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With the big festive getaway about to begin, new bookings insights revealed by Sabre show improving travel confidence and 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
A deep dive into Sabre’s booking trends (of bookings made 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 traveler confidence, as a longer the booking window can indicate greater confidence. During the pandemic, there was a higher percentage of last-minute bookings believed to be due to uncertainties of travel and border restrictions. Travelers 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 generally 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 USA, where travel restrictions were lifted much earlier in comparison with other regions, a clear recovery picture emerges. 29% of international festive bookings (of bookings made 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, (of bookings made 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 APAC has been particularly pronounced in Taiwan and Hong Kong, where travel restrictions have recently relaxed.
Hong Kong bookings started Q3 at just 16% of the same period in 2019. By the end of the third quarter, the recovery there was 29%. Taiwan is an even better story, with the quarter starting at a 17% recovery and ending at 45%.
Festive season destination trends
With travellers booking further out from their departure date, and higher numbers of people travelling, where are they traveling to?
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. Key destination trends include:
1) Almost half (47%) of passengers traveling internationally from the US, as part of a family or couple, have booked to go to Mexico or the Caribbean for the holidays.
2) 67% of those traveling 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, followed by Thailand, which make up close to a third of bookings. It seems some travellers who may previously have gone to China have switched to Japan or Thailand, as Japan, Thailand and China together used to make up a third of trips in 2019.
3) Globally, the United States, Mexico and Japan are among the top destinations for both couples and families, in both 2019 and 2022.
4) Family travellers globally are increasingly opting to travel to the United Arab Emirates, whereas Thailand is a popular destination for those traveling as a couple.
5) For those traveling from North America as a family or couple, emerging top destinations are Costa Rica and Italy respectively.
6) Vietnam and China were among the top 10 destinations globally in 2019, but both fell beyond the top 10 this year, giving way to the Dominican Republic and Canada.
7) While Thailand still remains within the top 10 global destinations for the festive season, it has dropped from number three position to five.
8) Fewer travellers from India are choosing Vietnam this year, compared to 2019, while fewer Japanese travellers are choosing Thailand.
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