At least one industry expert’s reading of the data tells us yes: “The market bottomed out in April 2020. The rebound, although subtle in May, improved in June, July, and August. Month over month percent change is still down over -95 percent for most countries through August. However, the overseas volume for August of 154,000 visitors is ten times higher than the bottom in April (15,000).”
The above is just one of the different but salient notes that one picks up in reviewing Travel Market Insights (TMI), an analytic report prepared and published by Scott Johnson, TMI’s president and CEO. A one-time senior trade specialist at the U.S. Office of Travel and Tourism a few decades ago, Johnson is one of those industry analysts who can look at a prism and see color combinations (in this analogy, arrivals data from the old U.S. National Travel and Tourism Office) shine through that are not readily apparent to the average eye.
Such is the case in his latest market update, “What We Know, October 2020.” Highlights of his report follow.
—Current U.S. Visitation: The 18-24 age group and, to a lesser extent, the 25-34 age group, are down less than the average overseas visitor through August 2020. Starting with the 35-44 age cohort, each older age group is down more than the previous age group. This is evidence that the older generations are less likely to be travelling than younger travelers currently. The 0-17 age group is down even more, compared with the average overseas visitor, than any other age group. This indicates family travel is lagging the most. Current Target: Young independent travelers and young families with no children.
—Business vs. Leisure vs. Education Travel: Through August 2020 visitors with a pleasure travel visa were down less than the average overseas visitor. Through July 2020 visitors with business and education visas were down less than the average visitor, yet through August both segments lagged the average. The July bump in business and education are likely tied to “must-travel” needs for core business functions and students returning for classes. The July bump in these two segments is expected to continue to lag visitors traveling on pleasure visas through 2020.
—August 2020 continued to see extreme decreases across all world regions. Western Europe and Oceania were down more than 98 percent. The Caribbean was down the least at minus 88 percent. Through August 2020, visits to the U.S. have been cut by three quarters (down 76.0 percent). Africa and Western Europe declined the strongest (down 78 percent) and visits from Eastern Europe and Central America declined the least—down 72 percent. (For INBOUND’s complete data sets for these regions, visit here.)
TSA Checkpoint—Weekly TSA travel numbers show a continued uptick:
—On March 16, 2020 passenger volume bottomed out at 3.6 percent of last year’s “throughput.”
—On September 4, 2020 the throughput rebounded to 44.1 percent.
Note: The TSA Daily Checkpoint Throughput numbers are for all TSA checkpoint travel numbers, domestic and international.
Some Summary Points:
—The travel industry will be facing a new business environment. There will be fewer choices for air travel, at first, and direct routes to major hubs will drive visitation in the beginning.
—Overseas travelers will likely focus on a central location with side trips, which means those that communicate a safe and accessible product and are easily accessible (direct flight) will benefit the most early on.
—There are casualties in the supply chain. Destinations will need to know who the buyers are in-country, what they are promoting and what is selling, and understand how the landscape has changed.
—Younger travelers are driving the trickle of growth, while family travel is currently much lower. Vacation and visiting friends and family in “familiar” destinations will help kick off the rebound once travel is deemed safe, with business and education following.