After two years of travel restrictions, international arrivals are almost back to pre-pandemic levels. Notably, US tourists are returning to their travel habits, going to multiple destinations in one trip over the Atlantic and shopping at the duty-free airport retailers.
An analysis by ForwardKeys shows that arrivals from the US have already reached 95% of the 2019 level, with overall international inbound travel being on track to fully recover this Christmas season.
Compared to before the pandemic, tourists are also willing to spend more, with bookings in business class already exceeding the 2019 level by 18%, while economy class bookings are still down by 8%. Moreover, the proportion of multi destination trips is already back to pre-pandemic levels, with 32% of US tourists in Europe visiting two or more destinations.
An increasing share of these US visitors are affluent ones, taken from the fact that they fly business. Meaning that there’s an important and growing group of affluent travellers that have shopping opportunities at multiple airports.Olivier Ponti, Vice President Insights at ForwardKeys
“This suggests that the fear of being caught out by changing travel restrictions is fading, and that Americans generally feel more confident about crossing multiple borders during their stay. It is also a positive development for travel retail as it allows airport stores in more European destinations to profit from this highly valuable source market”, the report says.
The most frequently used hub airports have also changed over the past years, with the newly built Istanbul (TR) airport, finished just one year before the pandemic, benefitting the most from the American tourists. While TR and other airport hubs tourists use to reach European destinations have already greatly exceeded their 2019 performance, Amsterdam Schiphol and Paris Charles De Gaulle are still lagging behind.
“For a sector that was hit harder than most by the Covid-19 pandemic and resulting travel restrictions, the return of affluent US travellers to Europe – and their propensity to visit more than one destination – is a hugely positive development. Even more encouragingly, the trend looks set to continue in the months ahead”, the report concludes, pointing out however that the trends should not be taken for granted since predictions that seemed to come true in the past were, in the end, affected.