‘Massive imbalance’ between outbound and inbound travel revealed

Disparity between forward flight bookings for UK outbound and inbound travel has been disclosed in new flight booking data.

Bookings for outbound travel popular summer sun destinations has bounced back while inbound has largely failed to take off, according to new research from the World Travel & Tourism Council and analytics firm ForwardKeys,

Demand for Turkey is up 53% and Greece by 51% for the summer peak, compared to pre-pandemic figures.

Spain, the most popular destination, is ahead of pre-pandemic levels by 1%.

Families are finally able to visit family and friends after two years of enforced separation to countries such as Bangladesh, India and Pakistan, with flight bookings up by 36%, 28% and 26% respectively, compared to 2019 levels.

However, bookings during the same period to the US – the fifth most popular destination in 2019 – remain 10% lower than before the pandemic.

The outlook for international summer departures from the UK remains positive, with forward bookings for the UK’s top 10 most resilient destinations up by 118% compared to last year and only 10% behind pre-pandemic levels.

But the picture is negative when it comes to inbound travel to the UK, raising serious concerns about the UK’s economic recovery.

The data shows while inbound bookings for international arrivals are up by 1,453% compared to 2021, when severe restrictions to travel were in place, bookings to date are still well below pre-pandemic levels – down 45% versus 2019.

Only Sweden has risen above pre-pandemic levels (up 15%) for inbound travel, while other key source markets have not recovered, indicating the UK still has a long way to go to encourage international travellers back to its shores.

Flight bookings from the US this year are still nearly a quarter (24%) below 2019 levels.

Other key source markets for the UK such as Ireland, Germany and Spain are also performing poorly, down 19%, 37% and 38% respectively.

WTTC president and chief executive Julia Simpson said: “The massive imbalance between outbound and inbound UK international flight bookings is a worrying sign for the recovering Travel & Tourism sector and the UK economy.

“As the pandemic recedes and international travel returns, it’s encouraging to see holidaymakers making the most of their new found freedom to travel safely.

“But it’s not a good sign for UK Plc if we can’t convince international travellers that the UK is open for business to travellers and tourists. The UK is losing crucial market share to other destinations.”

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