COVID-19: Insights on Travel Impact, Latin America

November 18, 2020

With our access to real-time traveler audiences and unmatched visibility into global travel demand, we’re in a unique position to share the current travel trends at the forefront of marketers’ minds. In this blog series, we’ll take a look at the data in order to aid travel marketers in their assessment of this worldwide event. They can use these trends to inform their marketing strategies during this period, as the industry stabilizes.  

These insights are based on data collected for the week ending November 14, 2020. We are reviewing our data on a regular basis to provide an accurate view of trends and patterns in consumer behavior. Sojern’s insights are based on over 350 million traveler profiles and billions of travel intent signals, however it does not capture one hundred percent of the travel market.

The Impact of COVID-19 on Latin America

Latin America (LATAM) has been hit particularly hard by the pandemic, but was the last of the regions across the globe to experience the true effects of the pandemic when compared with Asia Pacific (APAC); Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA); and the US & Canada. The World Health Organization’s dashboard shows the first case in Latin America being reported on February 26, 2020 in Brazil–weeks after the first reported case in US & Canada and after the first spreads in Asia and Europe. By July 2020, LATAM was the region with the highest count of confirmed cases globally. Densely packed urban areas and multigenerational homes contributed largely to the spread. 

In October 2020, death and infection rates across most of the region slowly began to ease, which experts credited to face-mask wearing, long lockdowns, and what researchers in the area have deemed “immunity bubbles” (friends and family who are already immune to the virus protecting those that were not). Latin America as a whole depends heavily on tourism and will thus likely continue to endure economic setbacks that will affect the region for some time. Not only are people less willing and able to travel during the pandemic, LATAM’s high COVID-19 rates and most recently–extreme weather conditions (e.g. hurricanes) are also discouraging to potential travelers. However, Sojern’s travel data helps our customers identify areas of opportunities even in the current landscape to highlight where travelers are feeling more comfortable to visit and from which areas people remain more mobile. 

Please note: When looking at November 9, the day that Pfizer and Biontech announced their vaccine was 90% effective in trials, both our hotel and flight search data show growth (globally) as evidenced throughout the insights below. We’ll continue to monitor how this transpires and share updates. While the global impact of COVID-19 on travel evolves week to week, and with market-to-market recovery being hard to predict, relying on data and the facts is more important than ever. 

LATAM Sees Greater Growth in Flight Bookings Than Other Regions 

YOY change for Flight Booking, 2020 YTD Index: April 5 to November 14 

Sojern data shows that LATAM is currently experiencing the strongest recovery of the regions in flight bookings. When comparing volume since April 5, 2020 across regions, LATAM is showing the highest amount of recovery/growth–most of which happened in late summer and fall whereas other regions saw their volume pick up sooner. Experts warn LATAM nations that while the spread is low in some areas, they should continue to exercise safety and health precautions and remain extremely cautious during the second wave of the virus, which began in four major countries in LATAM: Argentina, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru. 

Mexico Sees Steady Recovery Compared with Other LATAM Countries

International Flight Search, 2020 YTD Index: April 5 to November 14

Travel Confidence Continues to Improve Across LATAM 

International Flight Booking, 2020 YTD Index: April 5 to November 14 

All nine countries reviewed in this data (Argentina, Belize, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Mexico, Panama, and Peru) see a recovery in flight searches since the low point on April 5, with Mexico showing the most steady recovery in searches. Unfortunately, Mexico hit 1 million cases over the weekend. In Mexico City, considered a hot spot for the virus, the Mayor announced Friday the temporary closing of bars and early closing of restaurants and gyms to slow the spread. We could see these flight searches go down if the spread becomes greater. We also see a relatively steady increase in flight bookings to the nine countries listed above, barring a dip in late October which could be related to the second wave arriving during this time frame with four countries (Argentina, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru) reaching 1 million cases. 

Compared to Volume Change Since Week of January 5, Flight Bookings to Mexico Only 11% Below 2019 Change Over Same Period

Year-over-Year (YoY) Global Flight Bookings Percentage Change in LATAM Indexed: January 5 to November 14 

This graph looks at the YoY percent change since January 5 for 2020 vs. 2019 in the following countries: Argentina (down 50% YoY), Belize (down 36% YoY), Chile (down 50% YoY), Colombia (down 72% YoY), Costa Rica (down 27% YoY), Guatemala (down 36% YoY), Mexico (down 11% YoY), Panama (down 40% YoY), and Peru (down 66% YoY). 

Again, we see that Mexico is leading the way for recovery–down only 11% YoY in flight bookings the week of November 9. In fact, Mexico has been one bright spot of the region, and has returned to 80-100% of capacity. This is surprising considering the state of the pandemic, however it could indicate the desire to escape winter conditions across some regions and social distance on the beach in a warmer climate to an easily accessible place for many regions.

In terms of domestic travel, residents of Mexico may have access to more disposable income than many other LATAM regions. Limitations on international and regional travel are likely driving more domestic demand. There also appears to be a correlation between a lack of restrictions and growing bookings, so countries with the least restrictions, like Mexico, are showing stronger bookings. Mexico is nearing peak season around the Christmas holiday and lasts until March, correlating with the Southern hemisphere’s summer, so we’ll continue to monitor flight trends in the region and share insights. 

LATAM Hotel Searches on the Rise 

YoY change in Hotel Searches, 2020 YTD Index April 5 to November 14

While we see a sharp uptick in hotel searches to EMEA as cases began to decline in the region, we also see a sharp decline in searches around the end of July. We see relatively consistent growth across the rest of the regions. LATAM shows the strongest hotel search recovery of the regions as of the week of November 9 when looking at recovery from the week commencing April 5. 

Hotel Bookings to LATAM Continue to See Strong Growth 

YoY change for Hotel Booking, 2020 YTD Index: April 5 to November 14 

Again, we see a drop off in hotel bookings to EMEA, but growing travel confidence to LATAM as indicated by the rise in bookings since mid-October. 

Hotel Searches to Several LATAM Countries 

Hotel search, 2020 YTD Index: April 5 to November 14 

Across Belize, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Panama, and Peru, we see a slight uptick in searches or they remain relatively steady since the low point on April 5. In Mexico, Colombia, Chile, and Argentina, we see varied levels of growth, with a dip for all at the end of October, likely due to the spike in cases that was deemed the beginning of the second wave. 

Conclusion

As cases rise and lockdowns are being implemented again in regions across the globe, we may see changes in our search and booking data. We will continue to share more insights as we monitor the situation. These forward looking insights will ideally help travel marketers in LATAM bring tourism back to the region and shape their strategies as the travel industry recovers. 

View more real-time insights on our custom COVID-19 dashboard


About Christy Jobman

Christy is Sojern's Marketing Manager, US, Canada, & LATAM. She loves all things communications and she's so happy to be using the Communications/Journalism degree she earned at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. When she's not building relationships and cross collaborating to build out collateral for the sales teams and account managers at Sojern, she's coaching at her gym, dabbling in the non-profits world, exploring, and cooking new dishes.

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