Everyone wants a Roman holiday! Americans are back in Paris! Hotels are full, restaurants are booked, luxury stores have long lines outside, and good luck trying to book a scooter. Friends who happen to live part of the year on the glamorous island of Capri told us that it takes three times as long to get to the harbour because it has never been so busy.
Over the Easter period, occupancy rates in Paris were at 91%, boding well for a bumper summer. Italy was no different. “There’s a huge craving to travel, just like popping a [cork] from a bottle,” said Bernabò Bocca, president of the Italian national hotel association Federalberghi. The moment Italy loosened safety measures in April, “a tsunami of bookings arrived from the United States at a speed never seen before”.
Global air passenger numbers are up sharply. The latest analysis of global air traffic by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) provides evidence of a strong global recovery in air traffic. The number of air passengers carried from January to April 2022 increased by 65% compared to the same period in 2021, while aircraft flight departures increased by 30% and airline seat capacity grew by 32%.
The US government’s decision in June to follow much of Europe and lift pre-departure Covid-19 testing requirements for international travellers will further strengthen numbers. It makes it easier for tourists to come to the US and raises confidence among US travellers who no longer need to worry about being stuck overseas if they test positive for Covid.
Meanwhile, the World Tourism Organisation’s (UNWTO) latest Tourism Barometer shows a 182% year-on-year increase in international tourism in January-March 2022, with destinations worldwide welcoming an estimated 117 million international arrivals compared to 41 million in the same period last year. Increases were expected given the significant downturn the travel sector suffered during the pandemic-induced travel restrictions (according to UNWTO 2020 was the worst year on record, with tourism declining to the levels of the early 1990s). But of the additional 76 million international arrivals during the first three months of 2021, about 47 million were recorded in March, indicating that the recovery is gathering pace.
The travel recovery has its challenges. After two years of a pandemic, the industry is struggling with capacity. The media is full of headlines about flight disruptions, long queues and lost luggage as airlines and airports struggle to find enough staff to cope with the demand. EasyJet recently said that staff absences were double their normal levels due to Covid, while German airline Lufthansa has warned passengers that the situation was “unlikely to improve in the short term,” with stability only to be reached in the winter.