Traveling this Holiday Season? Use these Tips to Avoid the Hassle and Headaches
Traveling this holiday season but unsure of how to navigate the industry? Whether you’re going by bus, train, car, or plane, a hospitality expert shares her recommendations for seasonal trips and how to be a savvy traveler.
By: Katherine Gianni and Giana Carrozza
The winter season is full of simple pleasures: holiday festivities, hot chocolate by a crackling fireplace, and quality time spent with family and friends. Over the next few weeks, many people will take advantage of end-of-year vacation time to visit their loved ones or flee the winter weather. According to audit firm PricewaterhouseCoopers’ (PwC) recent Holiday Outlook 2022 guide, almost half of all survey respondents (47%) indicated that they plan to travel this holiday season. The guide also found that air travel is up 41% compared to 2021.
Current holiday travel predictions may come as no surprise following two years of COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions. While many are excited to pack their bags, it is also critical to keep post-pandemic issues in mind like staffing shortages, longer lines, and unexpected cancellations. For insights on these challenges, and how to keep your cool while traveling this season, we turned to Leora Halpern Lanz, assistant dean of academic affairs and associate professor of the practice at Boston University’s School of Hospitality Administration. In addition to serving as full-time faculty at BU’s School of Hospitality, Leora was formerly the Principal of LHL Communications, assisting hotels, restaurants, tourist attractions and destinations with branding and marketing strategies and solutions. Earlier this year, she was named one of the Top 100 Powerful Leaders of Hospitality in the US by the International Hospitality Institute.
From your perspective, what can travelers expect during the upcoming holiday season?
My anticipation is that the holiday 2022–2023 period will be festive, active, and heavily traveled. Travel Daily News just reported that October 2022 saw continued increases in global air travel demand and that forward bookings also continue to be strong. Additionally, the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) indicated that international tourist arrivals more than doubled (+133%) in January-September 2022 compared to the same period in 2021.
In the US, if the pent-up demand of summer 2022, and the busier-than-ever Thanksgiving 2022 are any indication, people are eager to be with loved ones, explore, travel, and enjoy a change of scenery. This is also likely the year that many folks booked longer-term stays for the holiday period — having secured them last year to ensure their accommodations.
Though we are facing inflation of costs of transportation, food, restaurants and even gift items, (though the price of oil is slightly dropping at the time of this writing) — we will see those who arranged their travels in advance still moving ahead with their plans.
Those of us who have not yet scheduled trips but crave the sense of “escape” and “leisure” will abbreviate or modify travels to stay closer to home, or go away for a shorter span, to save money, but still do something that constitutes “travel”, even if it is a staycation.
How does the holiday season impact employees in the hospitality industry?
I would like to ask all of us to stand up and give a round of applause to hotel and restaurant workers, airline and rail workers, people who work in the tourism sector in any capacity, or people who work in any service industry that involves interacting with other people. A standing ovation and long round of applause, please! Particularly for employees who “show up” and do the work and have had to do the work of many, because there still are staffing challenges to be had in some sectors of tourism. It will be interesting to see how retail and other seasonal businesses that typically hire more seasonal staff, fare for holiday 2022.
Consumers have been traveling and spending, and hotel, food, and travel demands and expectations remain high. Not all customers have been pleasant in their interactions with service workers, and we’ve seen many articles and blog posts asking for kindness to hospitality employees. Hospitality workers are special people. As customers, we want to enjoy our leisure or business travel experience, so please be kind to those who provide it.
While the majority of COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted on travel, are there any residual effects of the pandemic on the tourism industry?
The strict COVID-related travel restrictions in China remain, and that negatively impacts that country’s domestic travel recovery. Only recently have some Austral-Asian countries re-opened to foreign tourists, but as inflation and talks of looming recession impact the global economy, recovery will have to depend on domestic business for most regions. In the US, it’s the strong dollar that is affecting others from visiting here, but domestic travel recovery, both leisure, bleisure (business that extends into leisure), as well as that of the extended-stay traveling digital nomad is strong, which is enabling the high prices already boosted by supply chain issues, increase costs of benefits, and inflation overall.
For the long term, I hope that one of the many unexpected silver linings of the pandemic is the attention to sustainable travel — from the destination itself (to regulate the number of visitors, avoiding over-tourism), and from travelers who can pay more attention to simple details to help reduce our carbon footprint.
Another silver lining is the accelerated development and use of technologies to help efficiencies, allowing hotel or restaurant employees to spend more time actually taking care of the guest. Whether it’s QR codes, kiosks, digital keys, digital tipping apps, or robots back-of-the house to assist with food preparation, the pandemic catapulted the inevitable — the need for technological efficiencies. Our industry is typically a laggard when it comes to innovation, so hopefully a silver lining of the pandemic is that we (hospitality) will step up the pace and produce helpful solutions.
In what ways has inflation affected the hospitality and tourism industries?
Inflation is here, and hotel rates are generally high in varying markets too. This may cause business travelers, freelance consultants, and digital nomads, to seek alternative locations and accommodations to save money. Inflation, as well as the new paradigm of “going cashless” has also led to lower tips for service workers, in particular, housekeepers. Families may opt not to go out to eat as often or choose lower-end dining options. At restaurants, this will impact who gets scheduled to work and thus impacts employee incomes.
Do you have any recommendations for how to navigate holiday travel, especially when faced with delays or other issues?
Some tips for holiday travel include:
*Taking flights with connections (non-direct flights) helps to save costs. Even flying into secondary airports, rather than primary airports will help. If you are taking connecting flights — perhaps stay in the connecting destination to enjoy yet another new experience during your getaway. If we are not confined to school schedules, flexibility with travel dates is key for saving airline costs. Though taking a flight with a connection can save the cost, in fact, DON’T take a connecting flight if you want to avoid travel headaches, missed connections, delays, lost luggage, etc. Try to fly with carry-on only.
*If you are flying, DO book the first flight or at least an early morning flight. The later in the day, the more likely for flights to be delayed, regardless of the season.
*DO check that your passport is still valid (always renew when the passport has about six months left before the expiration date). Review what IDs or vaccine records are needed to enter the destination to which you are traveling. And take pictures of your passport (and your luggage) in case it gets lost.
*DON’T book your hotel reservations online through a rogue website. Always book through the brand’s site or one of the online travel agent sites. Be wary of unusual or rogue websites so you don’t arrive at the hotel and there’s no official record of your reservation.
*DO always confirm your reservations and try to get the names of the service people you spoke with. Nicely ask them their names and say thank you to them. Write down their names so that if you must reconfirm, you have a reference; this applies to car rental, accommodations, museum bookings, restaurants. Keep digital records on your phone.
*Remain calm and flexible in case plans change unexpectedly thanks to wintery weather or unanticipated airline situations. Since flight cancellations or delays are inevitable, don’t be upset if you arrive a day or so later than originally intended. It’s all part of the experience. Your resilience and attitude might be tested, but the overall travel is worth it.
Is there anything else to keep in mind when interacting with customer service representatives, or other industry workers?
A little kindness goes a long way. Thank those who are creating your wonderful experiences and helping you with happy long-lasting memories. Your travel and leisure are also about the people who make it happen. Take a moment to ask for their names and send them a thank-you note. The recognition will mean so much, and this is why we’re all in the business: to ensure that YOU have a great experience.
For additional commentary by Boston University experts, follow us on Twitter at @BUexperts. Follow Leora Lanz on Instagram at @LeoraLanz, message her on Linkedin, or contact her via email at email@example.com. For research updates from BU’s School of Hospitality Administration follow @BUHospitality.