For the first time since the pandemic began, global leisure and business flights have risen to levels not seen since 2019.
This is according to the third annual travel report of the Mastercard Economics Institute, entitled “Travel 2022: Trends & Transitions”, published yesterday.
After analyzing 37 global markets, the report found that cross-border travel had reached pre-pandemic levels since March – a major milestone for a travel-dominated travel industry by 2020.
Flights are back
Global bookings for leisure travel rose 25% above pre-pandemic levels in April, according to the report. This is due to the number of short and medium distance flights, which were higher in April compared to the same period in 2019, according to the report.
Long-distance leisure flights did not lag far behind. After the start of the year at -75% of pre-pandemic levels, an “unprecedented increase” in international flight bookings led those flights to be “just shy” from 2019 levels in less than three months, according to the report.
Like airlines, global spending on cruises, buses and passenger railways rose sharply earlier this year, with tourist car rentals in March surpassing 2019 levels, according to the Mastercard Economics Institute’s 2022 travel report.
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Business leaflets, which have carried leisure travelers across the pandemic, are also returning to the skies.
At the end of March, business flight bookings exceeded 2019 levels for the first time since the pandemic began, according to the report, marking a key milestone for airlines based on corporate “regular passengers”.
The return of business trips was rapid, as business bookings were only about half the pre-pandemic levels earlier this year, according to the report.
Delay in Asia
The global upward trajectory comes despite a slow return to air travel in Asia. Flights to Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia increased among Asia-Pacific pilots this year, although most of the top international travel destinations were outside the region.
“Among the top destinations visited by travelers from Asia-Pacific in the first quarter of 2022, 50% were outside the region based on our data, with the United States being number 1,” said David Mann, chief economist for Asia-Pacific. Middle East and Africa at Mastercard Economics Institute.
“Despite the delayed recovery compared to the West,” Mann said, “travelers to Asia-Pacific have shown a strong desire to return to travel where there have been releases.”
If flight bookings continue at their current rate, it is estimated that 1.5 billion more passengers will fly worldwide this year than in 2021, according to the Mastercard Economics Institute, with more than a third coming from Europe.
Will this continue?
Strong demand for air travel and rising global recruitment trends are just some of the reasons the global travel industry has “more reason to be optimistic than pessimistic,” according to the report.
People have been paying off debt at a “record rate” for the past two years, while wealthier consumers – who are “more likely to travel for leisure” – have benefited from pandemic-related savings and asset price hikes, according to with the report.
However, rising inflation, market volatility, geopolitical problems in Europe and Asia, and rising Covid-19 rates threaten to derail a strong travel recovery in 2022.
Revenues are expected to rise in response to inflation, but this will happen faster in emerging economies, according to the report.
“While we expect revenue growth to outpace consumer price increases in Germany and the United States by mid-2023, this is unlikely to happen until 2024 and 2025 in Mexico and South Africa, respectively,” she said. exhibition.
Among the many dangers that could derail the recovery of the trip … we would put Covid as the biggest swing factor.
Chief Economist, Mastercard Economics Institute
Airline tickets are also on the rise, with average ticket prices rising by about 18% from January to April this year, according to the report.
Air travel cost increases varied by region, with fares rising by 27% in Singapore from April 2019 to April 2022. However, the report said flight prices in the United States remained virtually unchanged at same period of time.
Although many countries have reopened to international travelers, the pandemic is still hovering over the industry.
“Among the many dangers that could derail the travel recovery … we would put Covid as the biggest swing factor,” Mann said.
“While treatments are better and many markets have seen successful vaccines, a severe or contagious variant that requires border closure could lead to a return to the non-linear stop-start recovery patterns of the past two years,” he said.
One last summer queue?
Whether travel demand will remain strong throughout the year – or whether travelers will be in a hurry last summer before tightening their wallets – has not yet been determined.
The report noted that people traditionally spent less on travel after rising energy and food costs.
“However, given the enormous levels of captive demand in a post-pandemic world, this time could be different,” the report said.