Forecasts have been exceeded, and you have to wonder why. | Miquel À. Cañellas


At the start of January, I wrote a piece with a headline - 'Are tourism forecasts pointless?' It took me no further than the first sentence to conclude that they were.

At that time, the Omicron effect wasn't completely understood. And then came Putin. Inflation was running wild, and the next thing we knew was that airports and airlines hadn't got any staff. If forecasts in January had been, shall we say tricky, who would now make forecasts under these circumstances? In boardrooms, directors would have been PowerPointing their SWOT analyses with everything pretty much loaded in the T quadrant. Threats galore.

A perfect storm of negative factors had replaced conditions of the previous couple of years, which now looked oddly calm. In Mallorca, there were the additional oracular prophesies of impending disaster - the tourist tax, prices (separate to the inflationary impact), limits on all-inclusive alcohol in very limited areas of the island, stuff to do with vaccination or tests. Yet lo and behold, here we now are with forecasts (rotten ones) being exceeded. Every source one consults says much the same thing - airlines, airport, hoteliers. Forecasts exceeded.

If you want to go back over the Covid months, you will discover no shortage of forecasts. In the absence of much genuine tourism, forecasting was all there was for many in the tourism and travel industry to do. Webinar after webinar, presentation after presentation, oracle after oracle - "we forecast a return to normality by ... " (choose the date as applicable).

Under conditions of great uncertainty, which there undoubtedly were, this crystal-ball gazing was fair enough. But it was as if a form of groupthink consumed sages of the industry - directors, consultants, journalists, university professors, even perhaps tourism ministers - into believing, among other things, that tourism would never be the same. Or if it were to be the same, then 2022 wouldn't be the year. Covid, some reckoned, had changed tourism for good, an extraordinary conclusion when one reflects on tourism history and discovers how remarkably resilient and consistent tourism is. It bounces back and far more quickly than might be believed, and in exactly the same form.

I agree with certain Spanish commentators who have observed that there were only few who were prepared for the bounce-back. Numbered among them are Steve Heapy of Jet2 and Michael O'Leary of Ryanair. One can perhaps also make a case for TUI's Fritz Joussen, whose optimism over the Covid months was boundless, but even TUI have been caught out. And by the by, one can understand why Joussen should now have decided to step down: who can blame the guy after enduring, as he has put it, the company's "existential crisis"? There again, he isn't exactly poorly remunerated. Unlike many who work in tourism and travel. Or who did, before they realised there was a whole other world of work.

Forecasts, I do appreciate, aren't the sole reason for the mess that much of the travel industry has got itself into. But they obviously play a substantial role in determining decisions, e.g. staffing. Unfortunately, these haven't all been good decisions, and they begin to look even less good when one considers forecasts, yes forecasts, regarding all the pent-up demand for holidays that was going to be unleashed once the starting pistols were fired. Not inflation, not Putin, not a limit of six alcoholic drinks a day (with meals) could hold it back.