Industry leaders predict that this year will see a stunning global tourism comeback following the coronavirus pandemic.
At this week’s Qatar Economic Forum, jet manufacturers, airline executives, and hotel tycoons all discussed the seemingly unquenchable demand for travel. They predicted that the boom will be completed by Chinese tourists who were previously restricted due to the Covid-19 virus.
Boeing chairman David Calhoun recently spoke about the aviation giant’s struggle to meet demand for planes, saying, “The desire to travel has never been greater and the industry is struggling how to respond to that demand.”
According to Sebastien Bazin, CEO of Accor, Europe’s largest hotel operator, leisure travel has surpassed business travel as the primary reason for booking flights and lodging.
Passenger volume is forecast to return to pre-2019 flu pandemic levels by the end of the summer travel season in the northern hemisphere.
A new source of pressure on the tourism sector has been identified as China’s relatively spend-happy tourists.
The hotel chain Accor expects “millions” of Chinese tourists to increase business in the tourism sector in the coming months.
The CEO of Qatar Airways, Akbar Al-Baker, has stated that all of the airline’s planes departing from China are “absolutely packed.”
“Not only are they paying the fares that I am asking due to the lack of capacity available to them, but also the amount of money they spend in our duty free at (Doha) airport is more than any other nationality,” he continued.
According to Thai-American hotel mogul William Ellwood Heinecke, the number of Chinese visitors to Thailand in the first quarter of 2023 was 85% fewer than in the same period in 2019.
According to him, the boom would be fully realised in the second half of the year. “I think we are definitely in rebound, but more importantly we haven’t seen China come back yet,” he added.
The ‘Strange Position’
Malaysian business mogul Tony Fernandes, whose empire includes the low-cost airline AirAsia, has expressed a desire to resume operations with all 250 of his planes by the end of August after they were grounded during the Covid-19 virus outbreak.
We went from fighting for our lives one minute to having to restart 200 planes, which is a huge undertaking.
With a “full recovery” from the pandemic, Emirates Group, headquartered in Dubai, announced earlier this month record full-year profits of $3 billion.
According to Fernandes, who cited information from airlines and credit card companies, vacation travel has risen in importance.
Bazin claimed that his company’s 5,400 hotels had experienced a “total shift” in customers’ vacation plans.
Large hotel chains have traditionally catered to two-thirds business travellers and one-third vacationers.
It’s likely that proportions will switch around now. Bazin, describing a “remote working” revolution, remarked, “We are already 55% leisure and 45% business.”
He added that every other week, on Wednesday nights, a new group of vacationers leaves their homes for a trip that lasts little more than three hours and ends the following Tuesday. That entails “they work from home” on Mondays, as well as Thursdays and Fridays.
According to Fernandes, the sector lacked the data necessary to distinguish between pleasure and business travel.
The proprietors of hotels and airlines have justified their decision to charge more recently.
Bazin lamented, “We have been through two years of hell,” adding that premium room rates are up 33–35% from 2019 and that rates for economy rooms are up 10-12%.
He said that the hotel business had lost billions of dollars in income and was having trouble recruiting and retaining workers.
“We are not taking advantage of people,” Bazin emphasised.
“Anyone using low interest rates, low labour costs, and low energy prices to make their model work — it ain’t going to work any more,” Ellwood Heinecke remarked.
Fernandes argued that passengers are now paying a “sensible price” for airline tickets.