Charting the trends – the pent up travel demand may have a low ceiling, but Generation Z and millennials will lead recovery over the second half of 2021

8 July, 2021

While two-thirds (66%) of US adults plan to travel in 2021, only 24% are preparing to take more trips than they normally would, according to a new report from financial content provider This suggests that pent-up demand “may have a fairly low ceiling,” says the company and indicates that most people still have various factors holding them back from traveling more frequently.

The findings from the online survey conducted by YouGov of over 2,750 American adults about their travel plans suggests that a full-fledged travel boom is unlikely this year, even as COVID-19 and travel restrictions continue to recede.

Approaching a third (31%) plan to travel but believe they’ll take the same number of trips as a ‘normal’ year, and a similar grouping (34%) won’t travel at all. That leaves 11% who will take at least one trip, but anticipate fewer trips than a ‘normal’ year.

There are also notable generational differences in sentiment to travel: 41% of Gen Zers (ages 18-24) and 37% of millennials (ages 25-40) expect to travel more than usual in 2021, versus just 16% of Gen Xers (ages 41-56) and 14% of baby boomers (ages 57-75). In fact, 24% of Gen Zers and 22% of millennials are planning at least two “extra” trips. Just 10% of Gen Xers and 6% of boomers anticipate the same.

Vaccination status also appears to make a clear difference in sentiment to travel. Approaching three quarters (71%) of those who have begun (or completed) the COVID-19 vaccination process intend to travel, compared with 57% who have not started the vaccination process.

The global vaccination rollout and increased adoption of digital solutions for safe travel should lead to a rise in international mobility over the weeks and months ahead, the latest data from the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) indicates. But, the specialised global tourism agency warns that the restart of global travel and tourism will remain muted so long as governments continue to advise caution.

According to the newest edition of UNWTO’s Travel Restrictions Report, four of the ten top source markets keep advising their citizens against non-essential travel abroad (these four generated 25% of all international arrivals in 2018). The report illustrates that as at 01-Jun-2021, 29% of all destinations worldwide had their borders completely closed to international tourism. Of these, more than half have been completely closed to arrivals since May-2020 or longer. In comparison, just three destinations (Albania, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic) were completely open to arrivals with no restrictions in place.

One in three (34%) of all destinations are partially closed, according to the report, and 36% request a negative COVID-19 test result upon arrival, in some cases in combination with a requirement to quarantine.

This data “confirms the trend towards destinations adopting more nuanced, evidence-and-risk-based approaches to restrictions on travel, particularly in light of the evolving epidemiological situation and the emergence of new variants of the virus,” says the report. Indeed, 42% of all destinations have introduced specific restrictions for visitors from destinations with variants of concern ranging from the suspension of flights and closing of borders to compulsory quarantine.

Additionally, since most of those destinations with the strictest measures have some of the lowest rates of vaccination, the data also indicates a link between vaccination speed and easing of restrictions. In comparison, those destinations that have higher rates of vaccination and where countries are able to work together on harmonised rules and protocols such as those being employed in the Schengen area of the European Union, would appear better-placed to allow tourism to slowly return.

Governments will be “instrumental for the restart and recovery of tourism through collaboration, use of data and digital solutions,” says UNWTO secretary general, Zurab Pololikashvili. However, as the report illustrates significant regional differences with regards to travel restrictions remain and that will impact the recovery. It shows that 70% of all destinations in Asia and the Pacific are completely closed, compared with just 13% in Europe, as well as 20% in the Americas, 19% in Africa and 31% in the Middle East.

They say ‘a picture paints a thousand words’. In this regular section CTC – Corporate Travel Community offers an illustrative insight into a key industry observation or trend, this week highlighting a graphic from the UNWTO report that illustrates the evolution of global travel restrictions from Apr-2020 through to Jun-2021.

This regular section also now incorporates and expands on the charts produced in the 2020 air capacity series ‘Coronavirus Statistics Snapshot’. These are based on an analysis of OAG schedule data and include a weekly look at how the pandemic is impacting global flight levels in the world’s largest markets; a week-on-week and year-on-year comparison of flight departures by geographical region and a look at how weekly capacity is trending: the latter comparing levels to 2020 and also to the 2019 baseline performance.


Departure frequencies up+3.59% versus last week; up+51.38% versus 2020 and down -32.53% versus 2019.

Seat capacity up +4.12% versus last week; up +58.61% versus 2020 and down -33.63% versus 2019.

CHART: Week-on-week change in flight departures by region

CHART: Year-on-year weekly departures performance for world’s top 30 markets versus 2019

CHART: Year-on-year weekly departures performance for world’s top 30 markets versus 2020

CHART: Departure capacity trends with year-on-year performance

CHART: Departure capacity trends versus 2019

CHART: The world's biggest aviation markets by departure seats