How revenge travel is impacting the aviation and tourism industries

The surge in travel is a far cry from the previous pandemic years during which travel took a hit

Plane in sky during sunset
Revenge travel is prompting increased travel this summer
(Image credit: Spooh / Getty Images)

Revenge travel refers to the mindset that "people are more eager to travel and less willing to cancel their vacation plans" as a way of making up for the lack of travel during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to Forbes. The phenomenon has dominated the summer with people being "more likely to try a more exotic location, spend more money to travel or a combination of both."

The surge in travel is a far cry from the previous pandemic years during which travel took a hit. American travel to Europe is expected to experience a 600% increase this year compared to last year, NPR reported. "There's a shift from consumers purchasing goods to consumers purchasing services," said Steve Trent, a research analyst for Citi. The high travel demand has also strained airlines that are also just recovering from the pandemic. "Fewer flight routes, fewer crew members and less equipment mean that capacity is down 15%," Trent continued.

Return to adventure

"Revenge travel is a dominating factor as many households make summer plans to visit family and play tourist," explained Geoff Whitmore in Forbes. Coming out of a travel slump, people are "hitting the roads and skies in droves." This expanse of travel is likely to stay. Travel is not "just about taking a great vacation" but is "intricate in our lives," Priceline CEO Brett Keller told Insider.

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"Even stubbornly 'sticky' inflation and the highest ticket prices in many years aren't enough to spoil the appeal," wrote Jane Thier for Fortune. "Consumer behaviors have changed a lot since the pandemic … and people book further out." The pandemic caused many to "reprioritize," and, in turn, "people have developed a new appreciation for travel," Tina Edmundson, the president of luxury at Marriott International, told Fortune.

The makeup of travel has also changed since the pandemic. Revenge travel is "transforming the once-formal face of business travel to a more laid-back one," Filipa Campos, the director of sales EMEA at GuestCentric, wrote in an opinion for Hospitalitynet. "The remainder of business travel is 'bleisure,' with an increase of people traveling for work but bringing with them spouses and family."

"It's apparent that people have changed their travel mindsets since the pandemic began, and that feeling of "oh, finally!" has a lot of power to sell airline tickets and hotel packages," Lilit Marcus wrote for CNN.

More travel trouble awaits

As travel returns, "we could be back to business as miserable," wrote Bill Saporito for The New York Times. Airlines are in a "capital-intense business and are largely driven by chief financial officers," preventing them from innovating. Also, capacity is still strained, driving prices for travel up. "Most travelers are calling it what it is: a period of sky-high prices on nearly every part of a journey," remarked Michael Cappetta in Travel & Leisure.

"Trying to return to normal has put a lot of stress on the fewer workers in the hospitality industry," Manuela López Restrepo wrote for NPR. Summer travel is especially busy, and perhaps it's better to opt to travel in the fall when "you'll get a much better value, you'll deal with fewer crowds and you'll have a much wider variety of options for where to stay and what to do." Along with airline problems, hospitality has also taken a hit. "Lodging away from home, including hotels and motels, is up 5% over the last year," Cappetta continued.

While travel is booming this year, "the travel sector's future remains a complete unknown," per Thier. Revenge travel is a "huge increase in people wanting to make up for time and experiences lost to the pandemic." However, there's uncertainty on whether the buzz will last, wrote Restrepo. "Remember that everyone has had a rough past few years." Chris Lanckbeen concluded for EuroNews, "It is likely that we will see this particular type of travel begin to subside as the overall economy continues to recover."

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Devika Rao

Devika Rao is a staff writer for The Week. She graduated from Cornell University with a degree in Environment and Sustainability and a minor in Climate Change. Previously, she worked as a Policy and Advocacy associate in the nonprofit space advocating for environmental action from the business perspective. She is passionate about the environment, books, and music.