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Ahead of July Fourth, travel industry hopes for big summer rebound

The news: The travel industry is looking for a summer rebound this year, but those hopes could be somewhat derailed by the current debate on inflation, rising fuel prices, and aircraft disruptions.

  • We expect 3.25% more US digital travel bookers this year versus last, per our May forecast, and for digital bookings to net $225 billion, up 18.3% from 2021.
  • To put that into perspective, bookings won’t yet recover to 2019 levels.

Factors pointing to a rebound:

  • Is inflation a concern? Absolutely. But there’s so much pent-up demand on account of the pandemic. Consumers have money earmarked for travel that’s been set aside for, in some cases, over two years.
  • 59% of consumers say cost is a main concern in making summer travel plans this year, per Shopkick—but 73% say COVID isn’t affecting their travel decisions.
  • The share of US adults planning to travel within the next three months jumped by 5 percentage points in May from just four months prior, per Morning Consult.
  • One recent poll of Singaporeans may illustrate how many global consumers feel: Although 77% said they were “extremely” or “very” concerned about price increases, 84% were planning to travel this year, a jump of 39% versus last summer.
  • The Biden administration’s recent removal of COVID-19 flight testing prior to re-entry should increase US consumers’ appetite for international travel.

The counterpoint:

  • Conversation about travel on Twitter plummeted 75% from April to May, per Sprout Social.
  • Tweets about gas costs and travel, half of which were unfavorable, increased 680% from the winter to the spring.
  • Though not a primary consideration, air travel is not environmentally friendly, and consumers increasingly care about sustainability. Environmental groups recently sued Dutch airline KLM, alleging that its marketing deceives the public about the sustainability of flying—suggesting that “greenwashing” will backfire against airlines.

Change > cancel: Instead of calling off their vacations, more consumers will likely change their plans to account for price increases and added fees.

  • Demand for car rentals is plummeting, per Zeta Global, with regions with the highest gas prices, including California and the Northwest, experiencing the largest decreases.

Business rebound?

  • Business travel interest in the United States jumped by 365% in May after two months in a row of declining demand, per Zeta Global.
  • The share of frequent business travelers who anticipate traveling in the next four to six months rose 10 points in May over April, per Morning Consult.
  • Given how lucrative business travel is for airlines, its rebound will be critical for the health of the industry writ large.

The big takeaway:

  • Will travel rebound this year? Yes.
  • Is it going to be affected significantly by inflation? Absolutely.
  • Will inflationary pressures cause people to stay at home? No. But they will influence how far some travel, the types of activities people engage in, and how much they spend.

Go further: Read our new Analyst Take on digital travel’s bounceback.