4 APRIL 2022
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British outbound travel has taken off but lack of inbound continues to cause economic concern.
New research from the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) and its knowledge partner ForwardKeys, shows forward flight bookings for UK outbound travel to some of the most popular summer sun destinations has bounced back while inbound has largely failed to take off.
Data which revealed the huge disparity between forward flight bookings for outbound and inbound UK travel was collated for the global tourism body by the travel data and analytics company.
The pent-up desire to travel shows in forward flight booking data for UK holidaymakers who are flocking to family favourites, such as Turkey (up 53%) and Greece (up 51%) over the busy summer period, compared to pre-pandemic figures. Inbound bookings to the UK are still 45% below pre-pandemic levels
Spain, a long-time summer favourite and the most popular destination overall for sun-seeking British travellers, is also performing well and ahead of pre-pandemic levels (up 1%).
Research also shows that following two years of forced separation, British families are finally jetting off to visit family and friends in destinations such as Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan, with flight booking soaring by 36%, 28% and 26% respectively, compared to 2019 levels. Bookings during the same period to the US, which in 2019 was the fifth most popular destination for jet-setting Brits, remain 10% lower than before the pandemic.
Julia Simpson, WTTC President & CEO, 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”.
In terms of inbound travellers to the UK, only Sweden has risen above pre-pandemic levels (up 15%) 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.
While WTTC’s 2021 Economic Import Report shows the US was the number one source market for UK inbound international travellers, the latest data reveals flight bookings 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 in terms of inbound travel, down 19%, 37% and 38% respectively.
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David Nicholas Starkie, United Kingdom
Fall in inbound tourism: stronger GBP Xchange rate? much higher (real term) prices for accommodation ? Fuel surcharges on flight costs?