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Stats Round-Up: Experiential Travel and European Destinations in the Lead

Dear readers, behold! At long last, here comes some good news! According to the recent Mastercard Economics Institute research, after a majorly dismal two years, global leisure and business flight bookings have outperformed the pre-pandemic metrics, while spending on cruise lines, trains, and rental cars has increased significantly in 2022. Released earlier this month, “Travel 2022: Trends and Transitions” offers insights across 37 markets about the current state of travel in a post-vaccine chapter of the pandemic era. In a word, we seem to be on a good track. Should the flight booking trends keep developing at the present pace, this year will see about 1.5 billion more passengers globally compared to 2021.

One of the most apparent findings is that travel spending is shifting back to experiences over things. For most of the year, international tourists are eagerly choosing experiences in place of souvenirs when in the destination. The related spending is now 34 percent above 2019 levels with bars and nightclubs (72 percent) and amusement parks, museums, concerts, and other recreational activities (35 percent) seeing the highest influx of money.

Another important and perhaps less obvious fact is that leisure and business flights surpass pre-pandemic levels. By the end of April, global leisure flight bookings increased by 25 percent over the 2019 levels, with short- and medium-haul leisure flight bookings up 25 percent and 27 percent, respectively. Moreover, global business flight bookings also managed to surpass pre-pandemic levels for the first time in March, with long-haul specifically growing double-digits in April. Evidently, the return to the office was an important driver.

Somewhat consequentially, hard-hit transportation industries are seeing spending rebound. Recent spending levels point to warmer sentiment toward group travel. Global spending on cruises gained 62 percentage points from January, although it still remains below 2019 levels. Passengers are not rushing to buy train tickets either: rail spending remains 7 percent below. Meanwhile, road trips are hugely attractive, with spending on tolls and auto rentals up nearly 19 percent and 12 percent, respectively.

Finally, the restriction meltdown is likely to recalibrate the tourism map for 2022. Not surprisingly, the destinations’ appeal was majorly founded on the consumers’ ability to book trips conveniently, though 2022 has played the leveling card with restrictions loosened in much of the world, aside from parts of Asia Pacific. As a result, the U.S., U.K., Switzerland, Spain, and the Netherlands are now the top destinations for travelers globally.

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