Covid-19 outbreak causes 19% slump in outbound flight bookings from the US

By Andrew Pentol |

ForwardKeys Covid-19 US travel impact

In the five weeks following the imposition of travel restrictions on outbound travel from China there was a 19.3% decline in the number of bookings made for travel from the USA.

The impact on outbound travel caused by the coronavirus has hit the USA, according to travel analytics company ForwardKeys.

In the five weeks following the imposition of travel restrictions on outbound travel from China (week commencing 20 January to the week commencing 17 February), there was a 19.3% decline in the number of bookings made for travel from the USA.

The majority of the decline was caused by a collapse in bookings for travel to Asia Pacific, which were down by 87.7%. In short, fewer people have booked flights from the USA to Asia Pacific in the past five weeks.

According to ForwardKeys, the setback in outbound bookings from the USA during that time has not just affected the Asia Pacific region. A similar but milder trend has affected other parts of the world too.

Bookings to Europe, for example, have fallen by 3.6% along with the Americas (6.1%). However, bookings to Africa & the Middle East, which has only a small (6%) share of outbound US travel, increased by 1.3%.

DECREASED TRAVEL BOOKINGS

Breaking the world down into 15 different regional destinations, all have experienced decreased bookings from the USA in the past five weeks. The exceptions are North Africa, Sub Saharan Africa and Central America. In these areas, bookings have risen by 17.9%, 4.4% and 2.1% respectively.

ForwardKeys chart Covid-2019

The majority of the 19.3% decline in travel bookings from the US was caused by a collapse in bookings for travel to Asia Pacific, which were down by 87.7%.

In the order of least to worst affected, bookings were down 1.7% to Western Europe, 2.8% to Southern Europe, 3.3% to North America, 3.4% to South America, 4.2% to the Middle East, 5.5% to Northern Europe, 7.7% to Central/Eastern Europe, 12.5% to the Caribbean, 21.3% to Oceania, 23.7% to South Asia and 94.1% to South East Asia. In North East Asia, there were more cancellations than new bookings.

While the trend of the past five weeks may not be encouraging, ForwardKeys says the outlook for the coming months, taking into account the current state of bookings for March, April and May, may not be as bad as first feared. This is because a large proportion of long-haul bookings are made several months in advance.

As of 25 February, total outbound bookings from the USA are 8% behind where they were at the equivalent date last year. The majority of the lag is caused by a 37.0% slowdown in bookings to the Asia Pacific region. Forward bookings to Africa & Middle East are 3.9% ahead, flat to Europe (0.1% ahead) and 4.1% behind to the Americas.

Olivier Ponti, Vice President Insights, ForwardKeys said: “Now it’s not just China, but the world’s second largest and second-highest spending outbound travel market, the USA, which is stalling. For destinations, and businesses in the travel industry and luxury goods retail, which rely heavily on American and Chinese tourists, it is crucial to look carefully at travel data on an almost daily basis. With the high volatility of the market, the success of these businesses will depend on their ability to take action the moment things start to recover.”

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