No one would have bet on a return of performance to the level of 2019 as early as 2022, and this is what can only be described as a pleasant surprise. Many were looking further ahead and had underestimated many factors. MKG Consulting's 2021 business forecast was below the performance seen this year and yet it was met with scepticism. In reality, these forecasts, which were considered very optimistic, have been exceeded.
Faced with this unprecedented crisis, the challenge was to preserve the tourism production tool, and European governments shouldered their responsibilities by supporting the sector and all the players in the economy.
The recovery has been supported primarily by regional markets, as demonstrated by the performance of low-cost airlines. Ryanair, which operates only short- and medium-haul flights, announced record profits not only on prices but also on the number of passengers carried. While the long-haul incumbents have also benefited from the recovery, they still have some way to go.
In terms of accommodation, some destinations have done well, notably France (+7%), Greece (+6.4%), Italy (+4.7%), and the United Kingdom (+3.9%), who all ended the year in the green in terms of RevPAR, although without reaching the occupancy levels of 2019. As a crossroads for leisure activities between southern and northern countries, France benefited from this attractiveness in the European regional zone. The major tourist destinations were also able to count on an international clientele, and in particular Americans, who were eager to return to Europe. More than ever, these good indicators show us that our sector has turned a corner as a mainstream consumer product. We could not have wished anything better for it. It has had to absorb many shocks and has been able to take a breath of fresh air thanks to this unexpected rebound.
To date, what has held back the recovery has not been the lack of support for entrepreneurs in the sector, but the lack of staff in the establishments. The slowdown has not come from where it was expected. It was not a lack of dynamic demand, or massive bankruptcies, but a more ancient evil. Indeed, it was the attractiveness of the sector that brought the production machine to a standstill. From a cyclical factor, we are moving towards a structural factor which is forcing the professionals in the sector to ask questions of themselves.
In the longer term, what will happen to the world of travel? Counter-intuitively, there has been a groundswell around the travel ban. Travelling by train, limiting one's travels: these are all suggestions that have been widely shared in reaction to the climate change that everyone saw in 2022. For the moment, this has not had any consequences, but it reminds the sector that it must remain in line with society's expectations. The industry must quickly open up a third way, somewhere between pre-Covid travel habits and the idea of a world where we should be limited to three trips over a lifetime.
What maintains the number of visitors is also the customer profiles that are strong contributors. For example, Entreprises du Voyage noted a 25% drop in the number of travel agency customers who wish to go abroad but have maintained a constant turnover. This data shows that, to date, most of the demand in the sector is not made up of consumers who are constrained by budgetary concerns.
More than ever, 2023 will be the reset year for players in the sector. At Hospitality ON, we will continue to monitor the weak points and evolutions of the industry’s best practices and share them with you. To decipher the trends and take the pulse of the coming transformations, meet us on 12th June at the Hospitality Operator Forum and on 9th November for the Hospitality Asset Forum.