One of the greatest challenges the travel industry has ever had is the constraint of supply that we are currently facing. After the devastation of the pandemic, we simply need more suppliers on the ground and planes in the air so it is not too long before we can all return to normal and people can once again be spreading their wings as they have always yearned to do. I guess it’s just the romantic thought of being as free as a bird, even though we are effectively just closed in a small place eating chicken or beef as our bird of steel wings its way at an alarming speed to our final destination. We just love the thought of being above the clouds, the atmosphere and the feel of being served and pampered and leaving Johannesburg at 9-pm to arrive thousands of miles away as the dawn greets us.
In the industry, we call what is happening now “revenge travel”. So intent are people on shaking off their COVID cocoons that they have scrimped and saved through the tough times of the pandemic, defied the ever-increasing cost of living and gone to meet business prospects or reunite with family, no matter what the cost. The reality though, is that right now air travel is certainly facing some challenges – making it very difficult for anyone to spread their wings the way we used to.
Not only are there all the issues with baggage handling and visas, as I have mentioned a couple of times in recent articles, but airlines are facing other challenges too. Ever-increasing fuel prices are making it increasingly difficult for airlines to be competitive with pricing and, as we well know, some local carriers have succumbed to the financial pressure and been forced to go out of service. Obviously having fewer airlines puts up the demand for those that are remaining but right now airlines have the largest logistical constraints for growth and even if demand is increasing supply is not going to in the short term and pricing will remain high – at least for a while.
We also need to remember many other factors that are making it difficult for the aviation industry. The massive, rapid loss of income during the pandemic caused airlines globally to cut back dramatically wherever they could. This led to the grounding of certain aircraft, the ruthless cutting of cabin and ground staff (hence the baggage handling chaos in Europe) and now we have a bit of a catch-22 because to get people back and more planes in the air they need to increase capacity, but price restraints are making it difficult to achieve that!
Another challenge facing airlines is the constant pressure the industry is under to produce more eco-friendly planes and fuels but I believe this is a challenge that will ultimately lead to some of the good things that the public and airlines themselves hopefully have to look forward to in 2023. I have no doubt that the new planes will be more energy efficient, so there is light at the end of that tunnel and another positive is that according to international reports airline travel is set for a strong comeback in 2023 and (save there being more setbacks) we’re looking at full recovery by 2024.
Airlines need to generate as much income as they can now, so another encouraging thing is that there will always be a need for business travel and most business people prefer to travel well, so that they can land feeling more refreshed. They want to be able to get straight off a plane and get to a meeting, so particularly in business travel, premium seats are still filling up faster than coach and this is a positive for the airline’s bottom line.
As much as international business travel is essential for many companies, many of us, when it comes to leisure travel at least, will be looking to other forms of travel until airline prices and supply normalise. It’s good for the industry that cruising has been on the increase. It is more of a leisure alternative obviously, but there certainly has been substantial growth in this sector and for an alternate holiday that feels like a total getaway this is hard to beat.
Of course, in this country, we also have some excellent road trips in the form of the iconic “Garden route” and the longest wine tour in the world along route 62, so that will always be a good alternative. Whatever your choice, all I can say is that the travel and tourism sector is certainly on the rise again and whatever your chosen mode of travel in leisure and business, or a bit of both, please just keep supporting us. It won’t be too long now before we can get more trained people on the ground and more of those steel birds in the air so we can once again satisfy our wanderlust and our passionate desire to wing our way to foreign lands. Travel safely!LIDIA FOLLI
CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER