Industry consultants hail sector’s pandemic recovery

A panel of industry consultants has hailed the recovery of the travel sector and agreed they were optimistic about its future prospects, despite challenges such as the rising cost of living.

Speaking at Travel Weekly’s Future of Travel 2022 conference in London, Chris Photi, head of travel and leisure at White Hart Associates, said the bounce-back from the pandemic this summer has “exceeded expectations”.

He said news of the cap on energy bills is good news for consumers and businesses – but added that the outlook is “difficult” with rising interest rates, sterling at a 40-year low against the dollar, and more threats from Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

Fellow panellist Martin Alcock, director at Travel Trade Consultancy, sounded a “note of optimism” about the cost-of-living concerns, saying there have been headlines about the issue since January.

“I am optimistic that the energy price cap will do the job, from a consumer point of view…and I’m hopeful we’re past the worst from a negative headline point of view,” he told the conference.

He said booking volumes for winter were “a bit behind” pre-pandemic levels but prices are high.

“It has been really tough but a lot of my clients are looking remarkably healthy…we are in a better position than we would have thought,” he told delegates.

“Two years ago, we would have expected a lot more failures and more evidence of people in distress but we are not seeing that at the moment.”

He added: “There is a good proportion of people who are well insulated [from the costs of living] and will travel.

“Mass-market short-haul is in for a rough ride…it is difficult to compete, but upmarket adventure holidays and cruise are looking strong.”

Joanna Kolatsis, director at Themis Advisory, said businesses are “much leaner” and in “a better position” than pre-Covid times.

“They are a very resilient bunch,” she commented.

“I am optimistic; if you got through Covid, you can get through the next 18 months.”

Photi agreed, saying he was also optimistic, adding: “It is an amazingly resilient industry run by brilliant people. I have been in it for 40 years; it never ceases to amaze me.”

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