Selling Luxury: What ARC’s Latest Data Says for Travel in 2022

Welcome to Selling Luxury, a podcast/video series produced by the editors of Luxury Travel Advisor. This series aims to inspire and educate travel advisors who want to enter the luxury arena and provides great insights for those advisors who are already successful in this niche.

Recently ARC released data showing that travel agency air ticket sales totaled $5.4 billion in February 2022, a 253 percent year-over-year increase from February 2021—and the highest sales total since February 2020, just one month before the pandemic. The previous high was $4.4 billion in November 2021. In addition, airline tickets sold by travel agencies totaled $39.8 billion in 2021, a 69 percent increase from the $23 billion total in 2020. The number of passenger trips in 2021 grew by 50 percent year over year, totaling 174 million compared to 116 million in 2020.

We spoke with Steve Solomon, VP of global customers and data products at Airlines Reporting Corporation (ARC), to really dig into these numbers and learn what they say about travel, and travelers, in 2022. “Right now, transactions are down around 15 percent compared to where they were at this same point in 2019,” Solomon tells us. That said, “2019 was an incredibly strong year for travel and saying it’s down only 15 percent is really, really good news,” he adds.

But those numbers also show that leisure travel is powering the recovery. Solomon says that corporate travel is still down around 40 percent compared to 2019, meaning leisure is overperforming compared to where it used to be. He adds that a large portion of this leisure recovery remains domestic travel as people are opting not to deal with travel requirements for international vacations, the testing policy for returning to the U.S. and the chance that they get stuck overseas should they contract COVID.

Interestingly, Solomon explains that “European travel was not impacted as much as people may think due to the onset of the war.” For the first two weeks following the invasion, there was a flatline but since then, most markets have made a recovery.

As for airfare? Solomon says book now. He adds, “the good news, depending on the class of service you book, airlines have been incredibly flexible since the pandemic started, so you can monitor pricing and make a decision if you have some options on that ticket.”

When it comes to popular destinations, on the international side, Solomon tells us that the top five are all typical—Cancun, Mexico; Punta Cana, Dominican Republic; Montego Bay, Jamaica; Cabo San Lucas, Mexico; and London, England. Looking beyond “the usual suspects,” ARC data shows that Cairo has jumped from 50th to 30th (from 2019 to 2022), Turks and Caicos moved from 46th to 28, and Guanacaste, Costa Rica went from 37 to 20.

Domestically, it’s also a lot of the usual suspects—New York, Seattle, Orlando, Los Angeles, Boston. One big jump among U.S. destinations was Bozeman, Montana, which people are using as a gateway to Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks.

For the full conversation, check out the video above.

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