Clare de Bono gives optimistic assessment at this week’s Institute of Travel and Tourism Conference in Turkey, but warns of storm clouds on the horizon
Travel demand in the UK is surging, says Amadeus
By the end of April this year the UK had surpassed the total number of travel bookings on the GDSs taken during the whole of last year.
Clare de Bono, Amadeus UK country manager and associate director for font office solutions, told the ITT conference in Istanbul this week that demand is “surging” back to 2019 levels.
Reflecting on the last two years, she said Covid “broke the travel industry” resulting in the loss of 62 million jobs globally in 2020 alone, the equivalent of 20% of the planet’s entire tourism workforce.
But she added: “2022 just feels really different, that the corner has finally been turned. I really feel like the world is moving again, and the data bears that out.”
De Bono said the UK is outperforming most other markets in terms of its recovery from the pandemic. “The fact is Brits love to travel and that love runs deep,” she said.
“Globally flight searches are only down 3% compared to 2019 but looking at the UK demand is already up 326% on last year and already equal to 2019. “But it’s not really equal because there are still 100 countries out there that have restrictions.”
Search volumes for Europe destinations from the UK are up 35% on 2019 and bookings are also recovering, said de Bono. “GDS data shows that by the end of April this year we already surpassed all bookings for 2021.”
The list of the 20 most popular destinations is starting to take on a more familiar look as holiday hotpots re-emerge after countries with big VFR (Visiting Friends and Relatives) markets saw a spike during the pandemic.
A recent Amadeus Travel Pulse 2022 trends report identified three key trends: increasing demand for experiences and luxury, visiting people you know, or ‘friendcations’, and active ecotourism.
De Bono said this points to travellers wanting to make the most out of their time away with more adventurous destinations like Petra in Jordan, Tanzania and Machu Picchu gaining in popularity.
The rise of sustainability and an interest in the natural world is seeing destinations like Costa Rica and Iceland also becoming more popular.
However, de Bono warned: “We have to be honest with ourselves. There are definite storm clouds on the horizon.
“Firstly, there is inflation. Rising prices will mean less for discretionary spending. The World Bank has said it is difficult to see us avoiding a global recession.”
In addition the latest GFK consumer confidence rating in the UK put it at minus 40, lower than in the middle of the banking crisis and financial crash of 2008.
“Then there is the war for talent. Not all of those 62 million people who lost their jobs have come back. Staffing challenges are casting a shadow on the industry’s recovery efforts.
“It may feel like we are the lucky ones to still have a job in this industry, but we are having to work doubly hard to keep the world moving. We need to rebuild, but it has to be better than ever.”
De Bono added: “We have to work together as an industry. We have to work hand in hand with our partners. We have to regain traveller confidence.”
During the pandemic Amadeus brought in traveller ID technology to validate heath certificates and vaccination status and is working with partner Microsoft to “break down industry silos”.
“Technology is powering industry renewal”, de Bono said. “I’m really optimistic. Demand for travel is surging, particularly in the UK.
“The pandemic has demonstrated our resilience and commitment. We have come through this. We have witnessed increasing appetite for partnerships. We can work together.”