Is there hope for Latin America to recover soon and emerge from the Covid19 pandemic that has closed borders from Argentina in the south to Mexico in the north? This week the ForwardKeys analysts examined the latest travel statistics, looking for signs of recovery. The timing is pivotal with Mexico, Cuba and a few Caribbean islands re-opening their borders for business from early June and July 1.

Booking Trends

Future travel bookings to Latin America have plummeted by -82.7% since the beginning of the year. However, it wasn’t just Latin America suffering in deep booking declines – it was a global phenomenon bringing the world to a standstill.

In fact, at its peak, when the Covid19 outbreak in Italy was announced in mid-March, the level of cancellations versus bookings dipped to below 200%.Bookings made for International travel to LATAM by departure region

However, upon examining recent bookings from the UK, one of the key source markets for Latin America and the Caribbean, there are signs of rebound blossoming. Cancellations are easing up and as of May 25, new weekly bookings outpace cancellations for the first time since March.

UK travellers are searching now and booking for early 2021 and around key holiday periods such as Christmas, Spring Half term and Easter.

“In the past few days we have identified a change in trend: there is a renewed interest in travel, and despite new bookings being mainly for travel in 2021, the number of new bookings for travel to Latin America destinations from the UK has outpaced cancellations for the first time since early March,” says Juan Gomez, Insights Expert at ForwardKeys.

“We expect several key European source countries to reflect a similar trend as restrictions continue easing. However, the evolution of the pandemic in the region will be key,” Gomez added.

Travel distribution for bookings made during w/c 25th May 2020

Hot Destinations

According to the latest Flight Search data, Mexico, Brazil and Colombia are receiving the most attention from travellers in the UK, US and Spain. It’s no real surprise because according to our Total Air Market data, a high volume of leisure travellers in 2019 sought the magic of Mexico’s Riviera Maya and Cancun.

Top Searched Destinations in Latin America per Source Market

With travel restrictions gradually easing and air capacity on the rise out of Europe, travel operators, tourism boards and hoteliers should factor in the lead booking times per country to zero down on their marketing and sales strategies. Which countries could be interested in a last-minute offer? Or maybe a particular source market requires more of an early bird discount as they book further in advance?

Looking back at 2019 lead booking times provides a much clearer image on booking tendencies as we are currently seeing more haste last-minute decisions being made while flight schedules and government travel rules are being fine-tuned. As you can see historically, North American travellers required less advance notice when planning a trip to Latin America and the Caribbean, booking a trip in under three months ahead of their flights. However, the Swiss and Spaniards were not too far behind, something to consider if the US travel bans continue.

Average Lead times for Long Haul travel to LATAM

As many of the nations in Latin America look to re-open their borders and welcome guests back, one thing remains, what will be different post Coronavirus? Carol Hay, CEO McKenzie Gayle Limited, representatives of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (UK & Europe), thinks that “in terms of the ‘experience’ visitors will be more environmentally aware, they will demand ‘space’ so there will be a greater focus on outdoor activities, walking, hiking, slow travel –  and also the opportunity to dine in alternative settings rather than in a crowded restaurant or a buffet where everyone uses the same serving utensils.”

Meanwhile, Leonardo Seabra, Head of Intelligence at Emprotur SA (Brazil) has witnessed greater collaboration between the many tourism players in Brazil and sees “an emerging new tourism model based on a coalition where stakeholders share data to develop new products and services with hygiene protocols to assure a speedy and safe re-opening.”

“The way to reduce uncertainty is by sharing knowledge and data, so we can keep tracking the risks and opportunities,” Seabra concludes.