In this alternative review of the summer 2022 travel season, Juan A. Gomez, Head of Market Intelligence at ForwardKeys, poses the question, “How would European travel recovery have evolved without the airport chaos and flight cancellations?” Following some setbacks at the beginning of the year – namely the emergence of the Omicron Covid variant and the escalation of the Russo-Ukrainian war – travel recovery in Europe appeared to be firmly on the right track heading into summer.
Air travel to the southeast corner of Europe substantially exceeded pre-pandemic (2019) levels in the peak summer months of July and August. The two largest destinations, Turkey and Greece, both exceeded pre-pandemic levels of international visitor arrivals by 9% and 2% respectively. Air travel to Albania (a relatively small destination with less than 1% market share of European flight arrivals) was also up by 28%. While no other major country destinations recovered to the numbers seen in 2019, Slovenia, just 7% down, Iceland, 8% down, and Portugal, 10% down, came close.
In recent weeks, news of airlines cancelling flights and images of long queues at European airports have dominated mainstream media, with many travellers reported having missed their flight due to lengthy delays even after check-in. To shed light on how bad the situation really is, ForwardKeys has taken a closer look at air traffic disruption by analysing recent cutbacks in capacity around the world.
As shared in a presentation on summer travel trends and tourism prospects for Spain delivered on the 30th of June by the Spanish Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism and ForwardKeys, confirmed bookings for travel to Spain in July and August point to “a summer like before the pandemic”, with the country having recovered nine in ten international bookings made in 2019.
The summer travel outlook report, produced for the World Travel Market (WTM) by ForwardKeys, reveals that in the third quarter of the year, July, August and September, global air travel is set to reach 65% of where it was before the pandemic in 2019. However, the revival is patchy, with some parts of the world doing much better than others and some types of travel, particularly beach holidays, being much more popular than urban city visits and sightseeing.
The latest data from ForwardKeys reveals that while Southeast Asia has been lagging far behind the rest of the world in its recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, visitors from the USA are coming back in substantially greater numbers than from other origin markets. In the first five months of the year (1st January – 31st May), travel to Southeast Asia reached just 18% of pre-pandemic levels, whereas travel to Europe reached 55%, to the Americas 66% and to the Middle East & Africa 64%.
The latest air ticketing data from ForwardKeys reveals that Russian outbound tourism, already severely handicapped by pandemic travel restrictions, has fallen even further, because of Russia’s military operations in Ukraine. But affluent travellers are still flying, just not to Europe. In the week before the outbreak of war (w/c 18th Feb), outbound international air tickets from Russia stood at 42% of pre-pandemic levels; but in the week immediately after the invasion (w/c 25th Feb), issued air tickets fell to just 19%. Since then, flight bookings have sunk deeper still and have been hovering at around 15%.
As there is much talk about travel recovery around the world, first with the Americas leading in 2021 and again in 2022, the travel data experts at ForwardKeys are noticing the first taste of recovery in Africa and the Middle East. International arrivals to Africa and the Middle East in Q2 of 2022 are at -33% compared to 2019 levels, above the total international outbound average of -45% and just behind the leading recovery region, the Americas (-27%). Last year this figure was at -64%, so this is a marked improvement.
Like it or not, China keeps making the headlines since the advent of the pandemic in 2020, and it’s for all sorts of reasons. From Covid containment and the strict zero policy to the closure of outbound tourism to the unstoppable desire to shop and travel – even if it’s just to neighbouring Macau or Hainan. The latest news is the lockdown of one of China’s most important financial centres: Shanghai. And now local authorities are telling Beijing residents to stay put ahead of the famous May holiday. But is it really all doom and gloom for the travel economy?
As a Global Data Partner of the World Travel Market (WTM), the Head of Market Intelligence, Juan Gomez, has been invited to present at WTM LATAM this week in Sao Paulo on April 6 on the Travel Tech stage. Here are a few points the Head of Market Intelligence shall share in his presentation on the LATAM Travel Outlook for 2022 – to catch the whole presentation and live panel discussion with ProColombia and Emprotur Brazil, make sure you register to attend.
Spain is among the most sought-after destinations in the world by tourists for this Easter, as highlighted in the presentation of travel forecasts to Spain made last Friday, 1 April 2022 by the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Tourism and ForwardKeys, the leading global travel intelligence and data company. “The year 2022 has started with a sustained recovery in tourism, as shown by the data from the hotel occupancy survey with 24.1 million overnight stays between January and February, 72% of the pre-pandemic level, or the employment data recorded in February.
In its second public analysis since the outbreak of war, ForwardKeys compared flight bookings in the week following the invasion, 24th Feb – 2nd Mar, to the previous seven days. Excluding Ukraine and Moldova, which closed their air space, and Russia and Belarus, which were subjected to flight bans and safety warnings, the destinations worst affected were generally those closest to the conflict. Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia all saw a 30% – 50% collapse in bookings.
The latest data from ForwardKeys reveals that the Russian invasion of Ukraine prompted an instant spike in flight cancellations to and from Russia. On 25th February, the day after the start of the invasion, every booking that was made for travel to Russia was outweighed by six cancellations of pre-existing bookings. The source markets exhibiting the highest cancellation rates, in order of volume, were Germany 773%, France 472%, Italy 152%, the UK 254%, India 285% and Turkey 116%.
New research from ForwardKeys reveals that flight bookings to and from the UK have soared following the government’s announcement that COVID-19 testing would no longer be required for fully vaccinated travellers entering the UK. The day after the announcement by the UK Transport Secretary was made, combined inbound and outbound flight bookings jumped to 84% of pre-pandemic (2019) levels, outbound to 106% and inbound to 47%.
According to ForwardKeys’ Forecast data, this year, the number of Russian outbound travel is expected to increase by +64% when compared to 2021, and +96% when compared to 2020. Regarding when we can expect it to recover to 2019 levels, Nan Dai, China Market Expert at ForwardKeys says: “Looking at the current pattern and pace for bookings, it is expected to recover to 2019 levels approximately in 2025-2026.”
ForwardKeys’ latest analysis on Q1 inbound air travel in Brazil confirms the relevancy of casting a wider net during the pandemic – in terms of air connectivity and source market promotions. Meanwhile, the domestic travel market could be what keeps the ship afloat as new case numbers increase. When examining the latest ticketing data for confirmed arrivals in Brazil in January – March 2022, the total international arrivals are -54% compared to 2019.
A new report from ForwardKeys reveals the recent lockdowns in China, imposed in response to outbreaks of the Omicron strain of Coronavirus, have cast a long shadow over Chinese New Year travel plans.The latest data, as of 11th January, shows flight bookings for the upcoming holiday period, 24th January – 13th February, were 75.3% behind pre-pandemic levels but still ahead by 5.9% of last year’s dismally low levels.
A new report from ForwardKeys reveals which destinations were the most visited since 1st November by travellers from the eight southern African countries currently designated as most at risk due to the Omicron variant of COVID-19 – namely Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe. The data supports calls from many people objecting to immediate travel restrictions imposed on travel to and from these African countries.
In partnership with European Cities Marketing and their Barometer Report, the analysts at ForwardKeys shone the high beam on the highs and lows of travel within Europe this summer and in the last quarter of a roller-coaster year. And a few nuggets were unearthed, showing the return of business and luxury travel back to Europe. There is increased demand for luxury travel. To illustrate this, we looked at passenger arrivals from Los Angeles to London and we see an increase in the share of passengers travelling in Business, First and Premium Economy classes.
The ForwardKeys team of travel experts have been closely monitoring the winds of change in the travel sector since the pandemic unleased, and up until recently, the air ticketing data was showing the Americas, especially the Caribbean, as the sole game changers when it comes to real-time travel recovery. However, Africa and the Middle East are also proving to be much more resilient. While the total global inbound figure for international arrivals as of October 2021 sits at -77%, for Africa and the Middle East this figure is at – 68%.