Skift Recovery Index: February 2021 Highlights


This report highlights the latest insights from the Skift Recovery Index. The index covers travel’s performance since January 2020, up to and including February 2021.

The Skift Recovery Index is a real-time measure of where the travel industry at large — and the core verticals within it — stands in recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic. It provides the travel industry with a powerful tool for strategic planning, of utmost importance in this uncertain business climate.

We work with Amadeus, Aviasales, Cendyn, Collinson, Criteo, Duetto, Hotelbeds, Key Data Dashboard, OAG, Onyx CenterSource, RateGain, Shiji Group, SimilarWeb, Skyscanner, Sojern, Transparent, and TrustYou as data partners to provide you with a monthly update of travel performance in 22 countries around the world.

Upward we go

In February, the Skift Recovery Index jumped up by four percentage points, no mean feat compared to the almost complete absence of movement over the past six months. The global average Index score now approaches 50% of pre-pandemic travel levels. The score hasn’t been this high since March 2020 before the full effects of the pandemic started to be felt around the world.

Exhibit 1: Global average score makes considerable jump

Vaccinations and travel performance

From conversations with the industry, it’s clear that there is a real feeling that things are improving. And the improvement comes largely from continued drops of case numbers and increases in mass vaccinations.

Last month we introduced a new dashboard, looking at the relation between vaccinations and travel performance. The correlation coefficient (r) actually decreased slightly from 0.25 in January to 0.20 in February. However, this decline, which indicates a lesser correlation between travel recovery and vaccinations, is largely skewed by the United Arab Emirates. The country is racing ahead with vaccinations compared to the other countries, but its Index score has been declining.

Exhibit 2: Vaccination expansion continues, no significant relation with recovery so far

COVID-19 cases and travel performance

While it is still too early to detect any significant relationship between vaccination rollout and travel recovery, there is continued remarkable correlation between new COVID-19 cases and travel performance.

Take again, the UAE, for example. The country has had low case counts throughout 2020, and seemed to handle the situation well. We highlighted before how especially Dubai became the party city during New Year’s. Around 300,000 people traveled from the United Kingdom to the UAE in November and December alone, numbers that are unheard of in today’s environment.

At an Index score of 60 points, the UAE had the highest score of any country at the end of 2020. Since then, however, performance has dropped while new COVID cases have increased. As our colleague Reem Abdellatif writes: “The city welcomed international visitors too soon … Dubai was accused by the global community of being a ‘super-spreader’ of the virus abroad.” It has fallen back to a score of 51 points.

Exhibit 3: The UAE sees cases increase, Index score decline

The above visual is from our new dashboard, accessible at, which shows the relationship between new COVID-19 cases and the Index scores in the country. It clearly shows the close relationship between case counts and the performance of the travel industry.

Other countries in the spotlight

The continued relationship between case count and Index performance is also the case for the U.S. Cases fell dramatically in February, from an average of around 200,000 new cases per day in December 2020 and January 2021, to 85,000 in February. We see the impact on travel immediately, with the Index score for the U.S. rising from 48 points in December to 62 points in February. The U.S. is also a standout performer in vaccination levels.

The TSA saw volumes of passengers increase in February, mirroring a rise in activity in February after a travel slump in January which we see in ‘normal’ years. The hope is that the increase continues over the coming months with more and more people vaccinated, although the CDC has stopped short of endorsing travel for those who have received their first vaccination.

Exhibit 4: U.S. passenger numbers increase in February

The Index data also shows that hotel and vacation rental bookings have increased strongly. Vacation rentals have been performing well during this pandemic, but we now also see a strong uptick in hotel bookings in February.

Exhibit 5: U.S. hotel bookings back to almost 70% of pre-pandemic levels

We pointed out last month how China’s performance was down considerably in January as lockdowns were reinstated. February sees the downward trend continuing, which is likely due to less travel compared to 2019 for the Chinese New Year. (Feb 5 2019 and Feb 12 2021)

The UK, which has long tracked at the bottom end of the Index, is another strong performer on the vaccination front, which seems to have a positive impact on its Index score. And there is real optimism as vaccinating continued at pace, and the Prime Minister provided an announcement of a pathway out of the lockdown on February 21, resulting in an immediate surge in flight and hotel bookings. Skyscanner data on flight bookings, for example, showed searches for flights booked to popular summer destinations like Portugal, Spain, Italy, and Turkey.

Exhibit 6: Flight bookings from UK shoot up after PM provides clarity on future

That said, some other European countries, which are not seeing the same vaccination success per se, but which are starting to slowly open up after their latest lockdowns, are also showing improving performances.

Spain is not seeing strong improvements yet, but it is expected that its score will also improve over the coming months. The country has recently announced that it might start receiving international visitors with vaccine passports as early as May.

In early March, Germany also started lifting some of its lockdown restrictions, and with one of the strongest traveler bases in the world, it is expected that the country will improve performance in line with other European countries.

Exhibit 7: Prospects for Europe are looking positive

We’re hoping to bring you further positive news next month.

Data Partners

We would like to thank the following partners who are collaborating with Skift Research by providing their data which shapes the Skift Recovery Index.

Amadeus is a global travel technology leader that delivers the most trusted, critical systems across the travel industry to airlines, airports, hotels, travel agents, and car rental and railway providers. Amadeus is providing insight on travel search trends and behavior for the Skift Recovery Index.

Aviasales was launched as a blog on bargain air tickets in 2007 and grew out to become the world’s biggest independent travel search. Aviasales serves 20 million monthly active users from Eastern Europe & Central Asia, and provides flight and hotel booking data for Russian travelers for the index.

Cendyn’s software solutions drive sales, marketing, and revenue performance for tens of thousands of hotels across the globe with a focus on integrated hotel CRM, hotel sales, and revenue strategy technology platforms. The company provides data on hotel email campaigns for the index.

Collinson is a global travel services business, creating traveler experiences, loyalty strategy and programs, travel insurance, and travel and medical assistance. Priority Pass is operated by Collinson and provides frequent travelers access to over 1,300 lounges, with Collinson providing aggregated customer lounge visit data for the index.

Criteo is a global technology company powering the world’s marketers with trusted and impactful advertising. The company provides indexed data from various OTA, airline, and car rental partners. Criteo provides data for airline and car rental web traffic and sales.

Duetto delivers a suite of cloud applications to simplify hospitality revenue decisions and allow hoteliers to work smarter, increasing organizational efficiency, revenue, and profitability. More than 4,000 hotel and casino resort properties in more than 60 countries have partnered to use Duetto’s applications. Duetto provides hotel bookings and cancellations data.

Hotelbeds provides over 180,000 hotels across the globe with access to high-value, complementary distribution channels that do not compete with the hotelier’s direct distribution strategy. The company provides data on hotel bookings and source market performance.

Key Data Dashboard is a provider of real-time, direct-source vacation rental data for the short-term rental sector, aggregating data sourced directly from more than 30+ reservation systems of 700+ professional property managers around the world. Key Data provides bookings, RevPAR and cancellations data for the Skift Recovery Index.

OAG collects and analyzes data about every journey, every booking, every take-off and landing, departure, and delay, totalling over 110,000 flights, 100,000 schedule changes daily and over 4 million flight status updates. OAG provides flight capacity data for the Skift Recovery Index.

Onyx CenterSource is a leading global provider of business-to-business payments and business intelligence solutions to the hospitality industry. With a legacy dating to 1992, the company facilitates in excess of $2.1 billion in payments annually, and partners with more than 150,000 hotel properties. The company provides hotel stay, cancellations, and commission data.

RateGain helps travel and hospitality companies with cognitive revenue management, smart e-distribution, and brand engagement. RateGain supports over 250,000 hotel properties globally by providing 240 billion rate and availability updates, and powering over 30 million bookings. For the Index, RateGain provides hotel bookings and cancellation data.

Shiji Group provides software solutions and services for the hospitality, food service, retail, and entertainment industries, serving over 74,000 hotels, 200,000 restaurants and 600,000 retail outlets across the world. Shiji Group provides China hotel bookings and room night data for the Skift Recovery Index.

SimilarWeb gathers digital data from multiple sources, including first-party direct measurement, public data sources, anonymous behavioral data, and external partners. For the Index, SimilarWeb provides unique visitor data to the top 10 travel websites per country.

Skyscanner has 100 million peak monthly active users, over 100 million app downloads, and more than 1,200 partners across flights, hotels, car rental, and more. Skyscanner’s Travel Insight product helps companies guide their COVID-19 recovery plans, and the company contributes flight search data from Travel Insight for the Skift Recovery Index.

Sojern provides digital marketing solutions for the travel industry, helping to drive direct demand for more than 10,000 hotels, attractions, tourism boards, and travel marketers. Sojern contributes flight and hotel search data for the Skift Recovery Index.

Transparent provides business intelligence serving the vacation rental industry, including insights around supply growth, demand patterns, rate changes, and property manager activities. Transparent contributes occupancy and bookings data for the Skift Recovery Index. The company draws on data from the 34 million vacation rental listings they track worldwide, in every geography.

TrustYou provides a guest feedback platform that makes listening to customers easy, powerful, and actionable. In response to the current crisis, TrustYou has put together a Travel Health Index, using hotel reviews managed through its platform as a proxy for hotel occupancy. TrustYou’s Travel Health Index is integrated in the Skift Recovery Index.

Data Tables