ForwardKeys: Top 20 arrivals destinations unveiled

By Luke Barras-hill |

Travel analytics company ForwardKeys has unveiled a list of the top global destinations for international tourist arrivals this year.

The Dominican Republic leads the ‘Most Visited Destinations’ report that has been published to align with World Travel Market in London this week (7-9 November).

Based on the latest available air ticketing data (combining arrivals up to 18 October with bookings to year-end), the Dominican Republic is set to welcome 5% more visitors than it did in 2019.

Following in descending order are Turkey, Costa Rica and Mexico, all of which have restored their 2019 tourist arrival levels (0%).

Jamaica and Pakistan were both 5% down on bookings, in fifth and sixth place, respectively, with Greece at -12%, Egypt -15%, Portugal -16%, and UAE -17%.

Strong representation from Central American and Caribbean destinations echoes the robustness of the US outbound market together with the positive impetus taken by a number of tourism-dependent countries that have imposed less severe Covid-19 travel restrictions than others, indicates the research.

Antalya is top destination city

Antalya in Turkey emerged as the top destination city as it prepares to welcome 66% more visitors than it did in the equivalent period in 2019.

The weakness of the Turkish lira combined with the government’s policy to remain relatively open to tourism during the pandemic and welcoming Russian visitors has helped the performance.

It is followed by Mexico’s resort cities of San José del Cabo, up 21%, and Puerto Vallarta, up 13%; then the Dominican Republic’s Punta Cana, up 12%; El Salvador’s capital San Salvador, up 10%; and the popular Mexico destination of Cancún, up 9%.

Click to enlarge. Source: ForwardKeys.

Several prominent trends have characterised the air travel recovery in 2022, according to ForwardKeys, including a relaxation of pandemic-related travel restrictions coupled with pent-up travel demand.

Major global events such as the World Expo in Dubai and FIFA World Cup in Qatar have offered impetus, together with the revival in business travel.

However, the infectious Omicron variant of Covid-19 stalled travel at the start of the year.

Staff shortages at airports have also hampered operations over the summer, continues ForwardKeys.

Despite the substantial hit to travel to and from Russia followings its invasion of Ukraine in February and bans on direct flights, it did not cause the expected precipitous decline in long-haul travel to Europe.

Olivier Ponti, VP Insights, ForwardKeys.

Europe: ‘Delaying effect’ on travel recovery

While tipped to maintain resilience, travel to Southern Europe has been knocked, particularly to Greece, down 12%; with Portugal suffering a 16% decline; and Turkey, flat (0%).

Meanwhile, trips to Iceland declined 14% for the period in question.

ForwardKeys expects that second-order consequences of the war, such as rising fuel prices and inflation, will have a ‘delaying effect’ on the travel recovery.

Asia Pacific, which has been characterised by stiffer travel restrictions most notably in China due to its Zero Covid policy, has begun to recover, outlines the report.

Leisure travel has been the driver of traffic, with Pakistan and Bangladesh 5% and 8% down, respectively, on 2019 levels.

Travel to the Maldives, down 7%; and Fiji, down 22%, are expected to hold up well.

Consumers’ appetites for beach holidays have spurred the travel revival, continues ForwardKeys, but business travel and city tourism lagged until the beginning of autumn.

The so-called ‘revenge spending’ phenomenon – has fuelled – in part the trend towards premium-class travel as consumers seek out value-added services.

This, together with rising costs of fuel, has driven a strong uptick in air fares.

Olivier Ponti, VP Insights, ForwardKeys, said: “Looking at the world on a regional basis, one must admire Caribbean countries for their early efforts to sustain visitor arrivals in the face of the pandemic and their continued growth in an increasingly competitive travel landscape.

“The Middle East also stands out, as it has helped to accelerate its recovery by hosting major global events such as the Dubai World Expo, the Formula One grand prix in various Gulf locations and, above all, the FIFA World Cup in Qatar. The Gulf has also seen a relatively robust comeback in business travel, a segment whose recent revival has come as a surprise to many.”

For a link to the full report, click here.

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