ITB Berlin and IPK International: After dramatic slump, high chances for a fast recovery of tourism industry

Published on : Friday, March 12, 2021

Following strong growth rates over the last 10 years the tourism industry, a flagship of the economy, has experienced a dramatic slump and is one of the worst-hit sectors in the year of the pandemic. Globally, outbound travel in 2020 declined by 70 percent. The losses varied depending on continent and travel segment. Thus, nature-oriented holiday types and trips by car performed significantly better during the pandemic than air travel or city breaks and round trips. Despite the drastic global decline in 2020, the latest survey results give hope for the upcoming year: two-thirds of outbound travelers worldwide intend to travel abroad again in 2021.

Trends vary on individual continents in 2020

For the travel year 2020, IPK’s World Travel Monitor® identified a global decline of 70 percent in international travel. The trends on individual continents vary: In Asia, where the pandemic hit first, outbound travel has fallen most, by nearly 80 percent, while outbound travel by Europeans showed the lowest losses at minus 66 percent. Outbound travel of Latin Americans decreased by 70 percent as the global average, similar to the North Americans outbound trips with minus 69 percent.

Coronavirus led to changes in travel behavior

The segments worst-hit by the global decline in outbound travel are holiday trips (minus 71 percent). By comparison, business travel (minus 67 percent) and other private trips (minus 62 percent) have not been impacted as badly. In the holiday travel market, round trips and city breaks have suffered above average losses (minus 75 percent), while beach holidays and nature oriented holidays (minus 53 percent) have weathered the crisis much better.

As expected, air travel has been particularly hard-hit by the pandemic, where in outbound travel the decline is minus 74 percent worldwide. By comparison, international travel by car (minus 58 percent) has fared much better. In accommodation, declines are above average in the hotel industry (minus 73 percent), while other accommodation types – including private lodgings – have suffered less badly.

However, what the Corona pandemic has not led to, is travel more cheaply. Although the average amount spent per trip has indeed fallen worldwide by 14 percent, this is due mainly to the decline in air travel and long-haul trips.

High interest in outbound travel in 2021

The results of IPK’s global survey from January of this year give reason for hope, indeed starting with travel in 2021: 62 percent of international travelers worldwide intend to travel abroad this year. Those not aiming to travel abroad do not indicate financial reasons for this, but with a large majority the infection risk. A combination of vaccines now being available and a high willingness among outbound travelers (90 percent) to be vaccinated has nullified the main reason for not traveling, meaning that nothing stands in the way of a rapid and widespread recovery of the tourism industry.

Travel and holiday plans for 2021

When asked about outbound travel plans this year, respondents focus on holiday travel. Compared with pre-pandemic travel, there is above-average interest in visiting friends and family. Interest in business travel is higher among Americans and Asians than among Europeans. In terms of holiday trips abroad in 2021, there is a high level of interest in sun & beach holidays. City breaks rank second among holiday types (first among Asians) and nature-oriented holidays comes third, a considerable rise in popularity compared to before the pandemic. The latest surveys also reflect continuing high interest in air travel abroad and a recovery of the hotel industry appears likely.

Trend toward destinations within the own continent

Asked about preferred outbound travel destinations for 2021, Europeans clearly favor destinations in Europe. Spain ranks first, followed by Italy, Germany and France. Among Americans and Asians, trips on their own continent are also the main choice. Nevertheless, destinations in Europe, in particular Germany, are already playing a role in 2021.

Great opportunities for a rapid recovery

The chances for a rapid global recovery of the international tourism industry are very good. Worldwide, there is a strong desire to travel, as evidenced by the travel intentions for 2021. With vaccines now increasingly available, the main reason for not wanting to travel is being nullified. Assuming high percentages of the population are vaccinated quickly around the world, this will contribute to a rapid and comprehensive recovery of global demand for outbound travel. This goal could be reached in 2022, at latest 2023.


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