Preview 2022: Covid persists

With our first full year of the Covid pandemic now under our belts, we turn our attention to -- another year with the pandemic. With luck, it won't be a full year, but for now we're back in the loop of predicting, guessing and
second-guessing, canceling, rebooking, pivoting ...

Covid's complicated trajectory has been as frustrating for travel professionals tasked with safely moving clients around the world as it has been for us in producing an issue devoted to the year ahead: U.S. Covid cases were again on the upswing in December, and the omicron variant is spreading fast, meaning that predictions, especially for the first part of the year, are not easy to make.

In the pages that follow, Covid is the constant, but our staff also examines secondary trends that will shape our future. Cruising is approaching what will be its first year without the Conditional Sailing Order, and most of the global fleet is back in revenue service. Airlines plan to increase capacity and accelerate touchless technology. Hotels will be grappling with a labor shortage and softer demand in business travel-heavy markets.

And behind it all, travel sellers are staying the course, working hard to keep their clients inspired to travel, advising them on the best vacation prospects, ever-changing entry requirements and which terminal to head to after their flight's been delayed/canceled/etc.

One thing we learned in 2021: Even if the virus is out there, Americans still want to be out of the house. Revenge travel, bucket-list travel, family travel, nature getaways -- if it was bookable, people were interested. And we predict that 2022 is going to be the same, except different. 

First and foremost, vaccines and boosters are widespread in the U.S. At this time last year, there was only the promise; now they're reality for all Americans over the age of 5.

This time last year, Europe, Canada and several Caribbean countries were a no-go. This year, at least for the present, they're actual destinations, albeit with a complex and ever-changing web of protocols, quarantines, declarations and documents now required.

This time last year, cruising was a "maybe later" proposition. Now, ships are embarking passengers in several U.S. ports, and 2022 even promises the launch of a few new brands.

This time last year, Zoom conferences were still a constant. Next year, in-person meetings and events are on the books. Of course, the travel demand curve will depend on another curve we've come to know all too well. But if 2021 was the year of the pivot, at least now we know how to do it well.

And one thing remains constant in travel: eternal optimism. Each time we repositioned last year, we also rebalanced and began working hard on a new reality. We are confident that whatever hurdles 2022 presents to us, we can jump them in style, and if we stumble or fall, we'll just brush the dirt off our knees, grab our masks and our vax cards and keep on going.

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