Outlook for International Air Travel This Summer is Set to Be Just Under a Quarter (-23%) of Pre-pandemic Levels

Map - Summer 2021 tourist arrivals - Source ForwardKeys
Outlook for International Air Travel This Summer is set to be Just Under a Quarter of Pre-pandemic Levels

Summer 2021 – A Caribbean Vacation or a Staycation

The latest research from ForwardKeys, which has the most up-to-date and comprehensive flight booking data available, reveals that the outlook for international air travel this summer (1st June – 31st August) is set to be just under a quarter (-23%) of pre-pandemic levels.

As of 1st June, flight tickets issued for international arrivals in Africa & the Middle East were just 31% of their equivalent moment in 2019. The Americas stood at 38%, the Asia Pacific at 7%, and Europe at 22%. The one region where summer travel looks healthy this year is the Caribbean where bookings are at 81%.

The dominant theme explaining what is happening to international travel is not so much COVID-19 related as it is a governmental reaction to the virus and the travel restrictions imposed in response to it.

For example, summer bookings to China, Japan (which is welcoming no foreign spectators for the Olympics), Thailand, and Australia, which are all effectively closed to visitors, are just 2%, 4%, 2%, and 10% respectively.

Europe looks set for another disappointing summer in travel terms, except for Albania, at 73% of 2019 levels.

Greece (49%), Serbia (38%), Iceland (35%), and Malta (35%) are currently set to outperform other regional mainstream destinations.

Greece and Iceland, along with Croatia, have been consistently vocal in their enthusiasm for visitors and have consistently made public promises to welcome tourists who have been vaccinated.

Bookings to Portugal currently stand at 32%; however, following the UK’s decision last week to remove the country from its green list, they are likely to slow down.

The strongest origin markets for travel to the Mediterranean are Germany, France, and the USA, where current outbound bookings stand at 37%, 42%, and 24% of 2019 levels, respectively.

The one region in the world where a significant amount of international travel is taking place is the Americas. This is driven mostly by US citizens travelling to Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean for a holiday.

Latin Americans are also going to the USA for a COVID-19 vaccination. Destinations performing strongly in the summer bookings stakes include Mexico (86% of 2019 levels), the Dominican Republic (83%), and Aruba (108%), which have steadfastly remained open to tourists.

The Bahamas (81%) and Puerto Rico (140% ahead), which are allowing vaccinated travellers to enter without restrictions.

In some parts of West Africa, summer bookings are also holding up relatively well, most notably in Ghana, Nigeria (both at 73% of 2019 levels), and Senegal (77%). However, in these cases, travel is dominated by people visiting friends and relatives.

Olivier Ponti, VP Insights, ForwardKeys commented: “It is now clear that for most of the world, a summer holiday abroad is a dream; and a staycation is on the cards.”

“Travel businesses in general, and airlines, will face more substantial losses, as many countries combat COVID-19 by closing their borders and imposing severe restrictions on flying internationally. However, certain destinations, particularly in Central America and the Caribbean, which are highly dependent on tourism, are taking an alternative approach. By requiring vaccination and/or proof of negative COVID-19 tests, they are showing the world that it is possible to have a summer season.”