Visiting friends and relatives will be a driving force behind travel’s recovery, says GlobalData

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A desire to reconnect with family and friends after a year of stringent lockdown measures due to COVID-19 is likely greater than a leisure getaway in 2021, and therefore its power should not be underestimated in travel’s recovery, says GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

Johanna Bonhill-Smith, Travel & Tourism Analyst at GlobalData, comments: “GlobalData’s forecasts suggest that visiting friends and relatives (VFR) travel will experience higher growth, with a 17% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) between 2021-25, compared to leisure, growing at a 16.4% increase between the same time period.  While VFR will not surpass the number of international leisure getaways, it will play a vital role in travel’s recovery with 242 million international departures expected to be taken for this purpose by 2025.”

VFR was the second most typically taken holiday in 2019 by global respondents (46%) in GlobalData’s Q3 2019 consumer survey*. It was second only to ‘sun and beach getaways’ (58%). Even though a year of travel restrictions and more time at home may mean the desire for typical sun, sea and sand holiday will be strong, visiting family and friends is likely to be a greater priority for many people right now. In certain source markets it is also the most popular reason for travel, with 53% of travelers in the US prioritising this type of trip, followed by Australia (52%), Canada (49%), India (64%) and Saudi Arabia (60%).

Bonhill-Smith continues: “A more recent GlobalData survey revealed that 83% of global respondents were ‘extremely’, ‘quite’ or ‘slightly’ concerned about restrictions on socialising with friends and family**. Platforms such as Zoom, Facebook and WhatsApp have given consumers an opportunity to meet virtually, but this still isn’t quite the same as embracing a family member or properly sitting down together.”

During this pandemic, travel and tourism bodies worldwide have called for the sector to ‘reunite’ in its recovery. The aim for both destinations and tourism businesses right now should be to reunite families after over a year of international travel restrictions.

Bonhill-Smith adds: “Destinations can issue special visas or requirements that will make it easier for families to reunite. Airlines can ensure popular VFR routes are some of the first to be restored, hospitality businesses and attraction operators could offer incentives and discounts for families. All industries across the travel sector could be better informed to have a greater understanding of this tourism market.”