ForwardKeys has come out with its global long-haul travel report and forecast for 2018, which can be summed up as: a very bright outlook generally, with the exception of the USA, where the climate is expected to be somewhat cooler than the rest of the world.
Looking back on 2017, the world has just experienced an outstanding year for long-haul travel. Globally, mercury in the intercontinental flight arrival barometer touched the +7.0% growth mark. Inbound air travel to the Asia Pacific region was sunny, up 4.4%. To Africa and the Middle East, intercontinental flight arrivals were decidedly humid, up 11.5% and to Europe, they were stifling, up 13.3%. The only negative was the Americas, where growth was virtually frozen – it was just 0.1% up on 2016.
Looking at the travel forecast for the first Quarter of 2018, long-haul flight bookings are generally exceptionally bright everywhere, 10.4% ahead of the equivalent moment last year. The notable exception is the USA, where bookings for international arrivals are just 2.6% ahead.
Current long-haul bookings for the Asia Pacific region are exceptionally warm, running 12% ahead of where they were last December. The outbound picture is sunny too; the major bright spots include Australia, New Zealand, India and China, where economic growth is stimulating demand for travel, coupled with capacity increases.
Travel to South Korea is still suffering from the wintery conditions of the THAAD missile crisis and the deep setback is unlikely to be reversed by a recent thaw in diplomatic relations or the simultaneous occurrence of the winter Olympics in PyeongChang with Chinese New Year (conditions which in other years would probably precipitate a perfect storm in demand).
Long-haul bookings for Africa and the Middle East are similarly affected by the general trend of global warming; they are 11.9% ahead. The temperature of Africa’s outbound travel will rise too, buoyed up by general economic recovery in Nigeria and South Africa. Additionally, a long period of bad travel weather over Egypt looks set to clear when the country welcomes back Russian tourists in February, when flights are predicted to resume.
A wave of high pressure created by the EU-China Tourism Year looks likely to cause another sweaty season in Continental Europe, where first-quarter bookings are 13.3% ahead. In Russia, the heat will be compounded by the FIFA world Cup, which will attract a tidal surge in visitors and encourage the domestic population to remain at home. The outlook for the UK is foggy, where a rise in the value of £ Sterling is damping enthusiasm for the destination seen last year.
The travel forecast for the Americas is a tale of contrasting outlook. Overall, bookings are 4.8% ahead. The USA is at the coolest end of the spectrum, with the increase in booking temperature around 2% lower than the average for the continent. Elsewhere, other countries are all seeing warm inbound interest. Canada looks set to experience something of a heat wave due to Chinese visa facilitation and an increase in capacity from India.
The climate for regional and long-haul outbound travel in Latin America will be very sunny, led by favourable bookings from Mexico in the north and hot travel conditions in the south, where Argentina, Brazil and Chile are all expected to continue growing at double-digit rates in Q1 2018.
Olivier Jager, CEO, Forward Keys, said: “One has to be optimistic. Despite 2017 being a year filled with economic and political uncertainty, it is one in which long-haul travel has grown strongly and that trend looks set to continue.”