Travel

What will travel look like in 2022?

As the second anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic approaches and the world grapples with another new variant, travellers and tourism operators face challenges and opportunities

  • Jan 04, 2022
  • 804 words
  • 4 minutes
Domestic travel is booming, with many Canadians choosing to discover our natural wonders and cultural heritage. Pictured is Percé Rock, located at the tip of Quebec’s Gaspé Peninsula. (Photo: Adriana Holland/Can Geo Photo Club)
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Destination Canada recently released a detailed report titled Tourism’s Big Shift: Key Trends Facing the Future of Canada’s Tourism Industry. As we wind up the second, tumultuous year of a global pandemic, it’s a document worth unpacking. Challenges lie ahead for travellers and operators alike, but so do opportunities.

Clean, healthy, safe

I was recently the plus one at my wife’s office holiday party — a live event! Her boss acknowledged in a speech that everyone was taking a risk simply by gathering together. Welcome to the new reality, where 41 vaccinated colleagues mingling in a country club lounge constitutes a risk. A reality where you can’t get on a plane, boat, train, or ferry without being scanned as safe. Travellers worldwide will increasingly be drawn to stable environments that won’t leave them stranded, sick, exposed or quarantined. This is good news for Canada, a country widely perceived as safe, clean, well-managed, highly vaccinated, and offering abundant outdoor experiences. In this challenging new tourism environment, Canada has a competitive edge.

Economic and social change

You may have noticed the stock market performing well, home equity increasing, and savings accounts swelling. Employment is bouncing back to pre-pandemic levels (although unfortunately this is not the case across all sectors). People now take their leisure seriously, with travel spending projected to dramatically increase. Meanwhile, the tourism industry has committed to embracing diversity, with a goal to implement real change. Practically, this will result in exciting new cultural experiences, increased employment opportunities, and the inclusion of more travellers.

Technology and climate

Mark Zuckerberg’s Metaverse feels like we’re one step closer to becoming Matrix-meat, patched into a virtual, commodified and untrustworthy reality. Data is no substitute for life, but it is changing the way we access services, communicate, and get around. There are fewer corners of the world where cellphones don’t work, which some will avoid, and others will actively seek. There was much fanfare about the drop in carbon emissions when we stopped travelling in 2020, and while levels are bouncing back, any tourism agency or operator worth their salt should now have a sustainability policy that minimizes their carbon footprint. After a year of unprecedented floods, fires, droughts and heat, Canadians know that climate change has come home to roost. Skyrocketing insurance rates are going to impact everyone, travellers included.

Tourism’s challenge

From high-end hotels to your mom-and-pop campground, cruise ships to outdoor outfitters, the tourism industry is experiencing yet another perfect storm. Having scraped through pandemic lockdowns and public health restrictions, it’s now dealing with a labour crisis just as it sees a massive swell in demand. Cash-strapped operators and companies have to implement expensive new (and goal-shifting) safety protocols, with decreasing support as the government scales back its pandemic incentives. Conferences and events are limited or going to hybrid models, airline and car rental prices are erratic, and as we’re now seeing with Omicron, new COVID-19 variants can shut the doors at any moment. Meanwhile, returning consumer expectations remain sky-high. As the Tourism Industry Association of Canada puts it: “Tourism was the first hit, the hardest hit, and will be the last to recover.” But as we claw back pandemic losses, there are reasons for optimism.

Booming domestic tourism

Welcome to Canada, my fellow Canadians! Like many of you, I have been surprised by just how incredible, unique, beautiful and underrated our country is. Like many of you, I once felt like the further away an experience is from home, the more valuable it must be. We’ve all learned the opposite is true: that Canada has many local equivalents to global wonders. We can do multi-day outdoor adventures and tour wine routes; explore ancient history; enjoy world-class festivals; drive epic road trips; and cross mountain, desert, ocean, rainforest and ice.

I once felt like the further away an experience is from home, the more valuable it must be. We’ve all learned the opposite is true: that Canada has many local equivalents to global wonders.

The allure of Canada

Canada has become top-of-mind as travellers around the world seek safe and stunning destinations. Our vaccination rates are among the world’s highest, which supports top-notch infrastructure, diverse experiences, striking nature and renowned hospitality. International industry surveys and trends confirm it: we have the beauty and stability travellers now seek. The world has begun to think of Canada as more than just a post-pandemic destination: Canada is a lifestyle. 

Despite the challenges ahead, there’s a lot to look forward to. When you live in the world’s second biggest country, there’s so much to explore, and you’ll never run out of things to do (trust me). I wish you safe travels and good fortune for the road ahead.

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