• October 4, 2023

Global air travel: Complete revival not possible before 2025, Indians flocking to Southeast Asia, says IATA

As more and more South East Asian countries open international boundaries and ease restrictions, even with varying Covid-19 testing norms, the travel industry is set for a revival. Indians in significant numbers are choosing South East Asian regions for luxury vacations. 

The overall air traffic on February 2022 including both domestic and international flights was up by 115.9 per cent compared to February 2021 according to data tracked by International Air Transport Association (IATA). The improvement is by large margins compared to January and February travel figures. Compared to pre-COVID February 2019, however, traffic was down 45.5 per cent.

Domestic air travel saw a more significant upswing than international travel. It was up by 60.7 per cent compared to the same period in 2021 but is 21.8 per cent low compared to the pre-pandemic era, latest in 2019.

In domestic markets, U.S has seen a significant revival but countries like Japan, and Australia is still down by more than50 per cent compared to February 2019 travel traffic. China which already has lower by 35.3 per cent domestic travel traffic still under strict lockdown and travel restrictions are expected to witness further deterioration in March. Russia too is expected to witness a sharp fall in international travel in March for sanctions and war with Ukraine.

International travel levels overall are 59.6 per cent down compared to February 2019, however, when compared with other months or a year ago, there is a market uptrend. There is a year-on-year improvement of165.5 per cent. All regions improved their performance from last few months as upto February 2022 figures.

The patchy border reopening in the two largest markets of Asia, Japan, and China led to the lowest air traffic rise in Asia-Pacific airlines. While China is. still hanging to its zero Covid policy, being largely shut to the rest of the world, Japan is still allowed foreigners who are students or business travelers.

Hence with North Asia remaining close, southeast Asian countries are leading the way in cross-border travel. Even then the traffic is just 10 per cent of 2019 levels at the start of the year and by late March it reached 38 per cent of the pre-pandemic level, a significant surge said a Reuters report.

Singapore and the Philippines with the most relaxed Covid norms for tourists had the largest uptick in bookings, up to 72 percent that of 2019 levels. Thailand, however, with its on arrival OCR test and institutional isolation requirements just picked up 24 percent of its booking level from pre-pandemic levels.

Singapore had the highest uptick in travelers witnessed had 67,760 arrivals in February 2022, according to its tourism board data, 18.5 per cent higher than the previous month. Indians represent the largest group of travelers to Singapore in January and February this year with over 27,000 visitors arriving. Indonesians and Malaysians from the next largest groups.

IATA expects that air traffic within the Asia Pacific will not entirely bounce back to the pre-pandemic levels before 2025, considering there no major epidemic breaks out again calling for restrictions and China, the largest source of tourists in the region opening to overseas travel.