How much of an impact do economic crises have on the travel industry?
2016 has been a year of turmoil with the migrant crisis, political instability and economic downturn affecting regions spanning from Europe, to the Middle East, to South America. One (usual) saving grace of regional and economic instability is tourism, but what happens when global travelers stop coming?
We analyzed consumer flight searches on Orbitz, Expedia and United Airlines to gauge interest and intent to purchase flights to countries experiencing political or economic turmoil: Venezuela, Brazil, Greece, Turkey and the UK. We found that despite regional instability, searches were up by 20 to 31 percent for all countries, except Turkey which experienced an 18 percent decrease in search activity. Our data also revealed that older millennials and gen-xers (25-44), and seniors (65+) performed the most flight searches.
Year-over-year flight searches and fluctuations
We compared global flight searches throughout June-August 2015 to June-August 2016, and found that aggregated flight searches remained relatively stable year-over-year. But when we drilled down and took a closer look at specific destinations and countries, we were surprised to see that flight search activity had increased YoY for all countries besides Turkey. Turkey, which has seen an increase in violence along with a failed coup in July of this year showed a 18 percent decrease in searches in June 2016 compared to June 2015. We also found a 28 percent decrease when comparing the aggregated data from June-August 2015 to the same time period this year.
Venezuela, which is experiencing historic levels of inflation, food shortages and political instability, showed a 24 percent increase in flight searches when comparing June 2015 to June 2016. When aggregating June-August 2016, flight searches to Venezuela were still up 12 percent YoY, however half of the search activity occurred earlier in the summer.
Greece saw the largest increase in search activity though, with a 31 percent increase in consumer flight searches in June 2016 compared to June 2015. We also found that during June-August 2016 the volume of individuals searching for flights to Greece was a third larger than in same time period in 2015. Here’s the full breakdown:
Year-over-year changes in consumer flight searches from June-August
|Destination||YoY changes in flight search activity|
Brazil and UK: No surprises here
In August, Brazil hosted the 2016 Rio Olympics, and as a result the country saw flight searches jump by 20 percent YoY during June 2016. However, this increase in search activity leveled out to a 4 percent increase when we compared June-August 2015 to June-August 2016.
Following Brexit, the UK saw only minor changes in consumer flight search activity. Flight searches remained stagnant at a 1 percent increase when comparing June 2015 to June 2016, and only increased by 3 percent YoY when June-August 2015 and 2016 were compared.
Bottom line: Brazil, Turkey and the UK fit our expectations for flight search fluctuations. We expected traffic to increase in Brazil, remain flat in the UK, and decrease in Turkey following the failed coup. We were surprised though by the growing interest in countries like Greece and Venezuela, but perhaps savvy travelers can explain this as they take advantage of reduced currency rates and prices that follow political and economic turmoil. This goes to show that travelling has no limits, and that people’s love of exploring can’t be held back.