2021 set for boom in travel

It is difficult to sugar-coat the problems currently facing the travel industry. Across the world flights have been grounded, hotels have emptied and cruise ships stand idle, as more than a quarter of the world’s population enters varying degrees of lockdown.

As the coronavirus pandemic worsens in Australia, all international travel has now been banned indefinitely under unprecedented level 4 travel restrictions.

Virgin Australia has suspended all international flights from April and will cut back its domestic flights by half, and other airlines could soon follow suit.

All travellers entering Australia from 16 March were required to self-isolate at home, this measure has now been ramped up with only Australian citizens, residents and immediate family members being permitted to travel to Australia. And when they arrive, they must go into a mandatory 14-day quarantine at a designated facility (for example, a hotel) in their port of arrival.

Unfortunately, with few repatriation flights scheduled, some Australians don’t know when they will be able to return home. 

All of this, coupled with the fear of the virus spreading, has had a profound but unsurprising effect on the travel industry. 

Flight bookings to Europe have predictably fallen off a cliff – last week Italy recorded a 94 per cent year-on-year decline, while the UK clocked a decline of 63 per cent – and as regulations tighten, these figures will likely keep rising.

However, researchers say consumer confidence may already be returning.

Australians love to travel, so it’s predicted that the Australian tourism industry will bounce back, according to a Finder.com.au survey:

  • almost two in three Australian workers (64 per cent) browse and book holidays on the boss’s time
  • we spend an average of 57 minutes a week planning holidays at work
  • as a nation, that’s 7.6 million hours spent every week hunting for cheap flights and hotels.

So, it looks like people will be itching to get back to their travels when this is all over.

In fact, some new number-crunching by travel digital marketing firm Sojern reveals that flights to some European countries are already beginning to rebound at the start of next year, suggesting many tourists-to-be think there’s light at the end of the tunnel.

Data from the last 14 days reveals a 229 per cent spike in year-on-year flight bookings into the UK for January 2021, alongside a 171 per cent spike in bookings to Spain. Even Italy, Europe’s worst affected country, shows an upward trend.

Flight search data shows most demand coming from Europe, North America and the Middle East, where tourists seem keen to reinstate their travel plans as quickly as possible. Asian nations appear to be a little more cautious.

There are several possible reasons for the upturn. In a blog post explaining the data, Sojern noted that some airlines have announced their winter timetables earlier than usual and introduced more flexible cancellation policies that may leave consumers more comfortable booking holidays mid-pandemic.

Whatever the reasons, it seems people aren’t totally turning their backs on tourism, they’re simply taking a sensible break. The travel industry is steering through choppy and uncharted waters. Companies and consumers will hope it’s the storm before the calm.

Are you already thinking about your next trip? Or are you going to hold off booking anything for a little while longer?

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Written by Ellie Baxter

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