The past 12 months have been unpredictable and erratic for travelers visiting New York City, but an increasing number of Americans are aching for a return to normal. Meanwhile, the soul of the city is bouncing back, in the form of restaurants, arts, tourism and gaming – all good signs for essential sectors of the local economy.

1 in 5 Travelers Will Return for Business. Experts predict business travel and tourism in the city will continue to increase in 2023, boosting a hospitality industry that once relied on hotel stays, corporate-card lunches and extravagant holiday events to thrive. There are even some optimists who think business travel will have fully recovered by next year.

The New Normal Could Be Not-So-Normal. According to a study by Expedia, and VRBO, after spending time post-pandemic with friends and family or exploring the great outdoors, 2023 will be about doing the unexpected – whether it’s off-the-grid travel, wellness breaks, a focus on culture or taking that bucket list dream trip.

Travel Costs Are on the Rise. Thanks to rising fuel costs, labor shortages and inflation, the cost of travel will remain high in 2023 – so “savvy travel” will emerge as a bigger trend. Travelers should be on the lookout for valuable deals, hacks to save and shortcuts.

Travel Grows Amid Industry Struggles to Cope With Demand. According to forecasting by Economist Intelligence, global tourism will rise by 30% in 2023. However, airlines and hotels, still struggling with labor shortages, may not be equipped to handle the increase. Travelers are warned to be ready for delays, cancellations, lost luggage, overbooking, and other frustrating travel issues this year, especially if you’re traveling at peak times. Not checking luggage or traveling in the off-season may help you avoid travel drama.

The Off-Season May Not Be “Off” Much Longer. Off-season (or off-peak travel) means avoiding Christmas, Thanksgiving and summer and instead traveling during winter, late fall or early spring. Typically, tourists have been able to save money and beat the crowds by traveling in the off-season, but many travelers are starting to wise up, looking to save money and explore destinations with fewer tourists during calmer times of the year.

Sustainable Travel Reigns for 2023… and Beyond. A 2022 study from Expedia showed that 90% of respondents in 11 global markets look for sustainable options when traveling. Airlines, hotels, cities and attractions are all working toward that goal. Although many of the industry’s sustainable changes will happen slowly over time, in 2023, travelers will have more power to pick and choose hotels, airlines, tours, attractions and destinations that align with their own personal commitments.

Business Travel Trends: Working Remotely and “Bleisure”. Business travel is returning but may not fully achieve pre-pandemic numbers for several years, according to Skift. Remote work is expected to continue to increase in 2023, and many may want to work from new and exciting destinations. The trend of mixing business travel with leisure also continues to grow in popularity. Expect hotels and home rentals to continue catering to this style of hybrid travel in 2023 – including creating suitable spaces and amenities for these types of travelers. Expect to see increased technology offerings, co-working spaces and more charging ports in rooms, as well as a focus on leisure amenities like spas, pools and game rooms.

Restaurants Hold onto Sidewalk Tables. The “temporary” Open Restaurants program entered its fourth year in NYC as long-delayed legislation permitting eateries to make permanent use of outdoor space continues to stall. The legislation has been embroiled in debate over whether the program infringes on city residents’ rights, among other things.

Broadway and Museums are Thriving. On Broadway, attendance and gross sales finally surpassed 90% of pre-pandemic levels at the end of 2022. Helping drive the return of theatregoers will be a new production of Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, opening this spring, along with Aaron Sorkin’s version of Camelot at the Lincoln Center’s Vivian Beaumont Theater. Forty Van Gogh paintings will also travel from as far away as Amsterdam to form a thematic show about the artist’s portrayal of cypress trees at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

U.S. Air Travel is on Road to Recovery While Transit Ridership Lags. S&P Global Ratings forecasted in January that “U.S. transportation infrastructure 2023 activity estimates show air travel likely to fully recover, with transit ridership still lagging.” These predictions could be affected by evolving remote or hybrid work practices, the growth of online shopping, and other factors, with a larger impact on public transit. Current estimates show public transit recapturing about 70% of pre-pandemic activity by the end of 2023 and only about 85% by the end of 2026.

“Zoom Fatigue” Revives In-Person Company Meetings. Experts predict a resurgence in business travel following widespread video conferencing and online meeting fatigue, as organizations settle into better hybrid-work practices. A continuing and significant increase is expected for internal in-person meetings. Many corporations have been reducing their office footprint and hiring more remote-first employees, anticipating the blend between in-person and virtual to continue to evolve – but it’s clear both are required for corporations to increase revenue, boost innovation and build stronger relationships.

According to a recent survey of UK and U.S. event planners by etc venues, 53.5% have seen a noticeable improvement in business performance within their organization since returning to face-to-face meetings; 99% valued them more than or the same as before the pandemic, up from 82% a year ago.

“Evolutions” in Ground Transportation to Watch for in 2023. Hospitalitynet recently outlined some key lessons ground transportation providers are embracing as they meet the new expectations of those hitting the road and skies:

  • Convenience and personalization are key.Travelers are looking for optimization at every step of the journey, from the initial greeting to the final check-out.
  • Loyalty programs are powerful incentive.Satisfied customers are three times more likely to return to their business travel provider, and flexible loyalty perks can keep them coming back for more.
  • Building strong partnerships.Proactive communication and building relationships are critical to helping travel managers navigate their businesses and strong partnerships can be especially important in such a dynamic and competitive environment.

While many people want to compare the industry to pre-pandemic levels, travel managers should be focused on what the future will look like and how they need to tailor their programs to meet the needs of their travelers.

Sources: Crain’s New York Business, Forbes, S&P Global, Skift, Hospitalitynet


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