Last-minute uplift in Christmas travel

LONDON, 21 December 2020: Despite the collapse of airline travel due to the Covid-19 pandemic research shows there has been a last-minute surge in flight bookings for the Christmas period according to ForwardKeys a travel analytics firm.

In a typical year, tickets issued for travel in the week before Christmas tend to grow progressively throughout the year. However, in 2020, the pattern has been different, with a late rush taking place during November.

Signs of an uplift in bookings will be welcomed by the aviation industry. However, international air travel over the Christmas will, in reality, be no more than a small oasis in the desert says ForwardKeys. Air tickets issued for arrivals between 19 and 25 December peaked at just 20.2% of the volume registered in 2019, but bookings from 1 to 31 January 2021 are currently lower still, at just 11.6% of where they were at the equivalent point in 2019.

The last-minute rush for international flights is a direct consequence of travel restrictions frequently changing throughout the pandemic and uncertainty about official advice concerning travel over the Christmas.

In a ranking of the destinations which are proving to be the most resilient in the week before Christmas, four of the top five are resort-oriented locations found in the warm seas to the south of the USA.

Up until 8 December, air tickets issued for travel to Santo Domingo, capital of the single biggest destination in the Caribbean for US visitors, the Dominican Republic, were just 21.2% behind 2019 levels. San Juan, capital of Puerto Rico, occupies the second spot, with bookings 39.6% behind. It is followed by Brazil’s largest city, Sao Paulo, the Mexican resort, Cancun and another holiday hot spot in the Dominican Republic, Punta Cana, behind 40.3%, 45.5% and 47.3% respectively.

This top five list reveals a further trend, which is that many people are desperate to take a holiday. The strong showing of Sao Paulo is down to its importance as a regional travel hub and people flying to visit friends and relatives.

ForwardKeys VP Insights, Olivier Ponti said: “In normal years, we see people taking international flights during the Christmas holiday period to gather with family members they have not seen for a while. But this year, such behaviour is being dampened as it poses a risk of spreading the Covid-19 virus; and it is being made more difficult by various travel restrictions.

Ponti concluded: “While an uplift in late bookings will be welcomed by anybody working in the travel industry, they will need to be very nimble to capitalise on it, as the window of opportunity is small.”