The demand for global leisure and business flights has taken off and exceeded pre-pandemic levels the latest research released by the MasterCard Economics Institute revealed this week.
The new report, Travel 2022: Trends and Transitions, shows that not only have global leisure and business travel flight bookings surpassed pre-pandemic levels, spending on cruise lines, bus trips and train travel has also recorded sharp improvements this year. The report delivers critical insights across 37 markets about the global state of travel in a post-vaccine and less restricted chapter of the pandemic era.
According to the MasterCard Economics Institute analysis, if flight booking trends continue at their current pace, an estimated 115 million more passengers in the Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa regions alone, will fly in 2022 compared with last year. The researchers analysed available travel data as well as aggregated sales activity in the MasterCard network.
Researchers found that the loosening of COVID-19 lockdown restrictions in most of the world, with the exception of parts of Asia-Pacific, had recalibrated the global tourism destination map in 2022.
The US, UK, Switzerland, Spain and the Netherlands are now the top destinations for tourists globally. For travellers from Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa, the United Kingdom has been the top choice destination in the ongoing recovery, with demand exceeding that for the US.
European destinations make up most of the top-ten destinations for travellers from Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa.
Some of the report’s key findings showed:
· Travel spending has shifted back to experiences over things: International tourists are spending more on experiences than souvenirs at a destination. Experiential spending is now 34% above 2019 levels. Establishments that recorded the largest increases were bars and nightclubs (72%) and amusement parks, museums, concerts and other recreational activities (35%). The global trend towards the Experience Economy has reached the United Kingdom, Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa. In South Africa, although spending levels for goods and experiences are similar, growth in spending on experiences relative to 2019 levels sustained around a 20% lead compared with goods, since January 2022.
· Leisure and business travel surpassed pre-pandemic levels: By the end of April, global long-haul leisure flight bookings surpassed 2019 levels by 25% while short- and medium-haul leisure flight bookings were up 25% and 27%, respectively. Global business travel flight bookings exceeded pre-pandemic levels for the first time in March, with long-haul specifically growing by double-digits in April. Short-haul bookings led the recovery, but only exceeded 2019 levels in March 2022, while medium-haul and domestic bookings remained 16% and 40% below 2019 levels, respectively, as of April 2022.
· Domestic travel choices top with consumers in Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa: Since the onset of the pandemic, domestic travel has been the itinerary of choice for consumers in these regions, although recovery has been haphazard. Domestic bookings surged and doubled pre-pandemic levels at the end of November 2020, collapsed in January 2021, jumped to more than 20% above pre-pandemic levels in February 2021, and collapsed again in mid-2021 before staging a more steady and sustained recovery. It exceeded pre-pandemic levels from February 2022.
· Spending rebounded in other transport sectors: Recent spending levels pointed to greater comfort with group travel. Global spending on cruises rose 62% from January to the end of April, however it remained below 2019 levels. Bus trips (including coach tours) were back to pre-pandemic levels, while passenger rail spend remained 7% below. Car road trips maintained their appeal, with spending on tolls and auto rentals up nearly 19% and 12%, respectively. In Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa, spend on rail travel has outperformed the rest of the world since January 2021. Tourist spend on auto-rentals has also gradually recovered, exceeding 2019 levels.