing to get people to see Cleveland as a destination, but also to guide visitors when they are here,” Gilbert noted.
“In Cleveland a lot of our rich history is cultural history and we are an incredible ethnic mix,” he added.