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Athens Among Top 20 Leisure Cities, Says ForwardKeys’ 2021 Travel Trends Report

Acropolis, Athens. Photo Source: Visit Greece/Y. Skoulas

Acropolis, Athens. Photo Source: Visit Greece/Y. Skoulas

Athens is among the top 20 leisure destinations particularly for US travelers, according to ForwardKeys’ “2021 in Review” report that includes the top travel trends of this year.

More specifically, Athens ranks 15th among the top 20 destination cities this year, the travel analytics firm’s report shows.

At the top of the list is Dubai, followed by Cancun, Istanbul, New York, Miami, Paris, Doha, London, Cairo, Madrid, Amsterdam, Punta Cana, (Dominican Republic), San Juan (Puerto Rico), Lisbon, Mexico city, Palma Mallorca, Rome, Barcelona and Frankfurt.

According to ForwardKeys, a comparison of the world’s top destination cities, before the pandemic in 2019, and throughout 2021, illustrates the strong trend towards leisure travel leading to the recovery.

Key learnings and trends according to ForwardKeys analysts are:

– US leisure travel is set to drive recovery

international air travel was just over a quarter (26 percent) of its pre-pandemic level: Europe achieved 30 percent, Asia Pacific region 8 percent, Africa & the Middle East 36 percent, and the Americas 40 percent

– flight arrivals grew from 5 percent of their 2019 levels in the first half of the year (H1) to 10 percent in H2. In Europe, flight arrivals grew from 14 percent to 45 percent, Middle East & Africa from 24 percent to 48 percent, and in the Americas from 30 percent to 52 percent

– destinations which best maintained their visitor numbers were Central America (El Salvador and Belize) and the Caribbean – all holiday hotspots for US tourists. Many of them managed to record visitation rates above 60 percent of 2019 levels throughout the year

– travel to the Middle East is picking up with travel to Turkey up from 33 percent in H1 to 67 percent in H2 of pre-pandemic levels and to Egypt up from 37 percent to 72 percent 

domestic travel has increased, particularly in large-sized countries such as Brazil 148 percent, China 76 percent, Russia 128 percent, and the US 87 percent of pre-pandemic levels in H2 2021

– major European airlines are struggling to stay above water with many dropping or falling out the ranking

– there has been a shift away from long-haul travel with more people in Europe and the Americas traveling intra-regionally rather than the long haul

– Doha overtook Dubai as the leading hub airport in the Middle East, while in Europe, Amsterdam closed the gap on Frankfurt for intra-European transits and connections with North America

new variants are expected to impact travel recovery: the emergence of the new Omicron variant and imminent travel restrictions will inhibit demand for last-minute travel over the holiday period.

“2021 has been a year of travel recovery; but that recovery has been bumpy and patchy, with many established destinations displaced and several tourism-dependent destinations making valiant efforts to retain the patronage of leisure travelers,” said Olivier Ponti, VP of Insights at ForwardKeys.

“It has also been a tug of war between a strong pent-up demand to travel on the one hand and travel restrictions, imposed by governments to inhibit the spread of Covid-19 on the other,” he added.

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