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ForwardKeys reveals developing recovery in UK tourism

ForwardKeys reveals developing recovery in UK tourism

New research from ForwardKeys reveals that flight bookings to and from the UK have soared following the announcement that Covid-19 testing would no longer be required for fully vaccinated travellers entering the UK.

The day after the announcement by UK transport secretary, Grant Shapps, which was made on January 24th, combined inbound and outbound flight bookings jumped to 84 per cent of 2019 levels.

This was composed of a 106 per cent increase in outbound bookings, and a 47 per cent boost to inbound trips.

This news followed a series of relaxations in rules affecting travel to the UK, each triggering bookings spikes.

On January 5th, the UK said that from January 9th, fully-vaccinated travellers would be able to take a lateral flow instead of a PCR test on or before day two of their arrival in England.


Benchmarked against pre-pandemic levels, the five destinations for which bookings recovered most strongly in January were Mexico (72 per cent up on 2019), the Maldives (54 per cent), Greece (22 per cent), Cyprus (20 per cent) and Barbados (16 per cent).

The typical seasonality patterns have returned and are evident in the recent recovery, with peaks showing for the forthcoming half-term break in February and the Easter holiday period, when looking at flight tickets confirmed in January.

In relative terms, the demand to travel abroad during the extended holiday weekend to celebrate Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee, in early June, is already 13 per cent ahead of 2019.

The destinations which are doing best for the upcoming half-term break are now all ahead of where they were at the end of January 2019.

In the lead is Mexico, which is followed by Pakistan, the Maldives, Barbados, Qatar, Bangladesh, the UAE and Portugal.

“The list is dominated by long haul destinations, which offer beach holidays or have a relatively strong market for visiting friends and relatives, such as Pakistan,” said Olivier Ponti, vice president of insights at ForwardKeys.

Bookings for Easter and summer holidays are relatively stronger than they are for the upcoming half-term break.

Benchmarked against the end of January 2019, half term bookings are 33 per cent behind, whereas Easter bookings are 29 per cent behind and summer is 16 per cent behind.

Compared to this time last year, when the UK was in a state of limited lockdown, bookings are, unsurprisingly, much healthier, 59 per cent ahead for Easter and 82 per cent ahead for summer.

The recent surge in outbound bookings has been closely followed by a modest revival in inbound demand.

“What I find particularly interesting is the continued dominance of classic sea and sun destinations,” said Ponti.

“A clear sign that the pandemic is still very much with us is the absence of a revival in city tourism or travel to airports strongly associated with skiing.

“However, if we see continental European countries relaxing their travel restrictions in the way the UK has just done, I expect to see a flood of holiday bookings that could exceed pre-pandemic levels, thanks to a release of the huge pent-up demand.”