The World Travel Monitor’s long-awaited survey of international travel in 2021 confirmed the known numbers, and gave some cautious hope.
Tourism was even one of the hardest hit economic sectors in the world, with an average drop in international travel of 70%, with significant differences across continents. The drop was most important in Asia with almost 80%, then in Latin America with 70%, in North America with 69%, Europe having the smallest drop with 66%. Perhaps geography explains these differences, car travel – the most important in international tourism in Europe – falling by only 58%, while air travel suffers much more with a 74% decline.
Leisure travel was the hardest hit, with a drop of 71%, more than business travel, which fell by 67% (but will likely be more penalized in the medium and long term), and more travel by friends and family who retreated of 62%. Within leisure travel, the fall was much smaller for the search for nature (-53%). As was to be expected, air transport suffered the biggest decline in the world – 74% -, while land transport fell by only 58%. The differences were also important in terms of accommodation, with the hotel industry showing a record drop of 73%, much higher than its competitors, whether aparthotels, AirBnb or private individuals. The survey finally showed that the 2021 traveler spent 14% less, but the drop was mainly the consequence of the decline in intercontinental travel.
The results of the IPK survey show a certain optimism towards 2022. The biggest obstacle to the resumption is Covid and not the economic crisis, and with 90% of respondents accepting to be vaccinated, the 62% who are willing to travel this year they now depend only on the availability of the vaccine. Post Covid travel intentions are strongest for visits to relatives and friends, and for beach vacations. In Asia, there is an important trend towards urban tourism. In other markets, in Europe and the Americas, as was found in research in Brazil, there is also an increase in demand for ecotourism and well-being.
In addition to this reasonable optimism, and new demands for sustainability or luxury tourism, the survey highlighted the most sought after destinations for 2022. On the five continents, tourists have a marked preference for nearby countries, but this trend is much stronger in Europe. Europe’s tourism leaders, Spain, Italy, France and Germany should therefore be the first to take advantage of a recovery whose pace will only be defined by the availability of vaccines: starting in 2021, it would be completed in 2023 or at the latest in 2024 A (very) reasonable optimism.