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1 February 2022: Happy New Travel Year! Let the 'Arrival Revival' begin

Karryon founder Matt Leedham endures a 31-day hangover to start 2022 (sound familiar?), declares 1 February the beginning of the new 'travel' year and ponders the question, "Is uncertainty the new certainty?"

Karryon founder Matt Leedham endures a 31-day hangover to start 2022 (sound familiar?), declares 1 February the beginning of the new ‘travel’ year and ponders the question, “Is uncertainty the new certainty?”

I don’t know how you are feeling about the year so far, but I’ve decided to write off January as the mega New Year’s Eve hangover that bogged me down for 31 days, including experiencing a bout of Covid along the way.

January 2022 – Did it even happen?

After all the excitement about (finally!) borders reopening and the rebirth of travel in the lead up to Christmas, crushingly, the rapid spread of Omicron and the subsequent derailing of festive plans and reunions ended up being yet another absolute fizzer of a way to celebrate the turning over of a new year.

Despite much of Australia gaining newfound freedoms to move again, sadly, for many, it still felt safer to bunker down and retreat at home instead of getting out into the world.

But let’s not dwell on the days and sources of not such good news past because while it’s important to reflect, we’ve heard it ad nauseam for too long already.

1 February 2022, however? Happy New Travel Year! And Happy Lunar Year too!

Time to finally put those New Year resolutions to work, start FebFast? (ok that may be overdoing it), and get some travel plans, in-person catchups, meetings and events in the diary that we can feel more confident will have a high degree of happening this time around in the coming months.

If we cherry-pick the sparkly diamonds in the rough of 2022 so far, there were still plenty of positive stories in January to herald the ‘Arrival Revival’ that will undoubtedly shape the coming months for travel in a good way, even if it doesn’t feel like it yet.

In particular…

Bunnik Tours first international trip for two years in Sri Lanka. Pic: Dennis Bunnik
  • Queensland reopened its borders to international arrivals, quarantine-free on 22 January.
  • PCR testing for inbound arrivals into Australia was scrapped altogether and replaced with RATs making international travel a little cheaper and more accessible.
  • Australia’s annual lamb ad for 2022 roasted many perfectly. But was it actually an advert to help promote tourism? We thought so, and we loved it.
  • Australia (unofficially) announced it would likely welcome international tourists and business travellers back “well before” Easter. After two years, this is a massive announcement that will have a considerable knock-on effect across all sectors.
  • After the success of Sydney and Melbourne flights resuming to Fiji in December, Fiji Airways restarted flights from Brisbane to Fiji with some super hot deals to paradise.
  • Direct Bali flights from Australia are set to restart in early March.
  • Scoot announced it would resume its Gold Coast to Singapore service after two years from 15 February.
  • The Philippines announced it would reopen to tourists from 10 February.
  • Norway scrapped mandatory quarantine for all international arrivals.
  • Jetstar restarted flights from Australia to Phuket for the first time in almost two years.
  • And finally, Bunnik Tours has just embarked on its first international departure for two years to Sri Lanka, hosted by industry legend Dennis Bunnik.

Now that I’ve looked at all of this, I realise that good things did happen in January after all.

What’s more, all of the research out there suggests that we have inched quickly and considerably forward in people’s mindsets and attitudes to travelling again, and most importantly, in actually committing to booking.

Why? Because for those of us who have taken note, the pandemic has demonstrated that life is to be cherished, and we should not squander our time – because none of us knows what happens next.

As such, many advisors I’ve spoken to recently are still reporting healthy enquiries and bookings. While many bookings are using previous credits, the general trend is that people are unwilling to wait anymore after two years of watching their lives and precious moments pass by.

Even those who had to cancel their trips due to getting Covid over the Christmas holidays were rescheduling quickly to take off once they were well and able to do so. That’s some change in behaviour to where we were just a couple of months ago.

Thailand Bangkok
Wat Arun, Chao Phraya river, Bangkok Thailand

A recent study by Expedia found 65% of surveyed Australians plan to take off within the next 12 months, and 40% said that they are likely, or already have a flight booked to an international destination within the next six months.

Yes, travel experts have more curly questions from clients, with additional changes and complex bookings taking much longer. But surely, this has to be a good thing for the long term? After all, doesn’t all this complexity highlight the value, expertise and benefit of using an advisor? Isn’t this moment the dawn of the golden era of travel we’ve all wanted?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m certainly not sugar-coating where we’re at along the road of the pandemic. Two years on, so much of the travel and tourism industry supply chain remains in pieces with revenue nowhere near where we need it to be. There are countless challenges to solve and reimagine, which will take time, patience and understanding from all sides as we steadily reconnect and rebuild again. But we will get there.

At the same time, we will be forced to continue to learn to live with Covid while protecting ourselves and our communities near and far against its mutating strains that will undoubtedly keep on coming.

But I’m forever the optimist, and I’d suggest that we have entered a renewed phase on the road to recovery in travel and tourism and indeed society which feels like the significant change and the fresh start we’ve all been hoping for.

I heard a great quote recently. “Uncertainty is the new certainty.” I’m going to embrace that thought as my mantra for the year ahead.

Alongside our mission at Karryon, of course, which is “to reconnect the world, together in travel.”

Feel like joining us?

Hang in there, Happy New Travel Year, and onwards and upwards we go into 2022.