ForwardKeys: COVID-19 causes US outbound flight bookings to slump

The travel setback caused by the coronavirus outbreak has now hit the United States, which is the world’s second largest outbound travel market after China.

In the five weeks following the imposition of travel restrictions on outbound travel from China (Jan. 20 –Feb. 17), there was a 19.3% decline in the number of bookings made for travel from the U.S., reports travel analytics company ForwardKeys. The majority of the decline has been caused by a collapse in bookings for travel from the U.S. to the Asia Pacific region, down by 87.7%.

The setback in outbound bookings from the U.S. during that time has affected other parts of the world too.

Bookings to Europe have fallen by 3.6%, and bookings to other markets in the Americas have fallen by 6.1%. However, bookings to Africa & the Middle East, which has only a small (6%) share of outbound U.S. travel, had increased by 1.3%.

In the past five weeks bookings from the U.S. in all but three of 15 regional destinations fell. The exceptions were North Africa, Sub Saharan Africa and Central America, where bookings rose by 17.9%, 4.4% and 2.1% respectively.

In the order of least to worst affected, bookings were down as follows: to Western Europe down by 1.7%, to Southern Europe down by 2.8%, to North America down by 3.3%, to South America down by 3.4%, to the Middle East down by 4.2%, to Northern Europe down by 5.5%, to Central/Eastern Europe down by 7.7%, to the Caribbean down by 12.5%, to Oceania down by 21.3%, to South Asia down by 23.7% and to South East Asia down by 94.1%. In the case of North East Asia, there were more cancellations than new bookings. (*these numbers pre-date the rise of COVID-19 cases in Italy and the growing number of cases in the U.S.)

ForwardKeys comments: “While the trend of the past five weeks is not encouraging, the outlook for the coming months, judging by the current state of bookings for March, April and May, is perhaps not as bad as might have been feared because a large proportion of long-haul bookings are made several months in advance.

“As of February 25, total outbound bookings from the USA are 8.0% behind where they were at the equivalent date last year. The majority of the lag is caused by a 37.0% slowdown in bookings to the Asia Pacific region. Forward bookings to Africa & Middle East are 3.9% ahead, to Europe are flat (0.1% ahead) and to the Americas