Stagnation of UK inbound travel a cause for ‘economic concern’, says WTTC

By Charlotte Turner |

Aircraft taking off in front of row of BA aircraft at HeathrowWhile a bounce back in outbound travel from the UK is certainly encouraging, a lack of arrivals the the country continues to cause ‘economic concern’, says the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC).

 

According to research from WTTC and ForwardKeys, bookings for Turkey and Greece continue to climb while inbound bookings to the UK are still 45% below pre-pandemic levels

 

“The pent-up desire to travel shows in forward flight booking data for UK holidaymakers who are flocking to family favourites, such as Turkey (up 53%) and Greece (up 51%) over the busy summer period, compared to pre-pandemic figures,” observes Forwardkeys.

 

Spain is also performing well and ahead of pre-pandemic levels (up 1%).

 

Julia Simpson, WTTC President & CEO (left), said: “The massive imbalance between outbound and inbound UK international flight bookings is a worrying sign for the recovering Travel & Tourism sector and the UK economy."

Julia Simpson, WTTC President & CEO (left), said: “The massive imbalance between outbound and inbound UK international flight bookings is a worrying sign for the recovering Travel & Tourism sector and the UK economy.”

FAMILIES REUNITED

Research also shows that following two years of forced separation, British families are finally jetting off to visit family and friends in destinations such as Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan, with flight booking soaring by 36%, 28% and 26% respectively, compared to 2019 levels.

 

Meanwhile, bookings during the same period to the US, which in 2019 was the fifth most popular destination for jet-setting Brits, remain 10% lower than before the pandemic.

 

The outlook is largely positive for international summer departures from the UK, with forward bookings for the UK’s top 10 most resilient destinations up by a healthy 118% compared to last year and only 10% behind pre-pandemic levels.

 

“However, the picture is negative when it comes to inbound travel to the UK, raising serious concerns about the UK’s economic recovery,” insisted WTTC and Forwardkeys.

 

‘WELL BELOW PRE-PANDEMIC LEVELS’

The data shows while inbound bookings for international arrivals are up by an impressive 1,453% compared to 2021, when severe restrictions to travel were in place, bookings to date are still well below pre-pandemic levels – down 45% versus 2019.

 

Julia Simpson, WTTC President & CEO (left), said: “The massive imbalance between outbound and inbound UK international flight bookings is a worrying sign for the recovering Travel & Tourism sector and the UK economy.

 

“As the pandemic recedes and international travel returns, it’s encouraging to see holidaymakers making the most of their new found freedom to travel safely.

 

“But it’s not a good sign for UK Plc if we can’t convince international travellers that the UK is open for business to travellers and tourists. The UK is losing crucial market share to other destinations.”

 

A LONG WAY TO GO…

In terms of inbound travellers to the UK, only Sweden has risen above pre-pandemic levels (up 15%) while other key source markets have not recovered, indicating the UK still has a long way to go to encourage international travellers back to its shores.

 

While WTTC’s 2021 Economic Import Report shows the US was the number one source market for UK inbound international travellers, the latest data reveals flight bookings this year are still nearly a quarter (24%) below 2019 levels.

 

Other key source markets for the UK such as Ireland, Germany and Spain are also performing poorly in terms of inbound travel, down 19%, 37% and 38% respectively.

 

“Tens of thousands of businesses, large and small, up and down the country which rely on international visitor spend continue to face an uncertain future if inbound travel remains stagnant,” added the WTTC.

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