US Travel Association Predicts Busy Summer Travel Season, Predicts Complications

The US Travel Association is predicting that summer 2023 will be a massive travel season, with demands as strong as they were pre-pandemic. 

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The US Travel Association recently spoke about their predictions for the upcoming 2023 summer travel season, discussing how travel demands will likely reach pre-pandemic levels that could lead to further complications.

US Travel association President and CEO Geoff Freeman was recently interviewed by reporters where he discussed how the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is expecting summer air travel to surpass pre-pandemic levels. 

The TSA also cited that they’re screening 2 million passengers every day, and those numbers are likely to continue to increase as the summer season progresses.

More than half of Americans (53%) and 81% of leisure travelers are reported to have travel plans within the next 6 months, and 26% of Americans are planning to increase the amount of money they spend on casual travel within the next three months, according to a poll commissioned by the association

“This summer’s travel demand will be as strong as we have seen since before the pandemic. That type of demand on a system that is understaffed and underfunded is likely to create frustrations among travelers.” 

While the demand for travel is a good thing for the industry and its overall economic growth, the industry is not as well equipped as it once was to handle the influx. The FAA even recently asked airlines to pull back slots at airports in New York and Washington DC, with fewer than 1,200 air traffic controllers active today compared to a decade ago, according to the US Travel Association. 

Freeman explained that this decrease in traffic controllers, and staff shortages overall, can be blamed on policymakers “who continually fail to provide the FAA with sufficient funding.”

“Americans are paying the price of years of chronic under-investment – in technology and staffing – by the federal government in our nation”s air travel system. The subpar American airline and airport system is already causing the US travel industry to lose money,” Freeman explained. 

In the poll cited above, half of Americans (52%) stated that they would travel more leisurely within the next 6 months if the experience and preparation wasn’t too much of a hassle.

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“The problems we are confronting didn’t come out of thin air and it’s not solely driven by increased demand. Air travelers are right to be frustrated and to demand more from Washington. This reality is holding back economic growth.”

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Freeman also discussed the complications international travelers will be facing within the US travel industry in the coming months, cautioning that there will be excessive wait times for international passengers coming into US customs checkpoints at gateway airports. This is also an issue associated with understaffing and “diversion of resources by Customs and Border Protection. 

Freeman stated: “If international visitors are forced to wait two to three hours in line, they may think twice about coming back to the United States and will certainly go home and spread that message.”

“We have year-long waits for first-time visitor visa applicants in key markets and we have fierce competitors from other markets. If international visitors face a hassle getting a visa to come to this country, they will simply go elsewhere.” 

Freeman then discussed the requirements he expects from lawmakers in the FAA reauthorization bill in terms of funding: at least $50 million per year for aviation workforce development programs, $4.5 billion in funding for air traffic control infrastructure and technology, and enough funding to hire 1,800 new air traffic controllers per year, over the next three years. 

He also expects $4 billion per year to be put into Airport Improvement Program Grants to be allocated to serve airlines where a majority of travelers throughout the country flock to the most. 

“If the government doesn’t act now, the headaches won’t just happen during peak travel seasons and holidays, it will become our daily reality,” Freeman stated.