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Euroviews. Post-COVID 'revenge travel' has gone big. And the revenge is sweet

An illustration of a young couple enjoying their vacation in the Mediterranean
An illustration of a young couple enjoying their vacation in the Mediterranean Copyright Midjourney/Euronews
Copyright Midjourney/Euronews
By Chris Lanckbeen, Global travel business expert
Published on Updated
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The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent in any way the editorial position of Euronews.

After enduring lockdowns that made international travel nearly impossible, many consumers have a newfound zest, leading to a trend that is seeing countless people travelling for longer and more frequently, Chris Lanckbeen writes.

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If you’ve been yearning to travel like never before, you’re not alone.

After enduring lockdowns that made international travel nearly impossible, many consumers have a newfound zest for travel, leading to a trend that is seeing countless people travelling for longer and more frequently. 

The phenomenon in question? Revenge travel.

2022 saw huge spikes in the number of people packing their bags and heading off to see the world. 

In the first half of 2022, European airports saw an almost 250% increase in passenger volumes, according to data from ACI Europe, as more countries opened up to visitors. 

Rules and regulations, mandates and masks were also peeled back in a bid to make up for the lost time.

In 2023, recovery rates do not appear to be slowing down. 

According to Skyscanner, three-quarters (77%) of those surveyed said they’re planning to spend the same or more on trips abroad than they did in 2022, with almost half (41%) planning to spend more.

What is ‘revenge travel’, and who are we getting back at?

Revenge travel gained popularity on social media in 2021 and flourished in 2022 as people flocked to worldwide destinations after being unable to do so for the previous two years.

These "payback" trips came in all shapes and sizes: some were once-in-a-lifetime blowouts, whilst others were long-awaited family reunions. 

All of them, however, were less about getting back at someone — or somewhere — and more about getting back lost time and experiences.
Travelers walk through LaGuardia Airport's Terminal B, New York, November 2022
Travelers walk through LaGuardia Airport's Terminal B, New York, November 2022AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson

All of them, however, were less about getting back at someone — or somewhere — and more about getting back lost time and experiences.

Accelerating rates of digital transformation continue to alter every experience within the travel industry.

This shift includes changes to how consumers pay merchants and air carriers, to the hospitality players now preparing to provide a more experiential user journey incorporating elements like augmented reality tours.

New business models abound

The pandemic has also given rise to new business models, and they are not going anywhere. Contactless payments, which were initially perceived as a short-term fix for the crisis, have proven to be a game-changer. 

Consumers are increasingly comfortable with paying for travel expenses online, and this trend shows no signs of subsiding to pre-pandemic levels, with evidence from Lloyd’s Bank showing that 90% of transactions are now contactless.

Not only are more people travelling more often, but they are also exploring new ways to spend their money, ways that were previously not available a few years ago. 

A young couple walk behind a 2nd century A.D. marble head of victory inside Stoa of Attalos, at ancient Agora, in Athens, October 2022
A young couple walk behind a 2nd century A.D. marble head of victory inside Stoa of Attalos, at ancient Agora, in Athens, October 2022AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris

Airlines, for instance, are now offering in-flight shopping services that allow passengers to pre-order and pay for anything they want and have it delivered to their seats. Pre-payment is made via a card-on-file solution, making the improved customers experience seamless and hassle-free.

Meanwhile, booking method usability remains crucial as we all look for a more centralised and simple experience.

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Easy and flexible ways to pay are also proving critical. As more holidays are booked digitally, a wealth of more convenient payment methods or even split payments are emerging as the result of rising inflation and higher living costs.

For instance, Buy Now Pay Later allows travellers to divide the cost of a holiday into manageable instalments.

What matters to revenge travellers, and will it persist?

In the wake of a turbulent few years, many of us now have different travel priorities, such as a renewed focus on health and well-being.

The Global Wellness Institute reported that “wellness tourism” is expected to grow more than any other wellness sector, increasing by about 20.9% by 2025. 

And while wellness has long been a large part of travel for many, a cultural shift occurred during the pandemic that has transformed how travellers think about wellness, in turn altering their expectations.

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It is likely that we will see this particular type of travel begin to subside as the overall economy continues to recover.
Tourists use the beach at the Iberostar Selection Varadero hotel in Varadero, Cuba, September 2021
Tourists use the beach at the Iberostar Selection Varadero hotel in Varadero, Cuba, September 2021AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa

Many travellers are increasingly prioritising their personal wellness. Certainly, this translates to increased interest in what might be considered more traditional wellness disciplines — spas, movement, and nutrition.

Ways of planning holidays have changed in recent years, too. Social media is fast becoming a popular method for Gen Z consumers to map out their travel plans, with a study by YouGov showing that four in ten are now using the platforms to make travel plans or bookings.

Revenge tourism is essentially a response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its associated travel restrictions.

As such, it is likely that we will see this particular type of travel begin to subside as the overall economy continues to recover. 

That said, there is clearly strong evidence to support a longer-term boom in travel as innovation accelerates, and we see the return of Asian travellers to Europe in the second half of 2023.

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Chris Lanckbeen is the Global Head, Travel & Hospitality at Worldline, a digital payment and transactional solutions company. Prior to that, he gathered over a decade of experience in business development in Belgium.

At Euronews, we believe all views matter. Contact us at view@euronews.com to send pitches or submissions and be part of the conversation.

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