Pent-up demand drives global leisure and business flight bookings past 2019 levels

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After a turbulent two years, new research from the Mastercard Economics Institute reveals that global leisure and business flight bookings1 have surpassed pre-pandemic levels, while spending on cruise lines, buses and trains saw sharp improvements this year.

A new report, Travel 2022: Trends and Transitions, delivers critical insights across 37 markets about the global state of travel in a post-vaccine and less restricted chapter of the pandemic era.

Importantly, if flight booking trends continue at their current pace, an estimated 115 million more passengers in Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa will fly in 2022 compared to last year, according to an analysis by the Mastercard Economics Institute. Key findings through April 2022 include:

Leisure and business flights surpass pre-pandemic levels: Travel recovery has been a largely consumer story for much of the pandemic. By the end of April, global leisure flight bookings surpassed 2019 levels by 25%; short- and medium-haul leisure flight bookings were up 25% and 27%, respectively.

Hard-hit transportation industries see spending rebound: Recent spending levels point to greater comfort with group travel. Global spending on cruises gained 62 percentage points from January to the end of April, though remains below 2019 levels. Buses are back at pre-pandemic levels, while passenger rail spend remains 7% below.

Travel spending shifts back to experiences4 over things: For the better part of a year, international tourists spent more on experiences instead of souvenirs when in destination. Experiential spending is now 34% above 2019 levels; the areas seeing the largest spending increases are F&B outlets (72%) and amusement parks, museums, concerts and other recreational activities (35%). In the U.K., spending growth each month in 2022 more than doubled compared to 2019 levels, currently 140% for April.

 

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