Stats: Experiential Travel Spend Up 34 Percent Over 2019 Levels

After a turbulent two years, new research from the Mastercard Economics Institute reveals that global leisure and business flight bookings have surpassed pre-pandemic levels, while spending on cruise lines, trains and rental cars saw sharp improvements this year. Released this week, “Travel 2022: Trends and Transitions” delivers insights across 37 markets about the global state of travel in a post-vaccine and less restricted chapter of the pandemic era.

Importantly, according to the Mastercard Economics Institute analysis, if flight booking trends continue at the current pace, an estimated 1.5 billion more passengers globally will fly in 2022 compared to last year.

Additional key findings through April 2022 include:

Travel spending shifts back to experiences over things: For the better part of a year, international tourists spent more on experiences instead of souvenirs when in destination. Experiential spending is now 34 percent above 2019 levels; the areas seeing the largest spending increases are bars and nightclubs (72 percent) and amusement parks, museums, concerts and other recreational activities (35 percent). International tourist spending on experiences in destination grew roughly 23 percent in the U.S.

Leisure and business flights surpass pre-pandemic levels: Travel recovery has been a largely consumer story for much of the pandemic. By the end of April, global leisure flight bookings surpassed 2019 levels by 25 percent; short- and medium-haul leisure flight bookings were up 25 percent and 27 percent, respectively. In further good news, global business flight bookings exceeded pre-pandemic levels for the first time in March, with long-haul specifically growing double-digits in April. The return to office was an important driver.

Hard-hit transportation industries see spending rebound: Recent spending levels point to greater comfort with group travel. Global spending on cruises gained 62 percentage points from January to the end of April, although this remains below 2019 levels. Passenger rail spend remains 7 percent below, meanwhile road trips maintain their appeal, with spending on tolls and auto rentals up nearly 19 percent and 12 percent, respectively.

Loosening of restrictions recalibrates tourism map for 2022: Not surprisingly, the ability and convenience of travel has been a driving factor in booking destinations, though 2022 has provided a clean slate with restrictions loosened in much of the world, aside from parts of Asia Pacific. The result is that the U.S., U.K., Switzerland, Spain and The Netherlands are now the top destinations for tourists globally.

Source: Mastercard Economics Institute

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