Columns and Commentary

Qwick Takes: The economic impact of the travel ban

November 11, 2021

Posted by Irina Slav

This week, Talking Biz News Deputy Editor Erica Thompson reached out to Qwoted’s community of experts to inquire about the economic impact of the travel ban. While the travel sector is beginning to show signs of stabilization, will it last? Check out some of the top commentary:

Chris Atkins, CEO at Central America Fishing

Since the borders opened in fall 2020, we have seen a steady increase in travel demand to Central America. Last November and December we saw a lot more last-minute trips and solo travelers, but since the turn of the year we have seen an increase in both the quantity and size of trips being booked, which attests to the confidence travelers have for the future. Airlines have been the bellwether for the fall and eventual return of travel, and as of June all major US carriers began flying to Costa Rica again. Many, like American and JetBlue, have even added new routes.

On a local level, hotels, tour operators, and even travel agencies are preparing for the future by hiring again after a year of layoffs and contract freezes. Nearly every operator in the tourism industry offered discounts in 2020 and 2021, but as we enter the 2022 high season for tourism in Central America we have already seen some hotels actually raise their rates to pre-pandemic levels as we expect travel numbers to continue to rebound.

I think the rebound in travel is here to stay and the worst is behind us. Anyone who wants a vaccine in North America can get one, and vaccine rates are just as high if not higher here in Central America. I expect safety protocols like masks in public, extra cleaning measures at hotels, and testing to continue through at least the first half of 2022, but between vaccine rates and the news of new pills from Pfizer I think the darkest days are behind us. This may not be true for other urban destinations like parts of the US or Europe where travelers spend more time inside at museums, concerts, or sporting events, but the entire reason people visit Central America is to enjoy the incredible flora, fauna, and beaches so there is a lot of optimism that 2022 will look a lot more like 2019 than 2020.

Eric Friedrichsen, CEO at Emburse

The July 2020 number of hotel stays expensed was down 87.2% versus July 2019. The July 2021 number of stays was down 46.1% versus July 2019 – so a bit more than half had come back.

Also, the average spend per hotel stay (a per stay figure) was $518 in Jul 2019, $407 in Jul 2020 and $443 in Jul 2021. Of course, there could be some discrepancies (people staying fewer days, staying in cheaper hotels, etc), but given the sample size of hotel stays from Emburse’s system, it’s a pretty accurate comparison.

Timothy Hentschel, CEO and co-founder at HotelPlanner

There is unprecedented pent-up demand for travel, and more disposable income after 2 years on the couch. Millions are becoming digital nomads and working while they travel, and weddings are back stronger than ever! Youth, amateur, semi-pro, and pro sports leagues are traveling as well. This was the year of the Great American Road Trip; national parks have never been this busy. “

The only thing that would stop travel’s recovery at this point would be a new variant, or a Black Swan event such as a global economic depression.

Both individual and group leisure travel is leading the recovery, and yes, corporate travel will likely take another year and will have a new lower baseline, but will still recover as conferences, trade expos return.

Kelly Soderlund, Senior Director of Communications at TripActions

We’ve seen sustained growth throughout the year and have found that — once things reopen — a temporary resurgence in cases doesn’t affect overall growth — it just slows it. Take the August Delta “slump”: booking growth stalled, but didn’t really decline. In other words, yes — the recovery is here to stay.

To prepare, the industry needs real-time data and tech-forward tools that will help travelers and employees feel confident that they have all the information they need to make the best decision. With teams distributed and hybrid work here to stay, we’re seeing the rise of an entirely new category of traveler: the quarterly commenter. These are those employees who never traveled before for work, but now will in order to get together once a month or once a quarter with their team to strengthen company culture and ensure in-person bonding. In fact, TripActions has seen 110% monthly booking growth for team travel events.

I also see an increase of events happening across the board: team events, offsite, large meetings, and an increase in conferences as people gather face-to-face for relationship-building and sales.

Jay Denton, SVP, Business Intelligence & Chief Innovation Officer at ThinkWhy

Leisure and Hospitality will make a recovery in 2025. The hardest hit industry of the pandemic — which includes hotels, restaurants and bars — only slightly ticked upward in October. The industry is not immune to inflationary pressures. Wages in this industry have seen significant growth to draw workers back to payrolls. Travel restrictions put in place in November 2020 will be lifted, permitting vaccinated people from other countries to travel to the U.S. This is a significant change of course that could boost demand for lodging, especially in large international markets such as New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles.


Subscribe to TBN

Receive updates about new stories in the industry daily or weekly.

Subscribe to TBN

Receive updates about new stories in the industry.