Why tour operators are optimistic about travel this year

Article written by Matthew Aubin, Associate Director of Channel Partnerships at Global Rescue, the leading provider of medical, security, evacuation and travel risk management services.

As officials dip their toes in the water of resuming international travel, travelers are ready to dive into the depths of travel after a two-year hiatus.


The proof is in the latest record bookings as reported by travel agencies and tour operators.

For example, Ubuntu Travel, a travel company specializing in luxury African safaris, scored its biggest January this year for sales since its inception in 2017. Four Points Adventures, a travel company offering tours safari-style guided overland tours in the remote landscapes of the western United States, had the highest number of bookings yet in the last quarter of 2021. And Choose Belize, a booking site and travel agency specializing in personalized travel vacations in Belize, is fully booked for the months of June, July, November and December 2022.

Despite higher fuel costs, the possibility of new variants and the war against Ukraine, traveler confidence should remain stable. According to tour operators, here are four main reasons.

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Fatigue wins out over fear

The world just isn’t postponing travel like it has been. This is due to the prevalence of vaccinations and boosters, but it is also the product of a pent up demand to travel again.

“They’re so tired of being locked up and ready to go out,” said Todd Rogers, owner and lead guide at Four Points Adventures. “Maybe a year ago they were postponing travel. But now people are more determined than ever to make those trips happen, despite the travel complications that COVID-19 brings to the fore.

Allison Fleece, co-founder of WHOA Travel, an adventure travel agency for women, agrees. “Because we’ve lost our vacation freedom during the pandemic, people aren’t going back to the usual excuses for not taking a trip,” she said. “The pandemic has shown us that life is very precious; now is the time to do these things and take these trips.

Perfect peace of mind

The advent of more flexible travel planning policies has allowed travelers to cancel a trip and be sure they won’t be hit with steep charges.

“We have been very pleased with the flexibility offered by our lodge and our operating partners in Africa, who have been helpful in rescheduling many trips since the start of the pandemic,” said Jenna Chase, Chief Operating Officer of Ubuntu Travel.

What is also important for traveler confidence is clear communication from tour operators, travel agents and hospitality managers regarding safety measures.

“We walk potential guests through our hotel setup,” said Kjeld Schigt, owner and manager of Kalon Surf, a luxury surf camp in Costa Rica. “It’s outdoors, there’s a lot of draft, you’re in the mountains by the ocean, there’s a lot of sun. All in all a very healthy environment. It’s the kind of place you want to be right now.

There are many large spaces

According to the January 2022 Global Rescue Traveler Sentiment and Safety Survey of global travelers, destination preferences continue to lean toward remote outdoor locations with fewer crowds. More than three-quarters of respondents (76%) plan more outdoor and remote travel, a 40% increase from responses from travelers nearly a year ago.

“Belize is a small country with no crowds,” said Polly Alford of Choose Belize. “There are a lot of island places, which of course means total isolation, and that’s what people want.”

The town of San Pedro and the Belize Barrier Reef beyond on Ambergris Caye, Belize.
The town of San Pedro and the Belize Barrier Reef beyond on Ambergris Caye, Belize. (photo via iStock/Getty Images Plus/Oli Eva)

Increased awareness of medical evacuation services

According to the survey, travel fears persist. More than half of travelers (52%) admit that infection with COVID-19 – its variants or quarantine – is still their main travel fear, followed by trip cancellation (17%) and having a accident or injury (16%).

Travelers reconcile these concerns with an increase in awareness and desire for medical evacuation services. Specifically, 62% of survey respondents – a 17% increase from Fall 2021 – identified medical evacuation protection for rescue in the event of injury or illness, including COVID-19, as their favorite protection.

“The pandemic has raised awareness of the limitations of traditional travel insurance and the value of a self-contained medical assistance and evacuation safety net,” said Dan Richards, CEO of Global Rescue, a service provider medical evacuation and travel risk management. Emergency rescue and evacuation services are often essential, “whether due to natural disaster, civil unrest or simply emergency assistance when travelling”.