Working with travel data, the team members at ForwardKeys are well acquainted with the speed of change and immediate shifts in flight bookings based on sudden government announcements or unexpected spikes in Covid19 cases or strains. We understand that it can be incredibly frustrating and maddening when you are a tourism board trying to entice travellers, a hotel that has struggled with its occupancy rate for over a year, an airline trying to plan its next round of routes or even a desperate traveller in need of a holiday.

As such, rather than focus on the negatives and read another gloomy piece of information, we thought to shine the light on the rather unexpected realities brought on by the pandemic that can be turned by smart destinations and organisations into a positive. So far, we have seen five consistent trends that have stayed around since the onset of the global health crisis.

1. People still wish to fly whether it is to be vaccinated, see family, or explore locally.

Despite the challenges present from limited flights to border closures and strict health protocols, the desire to fly is still high…and it is converting to bookings.

The latest air ticketing data is showing the reactivation of flight travel between the US with Mexico, the Caribbean, Africa, and the Middle East. “This trend is a mixture of leisure travel and in the case of Africa, VFR,” says Juan Gomez, Insight Expert at ForwardKeys.

On the flipside the data has revealed another interesting trend in the USA – people travelling to get vaccinated, especially from Taiwan and Peru.

The most eye-opening increases in flight bookings have been to Texas – from Peru, 684% ahead of 2019 levels, followed by Costa Rica, 338% ahead, and from Mexico, 317% ahead.

Arizona has also seen similar strong increases in flight bookings – from Peru 166% ahead of 2019 levels, from Ecuador 135% ahead and from Mexico 129% ahead. See the full story in the previous blog.

As Asia is mainly in lockdown, domestic tourism has witnessed a surge in demand. Vietnam, China, and Korea all are showing stable signs of recovery.

People are still on the move, despite the pandemic. Perhaps Paulo Coelho was correct – “If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine, it’s lethal.”

2. Old Norms and Luxury Travel have shifted

Old norms need to be thrown out of the window. Destinations once promoted as glamourous honeymoon destinations are now attracting altogether different types of travellers. For instance, during the pandemic, the Dominican Republic has seen a growth in solo travellers versus couples, while over in the Maldives its affluent families travelling in three or more in first-class from destinations such as Russia, Ukraine, and the UAE.

Even the choice of cabin class has shifted, with a percentage growth in premium class travel out of the US to destinations such as Mexico and Greece. Is this a side effect of revenge travel?

3. Last-Minute booking is the Norm

“It appears last minute is here to stay,” says China Market Expert, Nan Dai. “As airlines make tickets more flexible and price-sensitive around national holidays, we have consistently seen tickets for domestic China travel be booked under four days before departure.”

And this habit is now a widespread global trend as the ever-changing travel restrictions are switched on and off. That is why examining seat capacity data is a way to know where the airlines think are sure-fire flight paths for the incoming months.

4. Length of stay is increasing

The length of stay is increasing around the world and the VFR & Expats has proven to be the most resilient passenger segment – this is exciting news for travel operators and hoteliers because travellers are staying abroad longer and looking at fun activities to experience.

The share of travellers intending to take long stays of 22 nights or more in Africa has increased by 26% when compared to the same period in 2019.

In 2021 in Europe, the average length of stay at a Southern European destination such as Spain from a North or West European traveller has jumped from 8 days to 12 days. Read the previous blog.

What are tourism boards, hotels and travel companies doing to encourage more happy, long-term bookings?

5. This is why ForwardKeys has been kept busy!

A question we have frequently been asked is how ForwardKeys have managed to stay busy and grow our client database when we sell flight data in an age when most planes have been grounded.

The key to our success has been continual innovation, moving agilely in volatility and showing the relevancy of the travel data and insights of competitor destinations, new business opportunities and what the future promises to deliver via future issued tickets, forecasts and more. Going “dark” and sitting on our hands is not an option. As they say, when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade.


At ForwardKeys, we are obsessed with the quality of our data. Sometimes we process information for a month before we can provide just a simple number. I believe that is what makes us unique. We are not a ‘distributor of data.’ We source raw data, and then we master a complex series of data transformations and enrichment under the guidance of our product manager, to deliver that piece of crucial information our customers are looking for.

Olivier Jager

With many industry heavyweights such as the UNWTO and WTTC predicting travel recovery at 2019 levels to take place in 2024, equip yourself with the right resources to ensure you seize the pockets of opportunities as they arise. As you can see, there are still opportunities to home in on.


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