Sabre analytics reveal that booking windows for the holiday period are nearing pre-pandemic levels, while the number of Christmas and New Year bookings have soared compared to last year.
Booking windows and improved confidence
A deep dive into Sabre’s booking trends (of bookings made to the end of October) shows that 60% of bookings for the holiday period were made in September and October this year, versus 55% in 2019. While a higher percentage of bookings were made closer to the holidays this year, the gap is narrowing between 2022 and 2019.
Booking windows can be a significant metric to determining traveler confidence, as a longer the booking window can indicate greater confidence. During the pandemic, there was a higher percentage of last-minute bookings believed to be due to uncertainties of travel and border restrictions. Travelers were often less keen to make advanced bookings as they were not sure if the travel situation would change by the time their departure date arrived. Now, with a more predictable travel landscape, people are generally more willing to make longer-term plans as it is more likely for the trip to proceed as planned.
Looking at international trips originating from the USA, where travel restrictions were lifted much earlier in comparison with other regions, a clear recovery picture emerges. 29% of international festive bookings (of bookings made to the end of October) were made during September and October in 2022, compared to 38% in 2021 and 27% in 2019.
In Asia, 76% of all bookings, (of bookings made to the end of October) both domestic and international, for the year-end holidays this year were made in September and October, in line with when travel restrictions began to further unwind across the region. In 2019, around 55% of bookings were made in the same months. Recovery in APAC has been particularly pronounced in Taiwan and Hong Kong, where travel restrictions have recently relaxed. Hong Kong bookings started Q3 at just 16% of the same period in 2019. By the end of the third quarter, the recovery there was 29%. Taiwan is an even better story, with the quarter starting at a 17% recovery and ending at 45%.
Festive season destination trends
With travelers booking further out from their departure date, and higher numbers of people travelling, where are they traveling to?
Sabre’s booking analysis shows most travelers are opting for destinations close to home for the upcoming holiday period, with 33% of global travelers choosing domestic travel, compared to 27% in 2019. Key destination trends include:
Almost half (47%) of passengers traveling internationally from the US, as part of a family or couple, have booked to go to Mexico or the Caribbean for the holidays.
67% of those traveling from Asia are choosing to stay within Asia. This was higher (70%) in 2019, with the drop likely due to ongoing border closures in China. Top destinations for Asia are Japan, followed by Thailand, which make up close to a third of bookings. It seems some travelers who may previously have gone to China have switched to Japan or Thailand, as Japan, Thailand and China together used to make up a third of trips in 2019.
Globally, the United States, Mexico and Japan are among the top destinations for both couples and families, in both 2019 and 2022.
Family travelers globally are increasingly opting to travel to the United Arab Emirates, whereas Thailand is a popular destination for those traveling as a couple.
For those traveling from North America as a family or couple, emerging top destinations are Costa Rica and Italy respectively.
Vietnam and China were among the top 10 destinations globally in 2019, but both fell beyond the top 10 this year, giving way to the Dominican Republic and Canada.
While Thailand still remains within the top 10 global destinations for the festive season, it has dropped from number three position to five.
Fewer travelers from India are choosing Vietnam this year, compared to 2019, while fewer Japanese travelers are choosing Thailand.
Top 10 festive travel destinations globally
So, what are the most booked top 10 trips global travelers are taking this festive season?
10th Place: India to United Arab Emirates (UAE)
With eased travel restrictions, affordable accommodation options and short travel times between the two countries, the UAE is a popular destination for Indian travelers looking to spend time with their partners and family.
9th Place: Canada to Mexico
With an under five-hour flight Mexico is proving a popular getaway destination for Canadian travelers looking for affordable holiday options.
8th Place: South Korea to Thailand
South Korea is a major inbound source market for Thailand, with the Thai tourism body expecting to attract more than 500,000 Koreans this year and over 1.3 million during 2023.
7th Place: United States (US) to Jamaica
With Jamaica only a short flight from the US, it is always popular amongst Americans looking to trade the cold winter for sun, sand, and blue seas.
6th Place: United Kingdom (UK) to United States (US)
The US is a major tourist destination for many countries around the world. Historically a strong source region for the US, inbound tourism from the UK continues to look strong in 2022.
5th Place: South Korea to Vietnam
Many Korean tourists travel to Vietnam due to its close proximity and frequent direct flights. The government of Vietnam has also made efforts to promote the country as a tourist destination and attract more visitors from South Korea.
4th Place: United States (US) to Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic is another popular beach getaway promising sunshine and relaxation to US tourists nearby and at affordable rates.
3rd Place: Canada to United States (US)
With a short flight time, the US is an extremely sought-after getaway for Canadians looking for an affordable holiday this festive season.
2nd Place: South Korea to Japan
Japan, one of the last few countries globally to unravel travel restrictions, is a popular destination for many travelers globally, so it’s little wonder to see so many inbound tourists from neighbouring South Korea.
1st Place: United States (US) to Mexico
The US is also a natural destination for Mexico due to the proximity of the countries.
With passenger numbers increasing, travelers more confident about longer-term plans, and emerging destinations stepping in to replace geographies that remain hard to access, the global travel ecosystem is believed to be poised for further recovery and growth in 2023.