ITB Berlin and IPK International: Upturn in international tourism


In 2021, despite lockdowns and tight travel restrictions, outbound travel increased worldwide. Strong growth in travel in the second half of the year brought the upturn in international tourism. However, around the world and in the individual travel segments trends varied. Outbound travel of the Americans and Europeans saw double-digit growth last year, whereas in Asia it continued to decline.

As regards travel in 2022: even taking into account the continuing uncertainties on the part of the pandemic and the crisis in Ukraine, current survey results reflect keen demand for holidays & travel in the coming months. Despite the current mood of crisis, the findings of the latest survey point to strong growth and a clear recovery.

Positive figures in 2021 – with varying results around the world

IPK International’s World Travel Monitor® reported outbound travel growing year-on-year by three per cent in 2021. However, around the world trends varied greatly. Thus in Europe and in America, outbound travel increased year-on-year by 10 and 11 per cent respectively, whereas in Asia it declined again by around 40 per cent.

Overall in 2021, the historical tourism lows caused by the pandemic were overcome, while the post-Covid recovery began.

IPK International's World Travel Monitor® — Photo by Messe Berlin GmbH
IPK International’s World Travel Monitor® — Photo by Messe Berlin GmbH

Growth drivers in 2021

In 2021, holiday travel in particular witnessed growth (+4 per cent). Other private travel also saw an above-average increase (+9 per cent). By contrast, in the second year of the pandemic business travel reported a decline again (-14 per cent).

In 2021, the number one growth driver was sun & beach holidays, which year-on-year increased by 30 per cent. All other holiday markets have yet to see their fortunes change, and compared with last year were unable to report positive results. That also applied to city breaks.

Destinations such as Spain, Italy and Greece registered above-average, double-digit growth, due to keen international demand for sun & beach holidays.

Compared with last year, both the average duration of a trip and amount of money spent increased.

Travel in the time of the pandemic: demand for more information and digitalisation

A result of the pandemic is that, people want more comprehensive and easily obtainable travel and holiday information, and with it more digitalisation. A special IPK survey on digitalization & travel found the following: close to 75 per cent of travelers consider digital services to be highly relevant, such as being able to book hotels, flights, events as well as visits to virtual attractions for example. The same applies to a comprehensive online presence and online bookability of destinations. Being able to use an app to book tickets, attractions and museums and use digital payment methods is also high on the priority list of outbound travelers.

Travel intentions for 2022

The latest surveys conducted by IPK around the world show an ongoing strong interest (80 per cent) in outbound travel this year, despite Omicron. In Europe, outbound travel intentions have remained stable, at almost 90 per cent of pre-pandemic levels, while in America they have reached now almost 75 per cent, and in Asia 66 per cent. Globally, source markets with a high potential for outbound travel are mainly Germany, the UK, the USA, France and the Netherlands.

Preferred destinations in 2022

Around the world, this year’s preferred destinations are Italy, Spain and Germany, followed by France and the USA in fourth and fifth place. Although destinations on the same continent continue to be the favourites, overseas travel to Europe is in demand especially among Americans and Asians.

Sun & beach holidays remain popular – keen interest in city breaks

While holiday trips continue to be in high demand, interest in business travel over the coming months is stable too. In terms of holiday types people are planning, sun & beach holidays remain by far the most popular also this year, followed by city breaks (on an upward trend), round trips and holidays close to nature.

Recovery from the crisis this year

The global surveys conducted by IPK International show that in 2022 a big step forward can be made towards international tourism recovering. Globally, outbound travel could already reach 50 to 60 per cent of pre-pandemic levels this year. By 2024 at the latest, outbound travel volumes can be expected to be level with 2019.

About ITB Berlin and IPK International

This year, as part of the long-standing successful collaboration between ITB and IPK, ITB is again presenting the latest findings of the World Travel Monitor® on international travel trends. IPK International is one of the world’s leading tourism consultancies and specializes in tourism research, marketing and planning. As well as conducting special surveys on the Covid-19 pandemic, over the last 25 years IPK has compiled the World Travel Monitor®, which represents the most comprehensive survey worldwide on outbound travel trends in Europe, Asia, North America and Latin America. The World Travel Monitor® is based on information from more than 60 countries and takes over 90 per cent of the global demand for outbound travel into account.

Additional information on IPK International can be found at www.ipkinternational.com.

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