Global air travel recovery ‘patchy’ over the summer, new analysis finds

The post-pandemic recovery of global air travel this summer has been described as patchy in a new analysis of top destinations and the main origin markets.

Travel was up on last year by double-digits for most countries but volumes have yet to reach pre-Covid levels, according to travel analytics firm ForwardKeys.

The US, 17% up on last year, was just 1% down on 2019 volumes. 

However, other traditionally large source markets were much further off the pace – Germany, 21% down on pre-pandemic levels, the UK 20% down, France, 17% down, South Korea 28% down, China, 67% down Japan 53% down and Italy 24% down.

In the ranking of the most visited country destinations by share of scheduled flight bookings, the US was top of the list by a substantial margin, attracting 11% of all international visitors in the three months to  August 31. 

The US was followed by Spain, the UK, Italy, Japan, France, Mexico, Germany, Canada and Turkey.

The US was even more dominant in outbound travel, coming top with an 18% share of scheduled flight bookings. It was followed by Germany, the UK, Canada, France, South Korea, China, Japan, Spain and Italy.

While the Chinese outbound travel market has been amongst the slowest in the world to recover, it still managed to hit seven place thanks to its sheer size.

Looking at the destinations which have done best against 2019 levels, the list is dominated by countries famous for their beaches and warm waters.

The report added: “While the unusually high temperatures and the outbreak of wildfires in Greece and Portugal made a very substantial impact on television screens; they made only a limited impact on tourism, as most holidaymakers had already booked. 

“A spate of cancellations affected Rhodes, but flight bookings recovered to normal levels in a matter of weeks.” 

ForwardKeys insights vice president Olivier Ponti said: “Throughout the pandemic, US travellers were an economic lifeline for many Caribbean destinations. As other parts of the world relaxed their entry restrictions, Americans came. 

“This summer, they have been extremely helpful to many European destinations. Now, the world’s other major tourism powerhouse, China, is starting to revive. 

“Looking ahead to Q4 and further to 2024, I am increasingly optimistic. Right now, global flight bookings for the last three months of the year are just 4% behind 2019 and for the first three months of 2024 are 3% ahead. 

“The world region that shows the greatest promise in Q4 is the Middle East, to where flight bookings are 37% ahead of 2019. It is followed by Central America, 33% ahead and the Caribbean, 24% ahead.”

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