Sabre’s year-end travel report shows that travel confidence has improved as well as the emerging festive destinations of choice for global travellers. Sabre analytics reveal that booking windows for the holiday period are nearing pre-pandemic levels, while the number of Christmas and New Year bookings have soared compared to last year.
Booking windows and improved confidence
Sabre’s booking trends (to the end of October) shows that 60% of bookings for the holiday period were made in September and October this year, versus 55% in 2019. While a higher percentage of bookings were made closer to the holidays this year, the gap is narrowing between 2022 and 2019.
Booking windows can be a significant metric to determining traveller confidence, as a longer booking window can indicate greater confidence. During the pandemic, there was a higher percentage of last-minute bookings due to uncertainties of travel and border restrictions. Travellers were often less keen to make advanced bookings as they were not sure if the travel situation would change by the time their departure date arrived. Now, with a more predictable travel landscape, people are more willing to make longer-term plans as it is more likely for the trip to proceed as planned.
Looking at international trips originating from the US, where travel restrictions were lifted much earlier in comparison with other regions, a clear recovery picture emerges – 29% of international festive bookings (to the end of October) were made during September and October in 2022, compared to 38% in 2021 and 27% in 2019.
In Asia, 76% of all bookings, (to the end of October) both domestic and international, for the year-end holidays this year were made in September and October, in line with when travel restrictions began to further unwind across the region. In 2019, around 55% of bookings were made in the same months. Recovery in Asia-Pacific has been particularly pronounced in Taiwan and Hong Kong, where travel restrictions have recently relaxed. Hong Kong bookings started 3Q2022 at just 16% of the same period in 2019. By the end of the third quarter, the recovery there was 29%. Taiwan did better, with the quarter starting at a 17% recovery and ending at 45%.
Festive season destination trends
Sabre’s booking analysis shows most travellers are opting for destinations close to home for the upcoming holiday period, with 33% of global travellers choosing domestic travel, compared to 27% in 2019.
Almost half (47%) of passengers travelling internationally from the US have booked to visit Mexico or the Caribbean for the holidays.
67% of those travelling from Asia are choosing to stay within Asia. This was higher (70%) in 2019, with the drop likely due to ongoing border closures in China. Top destinations for Asia are Japan and Thailand, which make up close to a third of bookings. Travellers who may previously have gone to China have switched to Japan or Thailand. Japan, Thailand and China together used to make up a third of trips in 2019.
Globally, the US, Mexico and Japan are among the top destinations for both couples and families, in both 2019 and 2022.
Family travellers globally are increasingly opting to travel to the UAE, whereas Thailand is a popular destination for those travelling as a couple.
For those travelling from North America as a family or couple, emerging top destinations are Costa Rica and Italy respectively.
In addition, fewer travellers from India are choosing Vietnam this year, compared to 2019, while fewer Japanese travellers are choosing Thailand.
Top festive travel destinations globally
Indians like to head to the UAE where the eased travel restrictions, affordable accommodation options and short travel times between the two countries makes it a popular destination.
Those from Canada choose to travel to Mexico or the US due to the short flight times.
For Americans looking to trade the cold winter for sun, sand, and blue seas, Jamaica is only a short flight from the US, as is the Dominican Republic, another popular beach getaway promising sunshine and relaxation to US tourists nearby and at affordable rates. Mexico is also another choice for the US due to the proximity of the countries.
For the US, inbound tourism from the UK continues to look strong in 2022.
South Koreans opt to travel to Thailand or even Vietnam due to the close proximity and frequent direct flights. Another well-loved destination is Japan, especially with the country finally unravelling its travel restrictions.
With passenger numbers increasing, travellers more confident about longer-term plans, and emerging destinations stepping in to replace geographies that remain hard to access, the global travel ecosystem is believed to be poised for further recovery and growth in 2023.