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The Highs and Lows of Travel in 2022

By nearly any measure, 2022 was an unprecedented and at times heady year for leisure travelers. Consumers enjoyed wider access to global destinations post-outbreak as “revenge” vacationing was unleashed.

The 566,893 flights operated in April 2022 were 86.9 percent of the 652,533 flights operated in pre-pandemic April 2019, according to Department of Transportation officials.

But travelers also faced extraordinary challenges last year. Most significant was the global air travel network’s increasing fragility, which resulted in multiple delays, cancellations and disruptions impacting millions of vacationers.

As I pursued my profession [travel writer] in 2022, I was by no means excluded from the challenges attached to leisure travel. Nearly all of my trips were to Caribbean destinations, and not surprisingly I faced numerous airport delays and long periods checking flight information boards.

Yet the travel challenges I faced in 2022 were nothing compared with some stories I’ve heard. On the other hand, there were also several positive travel developments in 2022.

Like what, you ask? Well, don’t worry – I’ve gathered a few in what I’ve decided to call “The Highs and Lows of Travel in 2022.” I hope you like the title. Without further delay, here is the list, including a few observations:

High: Travel Rebound – As I mentioned earlier, leisure travel rebounded strongly in 2022. The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) reported 250 million international arrivals, a 46 percent increase compared with the 77 million arrivals reported between January and May of 2021.

The travel sector has recovered almost half of pre-pandemic 2019 levels, say UNWTO officials. “The recovery of tourism has gathered pace in many parts of the world, weathering the challenges standing in its way”, said Zurab Pololikashvili, secretary-general.

Low: Delays and disruptions – Industry watchers expected leisure travel to encounter new difficulties in the post-outbreak era. Those fears were realized across 2022, as thousands of flights were canceled, delayed or otherwise disrupted by extreme weather, staff shortages and technical difficulties.

Flight-tracking firm Flight Aware reported 570,000 flights were delayed between Memorial Day and Labor Day of last year. By June, the Department of Transportation (DOT) reported consumer complaints against airlines were up more than 300 percent compared with pre-pandemic levels.

DOT officials added that complaints were down 15.6 percent by September but remained three times higher than pre-pandemic levels.

Leisure travelers bore the brunt of the disturbances, as the air transportation network sagged under the strain of resumed activity. Nearly 80 percent of people who traveled between January and July 2022 said they experienced soaring prices, long waits, cancellations, and poor service, according to a Bankrate survey.

High: Personal rewards – My 2022 professional travel featured visits to several Caribbean countries, where I toured historic and natural sites and met with tourism officials and stakeholders.

But without question, the highlight was being named a Nevis Tourism Ambassador by the Nevis Tourism Authority. The opportunity to highlight the island of my maternal grandmother’s birth was an incredible honor I never anticipated and will always consider fondly.

My 2022 Nevis visit was a fitting way to return to the Caribbean, which UNWTO identified as among the global regions leading leisure travel’s 2022 rebound. Beyond Saint Kitts and Nevis, I traveled to Nassau, Bahamas; Aruba; the Cayman Islands; the Dominican Republic; Cancun and Costa Mujeres, Mexico; San Juan, Puerto Rico and Montego Bay, Jamaica last year.

Brian Major 2022 Nevis Tourism Ambassador
My designation as a Nevis Tourism Ambassador was a 2022 highlight. (Courtesy of Nevis Tourism Authority)

Low: Extreme weather disrupts travel – Record-breaking temperatures challenged travelers across the summer of 2022, in locales ranging from U.S. national parks to cities in England, Spain, Norway and other parts of Europe.

London recorded a 104-degree Fahrenheit day in July 2022; 34 degrees above the normal mid-70s average temperature for the city, according to Sky News. The scorching temperatures led members of Buckingham Palace’s immovable Queen’s Guard to take quick water breaks.

Meanwhile, a snowstorm stranded thousands at Iceland’s Keflavík International Airport in December 2022, leaving travelers to spend days sleeping on baggage belts, escalator steps and luggage in the unheated airport.

Caroline Rose, a researcher at a Washington-based think tank, told Insider website conditions at the airport were “otherworldly,” with food and water were hard to come by.

High: Travel insurance proves invaluable – Widespread reporting of the mishaps sometimes attached to leisure travel likely motivated more vacationers to purchase travel insurance in 2022.

A survey of cases from provider Allianz Global Assistance found numerous instances in which travelers faced adverse circumstances while vacationing last year.

One Santa Fe, New Mexico couple found themselves in an emergency situation after the wife was bit by a bee while standing on an Italian cruise ship dock. The traveler turned out to be allergic.

Other vacationers related instances during which they broke bones after slipping on wet floors or while exiting vehicles on island excursions. In each instance, say Allianz officials, the travelers had purchased policies prior to departure and received restitution and assistance.

“As the world becomes an increasingly unpredictable place, travelers are turning to travel insurance for trip protection and peace of mind,” said Daniel Durazo, an Allianz spokesman.

Low: Weed grounded – While 2022 witnessed the liberation of recreational marijuana policies across several U.S. states, those standards did not expand to the air.

TravelPulse’s most-read 2022 story reports that marijuana (somewhat unsurprisingly), remains airport contraband. “Marijuana and certain cannabis-infused products remain illegal under federal law” according to Transportation Security Administrations officials.

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