05 June 2020: The Latin American Travel Association (LATA) has revealed the impact of COVID-19 on inbound air travel to the LATAM region and important booking trends, and insight on consumer notions towards travel in a post COVID-19 era. The data was revealed in a panel session for LATA members that was led by LATA chairman, Colin Stewart and moderated by LATA CEO, Danny Callaghan. The webinar featured Juan Gómez, insights expert at ForwardKeys, Lyn Hughes, founder and editor-in-chief at Wanderlust Travel Media, and Jackie Scully, executive director at Think Travel.
As an overview, Forward Keys noted an overall decline in arrivals to worldwide destinations. The total global arrivals to 31 May were down by 63.3% with the Americas experiencing a 56.1% decrease. More specifically, long haul arrivals to Latin America have halved across the board and looking specifically at five of Latin America’s top destinations (Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Argentina, and Dominican Republic), a very similar trend was identified with visitor arrivals down by 51.9%, 48.6%, 46.9%, 46.6%, and 45.6% YOY.
Despite these negative statistics given the impact of Covid-19 and the corresponding travel advice heavily impacting 2020 departures, ForwardKeys identified that the UK is now producing more new bookings than cancellations for future travel to Latin America for the first time since the pandemic hit the region. From these new bookings, ForwardKeys identified an appetite for 2021 travel to South America with Easter 2021 predicted to be the most popular time to travel, followed by the Christmas period and Spring half term. Top destinations include Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, Argentina, and Cuba.
Furthermore, ForwardKeys compared the breakdown of flight searches (performed in May) from the UK to Latin America in 2019 and 2020. It was identified that there was a 10% rise in flight searches for December 2020 versus December 2019, followed by a 5% increase in flight searches for November 2020 versus November 2019 and a similar increase for October. ForwardKeys concluded that travellers have shown significant interest in travel for Q4 of 2020 when compared to the previous year.
Gómez emphasised that even though travel restrictions are easing off slightly in Europe, the current state of travel restrictions worldwide is still strict, especially in Latin American countries like Argentina and Brazil. Therefore, it is crucial to keep tracking the travel restrictions in Latin America and note any signs of recovery before considering any significant changes in booking statistics.
The Wanderlust’s reader survey completed by just under 3000 respondents showed that whilst 37% of respondents said that they would be prepared to self-quarantine upon returning from a trip abroad, 90% of people will not travel against Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) advice. That said, over two thirds of respondents were confident to make a travel booking in 2020 (14% in summer 2020, and 50% in autumn/ winter 2020).
In terms of travel choices for 2020 and 2021, unsurprisingly the largest percentage (51.8%) said that they would travel domestically within the UK while 16.4% are considering a trip to Latin America.
When asked what kind of trip would appeal, 55% of respondents said they would be interested in culture, history & heritage; 51% selected wildlife and nature; and 32% said they would look for a tour combining various elements.
In terms of what travellers are expecting from travel companies, the top three responses were: safety, the ability to cancel and get a refund and flexibility to change the dates.
Finally, Wanderlust concluded the webinar showcasing the participants’ holiday ‘wish list’, which included nine South America countries in the top 22 destinations.
Consolidating recovery plans
With this new data and an ongoing series of panel discussions with tourism board members, LATA has continued its pledge to stimulate demand and growth within the region following the Covid-19 crisis. In the latest session on 04 June featuring over 20 tourism board participants, LATA identified a number of key focus areas to direct the Latin American recovery plan.
These include understanding consumer attitudes and how they have changed towards Latin American travel in light of the pandemic, identifying the traveller profile who is likely to visit the region post-crisis, not losing sight of the region’s sustainability credentials, and highlighting positive news stories in relation to destinations and what they are doing to combat the virus.
To support members, LATA is creating a resource centre for its member where they can access useful data and information. LATA is also creating safety guidelines for its destinations to embrace as the region begins to open up to tourism. The aim is for this central hub to support tourism boards throughout their recovery.
Danny Callaghan, CEO of LATA concludes: “our LATA members have told us how important it is to get updated data on UK booking trends as well as consumer sentiment towards travel. The data from ForwardKeys as well as the consumer research provided by Wanderlust Travel Media gives us and our members some valuable direction on how to direct our tourism strategies moving forward. We will continue to work as a collective with our ongoing panel discussion and resource centre to hopefully restore Latin America to the heights of its tourism. Despite the challenging scenario that we are currently faced with, it is encouraging to see there is still a strong appetite for travel to Latin America.”
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LATA is the representative body of the Latin American travel industry.
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