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Trend Setting and Spotting at N Concourse

November 19, 2021

Can you recall the last time that your airport experience felt like a welcome escape?  I certainly have those moments.  Having a few quiet moments at a JFK wine bar a decade ago stands out as an hour well spent.  Watching my son vroom around airport play areas from Boston to Portland to SEA, and many relaxing dinners before late night flights to visit east coast family. 

Our airport recently opened a major new facility designed to feel like a welcome escape.  The new North Satellite, home of the N Concourse, features creature comforts that make travel less stressful.  Charging stations built into every seat. Bathrooms big enough to hold you and your wheelie bag.  A gorgeous mother’s room.   Museum-quality art.   

The airport needed to modernize the 1970s building to expand dining and shopping options, make the passenger experience more comfortable, and improve aircraft operations.  To celebrate the accomplishment, and bless our new performance stage, we invited five Seattle-area artists to share a free performance with our guests.  Their exuberant performances lined up with everything you expect from Seattle.  An emotional cap to an emotional year, the performances were introspective, relevant, and rocking.   

We also invited four local travel experts, Kevin Lemme from Alaska Airlines, Matt Hagerman from Columbia Hospitality Group, Nissy Atassi from Expedia, and travel blogger Tash Haynes to share what to expect during your 2022 journeys. 

Trends to Watch 

the travel trends panelists and audience

Less DIY, More Concierge.

Travel guru Tash Haynes said what we are all thinking.  We need help. COVID rules change by the city, county, state and sometimes by the day.  Your old style of showing up and winging it will not work in the short-staffed world of today’s times.  You need a reservation. You need a plan.  And you need help. Tap your concierge or even a local travel influencer to make sure you have the plans in place before you walk out the front door. Matt Hagerman with Columbia Hospitality Group shared that concierges and front staff are working overtime to help guests maximize their time away.  

Double check, triple check.  

The most prepared travelers will get the most out of their trip. Confirm your reservations with a phone call or email to make sure a restaurant or attraction hours haven’t changed. Understaffed locations may not have their most up to date hours online.  Use phone calls and emails to confirm vaccine or testing requirements and line up rapid tests in advance if you need them.    

Book your rental car first.

In the before times, you would book a flight, hotel, and then rental car. Times changed! Nissy Atassi from Expedia Group explained the domino effects of 2021 that led to rental car chaos.  Spiking demand in particular destinations, rental car company decisions to sell fleets and then buy cars back during a global auto shortage, plus the ongoing tight labor market made it nearly impossible to rent a car in 2021.  In 2022 you should try to rent your car earlier in your trip planning purchase, or plan trips to destinations where you won’t need a car, just to make sure there are no surprises.  

Embrace surprise.  

Kevin Lemme from Alaska Airlines shared passengers are booking trips today with less lead time than pre-pandemic.  That’s the good side of a surprise.  But all panelists stressed that travel in 2022 will involve unexpected situations.  Last minute bookings make it more difficult for hospitality providers to staff appropriately.  Schedule yourself a calm 30 or 60 minutes the night before you depart to consider what could change in your itinerary and how you would handle it. Changing rules like new vaccine requirements may surprise for someone coming from out of state. If you plan to travel in 2022, come with a flexible attitude and know that everyone is doing their best.  

Pack your sunscreen.

Tash, Kevin, and Nissy all confirmed that the sunshine and sand destination trends of 2021 will continue to hold in 2022.  We experienced that at SEA Airport, where beachy and sunny destinations became leading routes over traditional, business travel centric destinations.  Matt shared that Columbia Hospitality Group hotels were all seeing major increases in all seasons, affirming the Pacific Northwest vibe that values fresh air over everything.  

Treat Yourself.  

All panelists agreed that 2022 is the year of the GOAT trip.  Guests are spending more on premium experiences to make a trip more memorable, carve out a little more personal space, or to finally take that bucket list trip that has been on your mind for the last three years.  In 2022 it is all about let’s go and go big.   

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport wants the airport to be a welcome part of your escape.  New restaurants in the N Concourse, art, and amenities make it easier than ever to begin relaxing even before you take off.   

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