Flight bookings by British tourists are on the rise, with ForwardKeys data indicating a combined rise – outbound and inbound – of 84 percent from pre-pandemic levels.

After British Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced on 24 January the end of restrictions and no need to submit tests for fully vaccinated travellers, outbound bookings have increased to 106 percent, while inbound bookings account for 47 percent of the total recorded before the pandemic.

Comparing with pre-pandemic levels, the top five destinations for British tourists in January for their trips abroad were Mexico (72%), Maldives (54%), Greece (22%), Cyprus (20%) and Barbados (16%).

Typical seasonality patterns have returned and are evident in the recent recovery, with peaks in bookings evident for February and during the Easter holiday period.

Portugal is among the destinations with the best performance for that period and already show levels higher than those seen at the end of January 2019. The lead in demand belongs to Mexico (+68%), followed by Pakistan (+60%), Maldives (+55%), Barbados (+32%), Qatar (+28%), Bangladesh (+16%), United Arab Emirates (+8%) and Portugal with 2% more in demand, highlights Olivier Ponti, deputy president for Insights at ForwardKeys, that “the list is dominated by long haul destinations that offer sun and beaches or destinations heavily impacted by the 'Visiting Friends and Relatives' segment, such as Pakistan”.

Compared to the end of January 2019, bookings for this first semester are down 33%, while for Easter and summer they are, respectively, 29% and 16% lower than the period three years ago.

Currently, the top Easter destinations are led by Cyprus, whose bookings are 68% above 2019 levels, followed by Nigeria (+35%), Mexico (+28%), Greece (+26%) and Spain ( +5%).

Conti concludes that, “a clear sign that the pandemic is still very much with us is the absence of a renaissance in urban tourism or in airport travel strongly associated with skiing. However, if you look at the Continental European countries that are lifting restrictions, you would expect a sharp rise in holiday bookings that could exceed pre-pandemic levels.”