This report highlights the latest insights from the Skift Recovery Index. The index covers travel’s performance since January 2020, up to and including November 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, Beyond, Cendyn, Collinson, Criteo, Duetto, ForwardKeys, 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.
Omicron Rekindles Delta Nightmares
We don’t want to overstate the impact Omicron will have on the travel industry, since much uncertainty remains, but there is no doubt that the swift action that governments around the world took reimposing travel restrictions will harm travel’s recovery.
The new variant was first discovered by South African medical researchers on November 9, and subsequently designated as a variant of concern by the World Health Organization on November 26. As many countries cancelled flights from Southern Africa, it became clear pretty quickly that the virus had already spread to many countries, and it is already clear now that this approach is likely too little too late.
While we are not seeing a strong impact of the Omicron variant on the global score for November, South Africa did already register a decline as its travel industry came to an almost complete halt in the final days of November. All indicators at time of writing suggest that December will see a significant decline in performance for South Africa, and potentially international arrival numbers in other countries too.
Up to now, Delta has been the only variant that we can argue as having had a visible impact on the global recovery of the travel industry, hitting almost every country’s performance. While designated as a variant of concern in May 2021 after discovery in India, the impact became widespread in August 2021. We have to wait and see if Omicron will have a similar impact over the coming months.
APAC Optimism Turns Sour
Countries in Asia Pacific saw a lot of optimism at the beginning of November. Borders were being reopened, travel lanes installed, and testing requirements relaxed.
Australia, which registered a major dip in performance over the past months amid rising cases, saw strong growth in November as the country started its phased reopening. The country’s flag carrier Qantas Airways noted a considerable increase in demand since the reopening was announced. In these uncertain times, however, any boost in performance seems to be followed by a setback, and in the case of Australia this was the announcement by the New Zealand government that the country will not reopen until at least April 2022 for foreign travelers, with Air New Zealand cancelling more than 1,000 flights after the announcement.
At the beginning of the month, Japan announced it would start to allow fully vaccinated short-term travelers and foreign laborers into the country, but at the end of the month the government closed its borders to all foreigners again, citing Omicron. Singapore, which had seen a push to open up since October, and made announcements of a land and air border reopening with neighboring Malaysia, rolled back plans for a Vaccinated Travel Lane with Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.
China saw a number of new cases, including its first Omicron cases, and with the government still holding on to its Zero-Covid strategy, and its Index performance decline in November. Nevertheless, reports indicate that before the end of the year the land border between China and Hong Kong will be reopened for vaccinated travelers, with no need for quarantine, although the impact of Omicron on this decision is unclear as yet. It is understood that China is working towards a full reopening by the middle of 2022. The country and region will need this to see any form of tourism recovery, with Chinese travelers an important source market for many destinations.
According to Skift Research analysis, as published in our Global Travel Outlook 2022 report, Asia Pacific was the hardest hit region in terms of international travel movement, with outbound departures declining from 372 million in 2019, to 52 million in 2020, and expected to remain almost stable at 51 million in 2021. If border reopenings come back on the agenda (with the impact of Omicron hopefully subdued), it is likely that Asia Pacific will see strong growth in outbound departures in 2022 and beyond.
Mixed Bag for Other Regions
Other regions in the world are also seeing mixed performances. Europe was dealing with a strong rise in cases in many countries even before the Omicron news resulted in flight cancellations and stricter testing requirements, with especially Germany seeing an impact on its travel performance as case counts shot up throughout November.
Latin American countries registered a strong November, as intra-regional and U.S. travel remained strong. Argentina reopened its borders to fully vaccinated travelers on November 1, resulting in a boost in its travel score.
In the Middle East and Africa, the United Arab Emirates has one of the highest vaccination rates worldwide and new cases remaining low, and the country continues to be a high performer. As already mentioned, South Africa is likely starting to feel the pain of Omicron, whether justified or not.
U.S. Travel Demand Remains Strong
Despite cases starting to rise again in the U.S., the country’s travel performance remains strong. Especially its accommodations sector is performing well, with STR and Tourism Economics upgrading their forecast for the U.S. hotel industry amidst stronger recoveries of average daily room rates (ADR) than expected.
Revenues per available room (RevPAR) for U.S. hotels are forecasted to return to $76 in 2022, an increase of 20% compared to 2021 values, although still lower than 2019 values. According to STR and Tourism Economics, RevPAR is likely to be fully recovered to pre-pandemic levels by 2025.
Data from Transparent and STR shows that vacation rentals still outperform hotels. Vacation rental occupancy has been above 2019 levels for much of the year, but hotels are now also close to full recovery in the U.S.
There are, however, more and more indicators that vacation rentals will be a stronger competitor for hotels moving forward. Data from AirDNA shows that it is not just rentals in non-urban destinations that have benefited from the pandemic, but that urban rentals are now also starting to see an uptick in demand. Bookings for rentals in mid-sized cities are already above pre-pandemic levels, and large city rentals are also nearing 2019 levels.
In our final 2021 report next month we will hopefully have more insight into the impact of the Omicron variant, and we will look back at a turbulent 2021 as we take stock of the past 12 months.
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.
Beyond is a leading revenue management platform for short-term rental owners and managers to get, grow, and keep revenue. The easy-to-use platform includes a dynamic, demand-driven pricing tool with extensive market data that pairs with OTA distribution and a best-in-class booking engine. Beyond has supported over 340,000 properties in more than 7,500 cities worldwide and have enabled billions of dollars in booking revenue. The company provides data on Revenue per Available Night (RevPAN) 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.
ForwardKeys analyzes more than 17 million flight booking transactions each day, drawing data from all the major global air reservation systems, and selected airlines and tour operators. ForwardKeys is providing flight booking and passenger volumes 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.