The British PM’s February announcement regarding the return of UK travellers to the skies has created a stir in the travel scene, so the analysts at ForwardKeys rolled up their sleeves to data-mine the freshest facts for you.

Traveller excitement mirrors July 2020 booking spikes

As the team at ForwardKeys has often shared at the various trade events and conferences, travel is not dead. In fact, travel demand is there and pent up, in the shadows waiting simply for the “all clear” to board a plane safely again.

Luis Millan, Market Research Manager at ForwardKeys, sums it up: “The tickets issued in the week of the announcement, February 22, reached almost four times the volume of tickets issued in the week before. It is clear that consumer demand is patiently waiting for governments’ decisions to make key moves.”

This traveller excitement also was the momentum that kept some Southern European countries such as Portugal, Spain, and Greece afloat during the summer season of 2020. ForwardKeys’ data captured similar booking trends the minute governments announced the re-opening of borders and flight corridors.

The importance of the Leisure and VFR market

The travel and tourism sector has been tested during the pandemic in many ways, from actual flights taking off as per schedule, to many industry conferences moving online and your very own job or industry sector being deemed “essential” or “non-essential”.

As such business travel and flying in premium cabin classes has taken a great hit as have destinations that vastly enticed the MICE sector. Looking at the Air Ticketing Data for tickets issued from February 21 – 27 the top 10 destinations reveal the resilience of key leisure destinations such as Spain, Greece and the USA for travellers from the UK.

However, the VFR segment is not an audience businesses should overlook nor underestimate. Particularly if long-haul travel is to be brought back sooner than what industry giants such as IATA are predicting: in 2024.

“The strength and importance of the flight connection between the UK and India and Pakistan for the VFR market is a major step forward in getting the world re-connected again,” adds Millan.

Seasonality no longer applies

Pandemic travel has been thrown upside down and companies who are not agile nor equipped with daily data will struggle to even reach post-Covid recovery in one piece.

Covid-19 has created many “New Norms”, that many of the ForwardKeys analysts believe will stick around for much longer. From booking lead times shrinking to a mere matter of days before jetting off, to airfare prices and peak seasons, you can forget your historical data or past industry experience for comparisons.

Examining the distribution of the international tickets issued from the UK in the week of PM Johnson’s announcement, 18% of the tickets issued have been made as early as May.

“This simply reflects just how keen travellers in the UK are to hop on a plane to a sunny and fun destination such as Spain or Greece,” says Luis Millan.

He also adds: “Maybe once the first wave of travellers go abroad and return home safely, it will re-install faith in international travel again and create even more bookings for the rest of 2021.”

As more destinations open themselves up for international holidaymakers and the vaccine rollout continues as planned, the ForwardKeys team will continue to monitor the new markets ready to return to business.

“ForwardKeys’ data is widely used within VisitBritain. It provides us with a timely and valuable picture of Britain’s inbound tourism performance and prospects, including insights on some of our key markets and regions.”


Richard Nicholls
Head of Research and Forecasting, VisitBritain



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