Industry Voice: Flights and visa: a brief look into international travel

Holiday bookings and visa purchases are rising once more. But what are the long-term expectations for international travel?

clock • 3 min read
Industry Voice: Flights and visa: a brief look into international travel

As vaccination rates across the world are rapidly increasing and countries are welcoming tourists again, the largest benefactors appear to be airlines and travel industry operators as holiday bookings and visa purchases rise once more.

Borders opening post-COVID
Following the global  outbreak of COVID-19, countries closed their borders en masse, forbidding anyone from entering. In some cases, such as Australia, all outbound travel was also forbidden. Most countries, however, were content with implementing severe restrictions for people returning from abroad, such as lengthy quarantines and multiple mandatory PCR tests. Unsurprisingly, tourism sectors across the world were crippled. Airlines were kept afloat by government relief schemes, such as furlough payment schemes to boost liquidity. This benefitted, among others, British Airways and EasyJet, covering several billions in 2020 alone.

Slowly, however, countries have started reopening again. Among the first to do this was Egypt, who already opened its borders to tourist in mid-2020, at the highpoint of the pandemic. The European Union likewise started welcoming foreign visitors again early 2021. In Africa, countries such as Kenya are seeing a rise in holiday bookings. India, a popular destination for Brits, has been issuing tourist visa again since 15 November 2021. An even more popular destination, the USA, already opened its borders to tourist on 7 November 2021. The USA has always been popular with European tourists due to the ESTA system, which allows for visa-free travel. Travelport reported an increase of over 2000% for holiday bookings to the USA for Thanksgiving weekend. Search engine results show that Brits searched the most for flights to the USA and ESTA applications, more so than any other European country.

Countries who refuse to open
Some countries, however, have decided to keep their borders closed for fear of new COVID-19 outbreaks. Despite earlier rumours that leisure travel to Australia would become possible again by Christmas 2021, the Australian government announced in late 2021 that the country would keep its borders closed for the remainder of 2021. Exceptions are made for family members of Australian citizens. However, they are required to apply for both a visa and a travel exemption to be allowed entry.

Like its neighbour, New Zealand has likewise to decided to not open for the remainder of 2021. Indeed, the New Zealand government is currently dealing with small-scale outbreaks of COVID-19, forcing Auckland to go into an extended lockdown.

In Asia, while most popular destinations such as Thailand and India are already welcoming tourists again, a notable lagger is Vietnam. Despite having two-digit coronavirus deaths for the majority of the pandemic, Vietnam suffered from a severe outbreak of the delta-variant mid-2021. Coupled with low vaccination numbers, this led to thousands of new deaths. As a result, Vietnam is still not welcoming tourists.

However, these countries are exceptions rather than the norm. By far most countries in the world have decided that COVID is sufficiently under control to warrant restarting tourism.

The future
COVID-19 remains a highly unpredictable variable. For example, British Airways recently resumed transatlantic traffic from Gatwick for the first time since the pandemic. Their hope is that 246 weekly flights to the USA alone will be achieved by January 2022. E-Visa purchases are also rising steadily. On the other hand, Easyjet recently reported that it may need to lower their fees due to rising lockdowns in various cities in the world. Additionally, rules regarding vaccinations may change with the announcement of booster shots. Estimates are that air travel will not return to pre-COVID number until 2024 at the earliest.

This post was funded by VISA 

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