Peter Pantuso is the President and CEO of the American Bus Association.

After more than two long years of challenges, motorcoach and packaged travel are back, albeit with some significant changes.

We saw the industry devastated in 2020 and 2021 when possibly 30 percent or more of motorcoach companies and maybe just as many tour operators just couldn’t hold on. Thank goodness that is in the rearview mirror.

2022 was a great comeback year for most of the industry as the “pent up demand for travel” that we had been hearing about finally began to appear in the same way that individual and family travel did in 2021 after more than a year of being locked down. But travel was still off in 2022 since the planning cycle for many trips, especially students, would have mostly happened during 2021 and in a sea of uncertainty.

Looking forward, 2023 looks bright on all fronts. Business will be stronger than in 2022. The demand for travel will continue to grow. Tour operations and most motorcoach operations should be back to 2019 levels. Travel partners will also continue to see expanded growth and revenue growth as demand increases. In addition, travelers from around the world, who have mostly stayed in-country, will begin coming to the U.S. again, further increasing demand for all segments of the packaged travel industry. All great news.

At the same time, 2023 will continue to bring the challenge of worker shortages that we’ve all seen this year in all segments of the economy, especially the service sector. The shortage of motorcoach drivers, and supply chain issues that made it difficult to get parts, along with the 30 percent reduction of motorcoach companies, made finding a coach for a tour, meeting, convention, and all other uses difficult. It also meant that because the supply did not meet the demand, prices rose. This will continue and will be enhanced in 2023 as demand increases even more, and the supply of needed drivers will not grow at the same pace. A classic supply and demand curve, which means trip planning should be done as far in advance as possible, especially when motorcoaches are needed.

As we look to 2024, we believe that much of life as we know it, at least for motorcoach and packaged travel, will get back to pre-pandemic levels. As we recover, we also need to remember that COVID still exists and probably always will, just like the flu. This means that many of the cleaning and sanitizing protocols, not only on coach but across all industry partners, must continue. When we talk about the importance of safety in travel, for the last few years and into the future, safety means more than just safe vehicles and travel.

Travel patterns have also changed since 2019, we continue to see smaller groups and less open tours to sign on, specialty interest trips, behind the scenes tours and more personalized itineraries. Many of these trends were underway before the pandemic and will continue to be the norm in the future.

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By Pete Pantuso

To learn more about the 2022 Titans of Tourism, visit the December issue of Leisure Group Travel.