A new analysis recently released by ForwardKeys reveals four key trends that could positively affect travel in 2022 amid the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
These include the increasing pent-up demand for travel, strong domestic travel, the return of business travel as well as the reopening of the APAC region.
According to ForwardKeys, at the height of the pandemic in 2020, many wondered if things could get worse for the tourism sector, praying for travelers to return to the skies as soon as possible.
In 2021, the tourism industry enjoyed a brief sensation of travel recovery as Americans took to the skies and flew South, just as many Northern Europeans did over the summer months with Greece, Spain and Turkey showing the most resilience to turbulence.
Sadly, the end of 2021 witnessed the steady increase of new coronavirus cases, the emerge of the Omicron variant and new travel bans.
Pent-Up demand is real – the example of Greece
Despite these challenges, ForwardKeys says that pent-up demand for travel continues to exist.
One way to get an idea of the scale of the pent-up demand is to look at what happens when travel restrictions are lifted in other parts of the world. The analysis refers to the example of Greece:
Last March, the Greek government announced the reopening of the country to travelers with a Covid certificate. At the very same time, the number of Covid cases in Greece was rising at an alarming rate. Given that this rebound of the pandemic was all over the news in Greece’s key source markets, it is fair to assume that people knew about this situation and yet, the number of international tickets to the country grew at a very fast pace, which made Greece one of the success stories of last summer.
“What this teaches us is that even when the Covid situation is getting worse, people still want to travel. What stops them is how governments react to the evolution of the pandemic. If they make sure that their country is open for business, the strength of travel demand is such that they will see travellers flying their way,” the analysis says.
Domestic travel, a relevant player in tourism
Another key travel trend for 2022 is the resilience of domestic travel, according to ForwardKeys.
“We all know it was the first to rebound and that it helped to keep the travel industry afloat in many countries in 2021,” says Olivier Ponti, VP of Insights.
The analysis focuses on Spain, a market where a lot of domestic travel takes place by air due to large distances and the attractiveness of tourist hotspots like the Balearic or the Canary islands.
Domestic travel bounced back in the summer of 2020, just after confinement measures were lifted. In April 2021, with the help of the Easter break, domestic travel reached back pre-covid levels for the first time. Since then, it has remained strong, with various periods above 2019 levels, like during the autumn holidays in the end of October.
Meanwhile, the data shows that it took the Spaniards much longer to resume their trips abroad with recovery accelerating from spring of 2021.
Business travel is not dead
One of the great fears of the travel industry since the beginning of the pandemic has been that business travel would never come back. With online conferences, online meetings and reduced budgets from crisis-stricken companies, the odds looked bad for business travel. Yet, it appears that business travel is slowly but surely making a comeback.
“We could see this very clearly happening in Europe, where intra-European business travel was on a steady rise from April until the new wave of Covid cases last November,” says Ponti.
“It is recovering more slowly than the leisure segment, and yes, recovery can be a bit bumpy, but all in all, the gap between leisure and business is narrowing, and business travel reached close to 70 percent of 2019 levels in October.”
The APAC region to reopen soon
So far, the one region in the world which has been lagging in terms of travel recovery is the Asia Pacific. The main reason for this situation is simple: most destinations were not open for business and had travel restrictions in place that made travel cumbersome or next to impossible.
The good news is that just before Omicron hit, this situation was changing at a fast pace. The group of countries partially open or who had announced a plan to reopen was much larger and included very popular destinations like India, Australia, Indonesia, Japan, Fiji and Singapore.
There are good reasons to believe that these plans will be put back on track and this will reactivate regional and even intercontinental travel, following the same pattern as in other parts of the world, and hopefully go faster in the process.
According to the ForwardKeys analysis, the one big question mark is China, the world’s biggest outbound market pre-covid and a giant waiting for awakening.