When will global travel spend recover?

Doctor holding stethoscope next to a globe

Euromonitor International, the strategic market research company, is predicting travel spend will return to pre-pandemic levels by 2024 at the earliest, and warns recovery could take longer.  What trends are likely to have a direct impact on medical travel?

There are plenty of factors that could conspire to delay the rebound in tourism numbers.

Speaking at World Travel Market (WTM) London, Caroline Bremner of Euromonitor says that the best-case scenario is that travel spend would recover to pre-crisis levels by 2024, but it will be a long hard recovery. In the worst case, we could be looking at a delay to 2026 in return to pre-crisis spending levels.

Euromonitor predicts:

  • Travel overshoot day, where international trips and spending are set to exceed 2019 peak levels, is expected in 2024 at the earliest, with accelerated recovery in 2022, thanks to progress with vaccines.
  • As the world begins to live more with the virus, pent-up travel demand will be fully unleashed. Yet tourism must transition to a quality over quantity model.
  • Businesses have never had it so good in terms of access to digital tools to drive innovation across operations, new product development and to harness consumer relationships.
  • Innovation is fundamental to tackle the ever-increasing climate risks, demographic, social and technological shifts that can have an overnight impact on consumer behaviour.
  • Transformation, creativity, climate awareness, inclusion, diversity and fun are the foundations for the rebirth of travel.

In another view, Helen McDermott of Tourism Economics predicts that the recovery in Europe had originally been predicted to be in place by 2024. But pent-up demand and the financial savings forced on consumers by extended lockdowns could speed up the process. European travel could return to pre-pandemic levels by as early as 2023, although a number of issues may conspire to delay this recovery by up to two years. She warns that the era of low cost travel, which has been particularly prevalent in Europe and which has driven demand for the best part of a decade, could be coming to an end.

A renewed push on sustainability could also drive up travel costs, as airlines pass on any fuel price increases to the consumer.

Neither forecast directly includes medical tourism but medical tourism trends tend to follow those of mainstream travel.  What is likely to impact medical tourism is:

  • The increased cost of air travel.
  • The complexity and rules on global travel.
  • The move from price to quality.