Travel: My Travel Predictions for 2023
(Below is the script I have used in my Podcast for this blog article; you can listen to my Podcast here)
Hello there, and welcome to my latest Podcast; it’s great to have you onboard.
So here we are, in the middle of the Christmas season. We have gorged ourselves until we can gorge no more. Then there are some, who have been so deprived by one day’s absence from their retail therapy rush, they have galloped to the shops on Boxing Day, or St Stephen’s Day to those listening in from outside the UK, to return those unwanted presents or to spend their cash, still crisp from within their envelopes.
Then there are those I know, who are living in a most modest way, one heating their apartment with candles because they can’t afford to pay the high prices for their electrical power and another couple who decided that they couldn’t afford to buy Christmas presents for each other, just so as they could ensure there was enough money to buy some presents for their children, and to put a Christmas feast on their table.
It is a tale of opposite living experiences in the UK and in this Christmas season, we can’t escape the living experiences of those in many other countries around the world at this time.
But for the great British public, help was at hand for the battered Citizens of the UK, because on Boxing Day (St Stephen’s Day), British Television delivered a modest level of holiday and travel advertisements, bringing a promise of relief from the last three years; a promise of a life forgotten.
It reminded me of the flurry of internet-ready pre-Christmas Travel articles, all espousing holidays and destinations that most people can only dream about. It’s never a surprise to me, that very few talk about the great holidays that await those whose budget is limited or to highlight the underlying problems that affect travel. The only value to these articles it seems, is to search engine optimisation, helping to deliver human traffic to their sponsoring websites.
It all brought me back to my own end-of-year articles on Travel and in particular to my 2021 Travel predictions for 2022. In between the family visits, I looked over that article to see how I had done. It was clear from what I podcasted, that not only was I frustrated by the plethora of Travel Prediction articles, seemingly separated from the reality of the approaching world of 2022, but I tried to be upbeat, but realistic to my Consumer constituency.
I looked over my predictions and realised that as predictions go, they were pretty much on the button – I had done my duty to be faithful to Consumers, to tell it as it is; to let Consumers use that information to hopefully make better decisions.
So, here I am, at the end of 2022, looking ahead to 2023 and thinking hard about what I can say to you, to make some predictions, that might just help you think about your travel choices in the year ahead. I take the view that anything I predict must come from the countless hours I research I carry out on this phenomenal industry and try at least to highlight the most important trends that could influence the type of holiday you choose. So here we go, here’s my top predictions for the year ahead for Travel:
For the year 2022, I predicted that Climate Change would be a major factor for holidaymakers. That prediction certainly delivered on the growing concern of the wider International Community. In the autumn of this year, I published a Podcast which recounted my own experience in South-West France and how the ravages of the summer climate produced fear and genuine concern amongst the local population. It was also a summer where holidaymakers were affected by heat, fires and warmer than usual seas. There was also a growing concern and perhaps realisation of the crisis that now faces us. The trend of the planet warming is now confirmed for 2023, where the UK’s Met Office suggests that Global temperatures will rest at a median of 1.2oc above pre-Industrial levels; remember the goal is to limit that rise to 1.5oc. I predict that in 2023, holidaymakers seeking that July/August getaway to traditional holiday destinations, will face high temperatures and perhaps proximity to fire, water shortages and the risk of health issues due to the heat they will experience; it is something they will need to consider before booking, particularly if they suffer with respiratory health conditions. It is my opinion that whilst we are all guilty of resting on the edges of action, the trend of Climate Change on our summer getaways will ultimately change Consumer behaviour and perhaps this is already taking place. It will lead to Consumers creating new time-frames for cooler getaways, changing destination choices, with the consequent effect on the Travel Industry and on those who rely on its income. This is becoming a critical issue for Consumers and the Travel Industry – it will not disappear with the gloss of the 2023 holiday brochures or online Travel articles!
The Elephant in the room returns for another guest appearance. We saw in 2022, British holidaymakers posting photographs of long queues for passport checking at their destinations. This should have come as no surprise to any British holidaymaker as there had been plenty of warnings given that the UK was now considered to be a 3rd party country and was therefore subject to rules that have not applied to UK holidaymakers for many years. We shall see an increase in this inconvenience in 2023 when important changes come into force. The first change is currently scheduled to take place in May 2023, when an entry/exit system (EES) will be applied, meaning that biometric data will be extracted every time you cross an EU external border. It was noted that the tests for this system, which is expected to be automated in some countries, added on average, a 2-to-3-minute extra time-load onto the wait to pass through the border. In addition to this extra action, from November 2023, UK Holidaymakers will have to apply for a European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) visa for a fee of €7 per passenger, which will be valid for 3 years. This is part of the enhanced border controls of the EU (which the UK helped to design when it was a Member State but opted out of being able to enjoy a continued visa free status upon Brexit). In short, this will add extra waiting times, bureaucracy and costs to that getaway. In the meantime, there are still no detectable reciprocal agreements for Pet Passports or Disabled Blue Badge holders so additional burdens should be expected. In addition, holidaymakers will have to take extra care on currency fluctuations and in particular to any terms and conditions that may seek to alter the responsibility of who should absorb the costs of increased travel; I’m afraid all of these measures and predictions will become more evident in 2023 and in the years ahead, unless further agreements are made to soften the blow of the Brexit chosen by the UK.
I have a sense of deja-vu in making this next prediction. Let’s remind ourselves what I said about the prospect for 2022:
“Our countries may well be highly vaccinated, but many parts of the world are not and that raises the prospect of new variants and the ease of cross-border transmission”
As we come to the end of 2022, not only are we faced online with some questionable expertise on COVID and vaccines, but all eyes are now turned toward China again! There are several factors we should note. The first is the now widely reported vaccine hesitancy in China, fuelled by health concerns over their own home-grown vaccines and not the one’s it seems produced in the West. Secondly, there is the opening up of Chinese society and internal/external movement through travel. Then there is the announcement by the US and Italy(the latter advising that they have found a high number of passengers flying in from China with confirmed COVID), introducing a testing system or a requirement that those seeking to enter those countries to present a negative test result. I have two questions: 1) Have we learnt anything from the pandemic, and 2) without stating the obvious, are we still ambling along in the belief that International Air Travel has nothing to do with the global spread of disease?
For 2023, I consider that we are again at a tipping point, for the rapid spread of COVID and quite possibly new variants. Need I say what a devastating affect this would have on the world of Travel or indeed on our lives? I cannot put this any stronger, that our societies need to wake up and smell the coffee and for the International community to take strong positive action. For Consumers, I repeat my words for this year into 2023; ensure that you do your research before you book any holiday to any destination and understand the COVID measures that are being applied and indeed the global situation!
Cost of Holidays
At the beginning of my predictions, I spoke about the different experiences of UK Citizens in 2022. It is abundantly clear that many of our staple items have become more expensive due to Brexit and supply chain issues, but we are also hit by the extra pressure of energy pricing which is already placing an intolerable burden on UK households.
I have seen a wide variety of predictions from the travel industry on how far the UK £ has fallen, ranging from 20% to 40%, buffeted by different crises. In fact, since the Brexit vote, followed by the pandemic and international crises, the UK £ has now fallen to 17% below its pre-EU Referendum levels.
I have also seen a brief commentary from the travel industry that despite the higher prices, this presents an opportunity to engage in cost cutting. The reality is that the Travel Industry has taken a massive hit through all these crises, and it would be difficult to see how an industry could sustain itself through a wholesale price-cutting exercise. If this follows through, this will present an important consideration for UK holidaymakers about the financial security of the companies that they may book through and the security of their money.
The cost-of-living crisis is delivering 2 realities in 2023; those who can afford to go on holiday and those who can’t afford to do so. Choice will demonstrate itself through a higher end holiday choice, reflecting the pockets of those who can afford to go away and at the budget end of the market, margins will be stretched, and quality and the experience of those holidaymakers will be evident. At the bottom end of the market, I can anticipate that those holidaymakers with shallow pockets may be tempted to finance their holidays at exorbitant interest rates and this should be avoided. As with everything, the cost in 2023 will not just be limited to the price you pay, but for every coffee, souvenir or travel insurance policy you buy. Consumers will need to tread carefully with their cash!
Local, Foreign or No Holiday?
2023 is going to be a difficult year for Travel to attract the Consumer £. Cost of Living Pressures and uncertainty about COVID and the overall International situation will have a particular effect on Consumers whose pockets are not so deep.
Those who can afford to Travel will do so and they will be enticed to experience more luxurious travel options and experiences; it is likely that this set of Travel Consumers will take more than one International holiday.
The bottom end of the market, which has the greatest offering on all-inclusive holidays, is already pressured by the pressures of costs and also because of staffing levels. This end of the market will have to present a very compelling offer to UK Consumers with little money to spend, delivering to them the equivalent of a 2019 quality.
I suspect for most holidaymakers, many will stay in the UK, perhaps taking shorter breaks away at staycation locations. But, for many, the prospect of even a short staycation may be even too much for their pockets.
I suspect that one growth area will be witnessed through the camping and perhaps caravanning options, giving some control over the Consumer purse whilst enjoying that experience of getting away. Equally, there will be those who will take day-out experiences with perhaps one big spend at a theme park or other high-cost experience.
Whilst I predict that the UK home market will enjoy another good year, we should take note that for many, there’ll be no travelling from their home base. How the years have changed us since 2016!
Through 2022, Travel Capacity, that is the number of aircraft seats or hotel beds that have been filled, has rested at about an average of 85% of the capacity before the pandemic struck our societies. It was always going to be a slow return to ‘normality’, with many companies taking steps to consolidate their positions during the pandemic through the restructuring of their business models.
Through the pandemic, many in the Travel Industry predicted that the return to a 2019 ‘normality’ would occur in 2023/24; some predictions stretched that into 2029 because of ongoing concerns about COVID spread, variants and the efficacy of vaccines.
This slow return to normality has the industry carefully watching their balance sheets, looking for opportunities to maximise their incomes, and that will have for the foreseeable future, an impact on the Consumer purse. With concerns over COVID difficulties in China and other International events, it is difficult for any person or body to predict how or if 2023 will deliver our return to a Travel ‘normality’. I suspect that in 2023 we will continue to see a continued increase in capacity, but it will increase in small steps, though, watch out for International shocks, as these will impact on Consumer confidence and indeed on the confidence of an Industry.
Other International Risks
I have deliberately avoided talking of the wider International situation until now.
I don’t think that I need to rehearse the situation in Ukraine and the dangerous mutterings of so-called leaders and statesmen, except to say that this situation is perilous. We all hope that peace will come quickly but we must keep a cool eye on the situation. Clearly, if the situation in Ukraine extends or deteriorates, fear will affect confidence and we should expect to see a rapid withdrawal by Consumers from venturing far from home – this will have a chilling effect upon the Travel Industry and it is far beyond my pay-grade to offer anything more insightful, except to say to Consumers, think carefully before you book; think carefully on the region that you intend to travel to.
Equally, we must not lose sight of other countries or regions where, politics, the rule of law, human rights and just plain day-to-day living is having a big impact on its populations. It’s just possible that as the world is experiencing a partial return to ‘normality’ that we may see a rise in the nature of a risk destination again, with all its consequences on intending holidaymakers. It would be my advice that if you plan to visit such destinations, don’t be lulled into a post-pandemic lethargy, do your research and ensure that these holiday destinations are indeed the right choices for you and your family!
Of course my final prediction, returning again for 2023, relates to the issue of your Consumer Rights. Through 2022, I witnessed the lamentable commentary from some of my colleagues who simply didn’t understand the nature of our post-Brexit Consumer rights, and more importantly, where to find them, nor of the liquidity of companies and how vouchers overrode the regulatory system of enforcement!
Many of the rights that you enjoy, started their journeys some 40 years ago and have served you the Consumer well.
However, there is now a clear and present danger offered by the UK Government through the current passage of its Retained EU Law (Revocation & Reform) Bill. Unless there is a positive set of political actions taken through the passage of this Bill, we can expect to see many of the laws to cease to exist by the end of 2023. Any laws retained, restated or assimilated, will no doubt have received input or commentary from the Travel Industry as part of any Consultation, and such a process will radically reduce your current Consumer rights in package holidays, air travel and other travel related protections. If this is the case, many Consumers will find that if they may have to bring their case to court or through an unfathomable arbitration process; they will be returned to the perilous legal system that existed for holidaymakers prior to 1992!
So those are my Travel predictions for 2023. As I said last year, it is entirely up to you, the Consumer, to accept my predictions or not. Even if you only accepted one or some of my predictions, it might lead to better choices and an understanding of the potential perils or difficulties that await before you book your holiday. I suspect that we shall continue to exist in a state of uncertainty for a few more years to come, when one day, I might actually be able to talk about some positive travel predictions or experiences that you might enjoy in the year ahead!
Wishing you my listeners, readers, followers and all of your families, the happiest and safest of New Years!
Until the next time, take care!
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