Travel Leaders Optimistic about Industry Recovery in 2022

New flights, construction at PIT show airlines’ investment in region

By DeAnn Baxter

Published January 24, 2022

Read Time: 3 mins


Pittsburgh’s National Aviary provided an appropriate setting last week for local and national travel leaders to express cautious optimism about the industry and region’s ongoing recovery at Visit Pittsburgh’s State of the Travel Industry event.

More than 120 professionals from hotels, restaurants, attractions and cultural institutions across Western Pennsylvania attended the event to learn firsthand where Pittsburgh’s market stands at the onset of 2022, listen to forecasts for Allegheny County’s travel market and hear an update on the new terminal construction at Pittsburgh International Airport.

Adam Sacks, president of Tourism Economics, opened with a big picture overview. “We’re in a difficult time, but we’re pressing through it,” Sacks said, noting the increased resilience among travelers who are anxious to hit the road. “There’s an appreciation and enthusiasm for travel that people didn’t have before [the pandemic].”

Domestic leisure travel continues to grow, while business travel will recover more gradually over the next two years, Sacks said. He suggested the key to recovery will lie in destination marketing to attract fun seekers to unique locales they may not have thought to visit otherwise.

Pittsburgh International Airport’s Chief Development Officer Paul Hoback expressed optimism regarding the rebound in travel in the coming year. “Airlines believe and are invested in this region,” he said, citing the recent announcement of British Airways’ return to PIT, rebounding passenger counts and more non-stop service to destinations around the country.

Hoback also highlighted construction progress on the Terminal Modernization Program, the new “front door” to the region, set to open in 2025. With the transformation underway for the new terminal and multi-modal complex, drills, cranes, machinery and other construction equipment and vehicles are out on the site – along with approximately 100 building-trades workers – every day.

PIT Chief Development Officer Paul Hoback, highlighted British Airways’ return to PIT, increasing passenger traffic and progress on the Terminal Modernization Program at Visit Pittsburgh’s State of the Travel Industry Event. (Photo by DeAnn Baxter)

“We survived 9/11, and we will get through COVID. We are stronger than ever because of hard changes. That tenacity and resilience is what Pittsburgh is all about,” Hoback said.

The region’s economy is also recovering. Jim Futrell, Vice President of Market Research and Analysis at the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, shared several indicators demonstrating that Pittsburgh is already approaching 2019 levels.

For example, employment numbers for leisure and hospitality in Allegheny County hit 100,700 in November 2021 – about 85 percent of what it was pre-pandemic.

Not surprisingly, officials said anxiety about COVID-19 remains a concern among travelers.

Founder and Managing Director Dave Bratton of Destination Analysts said research shows that 65 percent of travelers remain worried about catching COVID while on the road and are relying on the travel industry to keep them safe.

“Despite these challenges, excitement for travel remains high,” Bratton stated. “More than 86 percent of the people we surveyed will be traveling for leisure in 2022.”

With a more solid sense of pre-pandemic normalcy still in the distance, travelers are seeking out beach resorts, rural areas and day trips to fulfill their desire to get away from home, Bratton said.

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