For two years, Covid-19 has decimated the global travel industry. However, with growth expected in 2022, and a full recovery in international travel forecasted by 2025, according to GlobalData , there is reason to be optimistic.

North America leading international recovery

As Covid-19 spread worldwide in early 2020, resulting in global travel restrictions, international departures declined by 75% year-on-year in 2020 to just 373.2 million, or 26% of 2019 levels. International departures experienced a further decline in 2021, falling to just 23% of 2019 levels. However, as travel restrictions have eased and vaccination rates rise, growth in international travel is finally expected in 2022. Globally, international departures will reach 68% of pre-Covid levels in 2022, according to GlobalData’s latest forecasts*. This is expected to improve to 82% in 2023, and 97% in 2024, before fully recovering by 2025 at 101% of 2019 levels, with a projected 1.5 billion international departures. However, the trajectory for the recovery in international departures is not linear across regions or countries.

International travel from North America has shown ongoing improvement, with the region expected to lead in terms of recovery rates. The US has risen to become the world’s largest outbound travel market in 2021. In 2022, outbound departures from North America are projected to reach 69% of 2019 levels, before making a full recovery by 2024, at 102% of 2019 levels, ahead of other regions.

Europe and Asia expected to lag behind North America’s recovery levels

International departures from European countries are expected to reach 69% of 2019 figures in 2022. As travel confidence rebuilds, the intra-European market will undoubtedly increase, driven by preferences for short-haul travel. However, travel recovery must contend with inflation, rising costs of living, and the war in Ukraine. By 2025, international departures are projected to be 98% of 2019 levels. Geographically, the war has not spread beyond Ukrainian borders. However, Russia was the world’s fifth-largest outbound travel market in 2019 while Ukraine was the twelfth. Going forward, limited outbound travel from these countries will hinder Europe’s overall tourism recovery.

Asia-Pacific is also expected to lag behind North America in terms of international travel recovery. Outbound departures from this region will only reach 67% of 2019 levels in 2022, owing to the relatively slower removal of travel restrictions, and the propensity for renewed domestic restrictions during Covid-19 outbreaks. Once the region’s and the world’s largest outbound travel market, China is not showing any signs of relaxing its severe border measures in the short-term. In 2021, international departures from China were just 2% of 2019 levels.

Potential recovery by 2025 provides optimism

While global international travel is set to recover to pre-pandemic levels by 2025, the tourism demand may look quite different. From two years of minimal travel, several long-term shifts and short-term trends have emerged. Consumers are now more likely to pursue authentic experiences, demand personalised travel offerings, blend business and leisure travel, and be more conscious of their overall environmental impact. There is still a long way to go to reach a normal state of affairs. However, a potential full recovery by 2025 gives good reason for the travel and tourism industry to be optimistic for the future, despite the devastation of Covid-19.

*GlobalData Traveller Demands and Flows Database