An Introduction to Preview 2023

In thinking about how to kick off our 2023 Preview, I took inspiration from a quote found in Jamie Biesiada's report on retail-business predictions: Travel advisors are "great busy."

Not the soul-crushing, ticket-refunding, on-hold-forever busy of 2020, when every client was frantically trying to reclaim deposits and advisors were endlessly explaining the details of FCC rules (all while worrying about their and their family's health). And not the rush of 2022, when Covid protocols began to lift and everyone and their grandmother -- yes, because multigenerational travel is one of the strongest trends out there -- was trying to get a hotel room somewhere along the Amalfi Coast.

Rebecca Tobin
Rebecca Tobin

So we'll see if 2023 is the year of being "great busy," the year when several hopeful trends coalesce and give the industry a solid 12 months of calls, bookings and a strong revenue stream to go with it. 

This time last year, I wrote that "Covid is the constant" that ran through our Preview. At that time, the omicron variant was just beginning its upward swing, and the industry's post-vaccine optimism was sorely tested by its trajectory.

Covid is still a force to be reckoned with, but now it's in the background. And much of next year's business can be talked about without having to actually utter the "C" word, even if some issues spring directly from that era.

Airlines, bedeviled by operational problems in 2022, are still adjusting capacity and staffing. River lines must keep a wary eye on the Russia-Ukraine war (and river levels). Tour companies will be targeting big business in Greece. U.S. tourism advocates are trying to get the Biden administration to focus on visa wait times. Outrage over resort fees might return to the forefront. 

Covid travel restrictions are mostly gone -- at least for now. And this gives travel a huge leg up in 2023, because people feel more confident making international travel plans without the fear of getting stuck abroad or enduring the hassle of testing.

We're also continuing a new golden age of the travel advisor. We heard from so many travel professionals about how advisors proved their worth time and again during the pandemic, and it looks like their clients will be sticking with them in 2023. Maybe this time travelers won't need to lean on an advisor to guide them through a maze of travel requirements but instead to help them secure that sought-after suite in high season. You know, the one with the connecting room because they're traveling with a big group of family or friends.

That's another prediction we hear for 2023: Clients still want to travel big, and there's plenty of pockets of untapped demand to go around. Several sectors are looking forward to the return of Asia, now that Australia and Japan have reopened (none of our prognosticators put a possible date on China).

Now, how about those headwinds: Recession, inflation, Ukraine, labor issues? Could high airfares dampen enthusiasm for travel? Could a recession cause some pullback on bookings? Might Covid return in a new form? Might something else, as yet unknown, bubble to the top of our news pages?

It wouldn't be a Preview issue without a note of caution added to optimism. 

But as this year's Preview rolls out, we see no reason to adjust the "great busy" outlook. From our Executive View to our individual sectors, the overall mood is happy and healthy. And if the majority of our industry is busy, and feeling good about it, we'll take it. 

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