For the global travel industry, 2022 was meant to be the year of recovery—and it was. But it began with the omicron variant hitting the world right before the 2021 holidays, thwarting an expected travel surge. The silver lining was that omicron hit fast, peaked quickly, and had mild symptoms, especially for the vaccinated. As the travel industry continued to tackle staff shortages and supply chain shortages throughout the year, consumers faced record airfares and hotel room rates due to high demand and their own willingness to pay. In the end, 2022 may best be remembered as the year when most of the world decided it would have to learn to live with Covid and accept that it will be with us for the foreseeable future in various forms.
Rebalancing seemed to be a common thread in our destination’s occupancy and air service. Whereas leisure demand previously filled a significant gap in the pandemic-induced occupancy results through much of COVID, group occupancy in 2022 made a strong rebound and was down only 2% compared to 2019 while leisure occupancy maintained pre-pandemic levels. Those gains did not reduce our ADR, as Greater Palm Springs set 11 monthly ADR records in 2022.
Airlines had to balance flight schedules in 2022 to reflect the continuing challenges of staffing more accurately while dealing with supply chain issues and slow deliveries of new planes. Despite the aviation industry’s difficulties, Palm Springs International Airport was still able to welcome a record number of total passengers at just under 3 million and benefited from 22% more seat capacity versus 2021.
The Tourism Development team remained focused on North America with in-person missions to our key markets last year. There is no doubt that 2022 was the year travel agencies not only recovered but thrived. Quite a few reported surpassing sales for 2019, which for many had been the best year on record. But it did not come easily, in part because many were not just busy but overwhelmed. This provided us an opportunity to prioritize key clients who affect the largest number of consumers and are in the position to carry our brand message forward to their teams and colleagues. We also worked closely with national and regional travel agent associations to get in front of top agents and enjoy quality, in-person networking opportunities.
Internationally, European markets not only faced the concerns previously discussed for North America but also high energy costs, the Ukraine war, flight availability, and high airfares to America. Much like our domestic travel agencies, international tour operators experienced incredible demand with few staff to handle inquiries. As many travel advisors left the industry, there was also a new influx of inexperienced travel specialists. For these reasons, our trainings, in-market trade show participation, and one-on-one meetings by our offices in Europe have increased while we also developed multiple, small in-person gatherings that combine a social interaction along with destination training. We also begun targeted marketing campaigns outside of traditional booking windows to match new consumer booking behaviors related to long-haul holidays.
In the Asian markets, hope recently sprung to life in China with the removal of the country’s zero-COVID policy and quarantine. However, with only 5% of pre-pandemic airlift to the USA currently restored and the many geo-political hurdles remaining, any significant rebound of Chinese tourists may be delayed. We coordinated several projects with Visit California offices in Japan, India, and South Korea last year consisting of trainings, client events, and market analysis to ensure we are dedicating resources appropriately to capture more market share as visitation from these countries continues to rebound.
Significant pent-up travel demand from Australia generated good interest in Greater Palm Springs. Last year our office managed strategic partnerships and campaigns with key operators focusing on new destination developments and road trip itineraries combining destinations outside of Southern California to capture a larger audience interest. We also held a successful movie premier launch event in the country with our top clients for the Australian film release of Don’t Worry Darling.
The Tourism Development team was fortunate to expand last year with two great new hires. Based in Los Angeles and handling Asia and Canada, Julie Kawaguchi joined us in May, bringing an extensive background with various Japanese tour operators. Handling Europe, London-based Gerry Boyle brought a lengthy background from several top UK tour operators along with managing the Brand USA UK efforts and representing destinations for our former UK agency, Black Diamond. As of early 2023, a well-deserved management promotion was earned by Joanne Ohanesian, who now handles specialized travel segments along with acting as our Desert Region liaison. We are actively searching for a Tourism Development Manager for the U.S., Australia, and Latin America markets.
KEY 2022 TOURISM DEVELOPMENT STATS
If you have any questions about Tourism Development, please contact:
Gary Orfield, Director of Tourism Development
firstname.lastname@example.org | 760.969.1335