Travel Demand to U.S Surges following President Biden's Reopening Announcement

The United States announced Monday, September 20th that it will begin allowing vaccinated foreign visitors starting in November.

Adit Damodaran - Sep. 28, 2021

Search Demand

  • Searches for all inbound international U.S. flights have spiked 32% since the announcement, which represents a 21% increase above the weekly average. 

  • Specifically for round-trip flights from Europe to the U.S., searches are up a massive 133% since the announcement, and up 70% over the weekly average. This is by far the biggest increase we’ve seen on this particular segment this year. 

  • Search demand pickup has primarily been around inbound U.S. international flights, and while outbound international flights originating from the U.S. are seeing growth in searches, we have not noticed out-of-the-ordinary spikes along this segment.

Trip Watches 

  • Daily trip watches for all inbound International to U.S. flights spiked 27% on September 20th from the prior day, and rose a massive 31% above the weekly average. 

  • Trip watches for round-trip inbound flights from Europe rose the most among all international regions. Daily trip watches from Europe to the U.S. surged 68% from the day prior to the announcement, amounting to a 130% increase over the weekly average.

Bookings

  • The day of the announcement, inbound international bookings for round-trip flights from Europe to the U.S. shot up 160%. We have since observed a 73% increase in the rolling weekly average for flight bookings from Europe inbound to the U.S.. 

  • Each day since the announcement has represented the highest daily bookings from Europe to the U.S. we've seen since the beginning of the pandemic.

Airfare

  • Overall international airfare for round-trip flights both to and from the U.S. is on the upswing. After bottoming out in mid-September at $612/rt for outbound international flights and $490 for inbound international flights, airfare has increased 10% to $670/rt for outbound flights and 7% to $520 for inbound flights. 

  • Inbound international U.S. airfare is up 4% since the announcement, up to $523/rt from $502/rt. Interestingly, we haven’t yet observed an increase in inbound airfare from Europe, although demand has trended up strongly.

  • Compared to this time 2019, outbound international fares from the U.S. are 20% cheaper and inbound fares to the U.S. are 26% cheaper.

Destinations

  • The most searched U.S. destinations following the announcement on September 20th are New York City, NY (#1), Miami, FL (#2), and Los Angeles, CA (#3)

  • The highest trending U.S. destinations following the announcement on September 20th are Washington D.C. (#1), San Francisco, CA (#2), and Seattle, WA (#3).

Search Demand

Searches for all inbound international U.S. flights have spiked 32% since the announcement, which represents a 21% increase above the weekly average. 

U.S
International flight searches to the U.S

Specifically for round-trip flights from Europe to the U.S., searches are up a massive 133% since the announcement, and up 70% over the weekly average. This is by far the biggest increase we’ve seen on this particular segment this year.

Shops
Round-Trip Flight Searches from Europe to U.S

We’re not seeing out-of-the-ordinary increases in searches for outbound flights heading to Europe from the U.S., which makes sense given that the policy change was primarily one-way. We initially saw an 8% drop in weekly searches for outbound flights to Europe following the EU travel advisory at the tail end of August, but search volumes have since trended up steadily, likely as a result of historically low airfares throughout September for U.S. to Europe flights. 

Searches
Round-Trip Flight Searches for U.S to Europe

Thanksgiving Travel: Prior to the announcement, the United States represented just 34% of international flight searches from Europe for Thanksgiving week flights. Following the announcement, searches to the United States rose to 67% of international flight searches from Europe for Thanksgiving week, amounting to a 97% increase. This definitely outpaces interest in both 2020 and 2019 at this time as seen below, where the U.S. represented closer to 44% and 34% respectively of Thanksgiving international flight searches from Europe.

Percent
Percent of Round-Trip Searches from Europe for Thanksgiving

Christmas Travel: The effect was just as pronounced with international flights from Europe for Christmas week departures. Prior to the announcement, the United States represented 36% of international flight searches from Europe for Christmas travel. Following the announcement, the U.S. represented a significant 68% of searches from Europe for Christmas travel. This amounts to an 89% increase, and again far outpaces both 2020 and 2019, where in both years the U.S. represented 35% of international searches from Europe for Christmas travel. 

Trip Watches on Hopper

Hopper users can place a “trip watch” on an itinerary of their choice to subscribe to notifications about great deals we find. Daily trip watches for all inbound International to U.S. flights spiked 27% on September 20th from the prior day, and rose a massive 31% above the weekly average. 

Watches
Watches on Hopper for International Flights to the U.S

Trip watches for round-trip inbound flights from Europe rose the most among all international regions. Daily trip watches from Europe to the U.S. surged 68% from the day prior to the announcement, amounting to a 130% increase over the weekly average.

Flight
Flight Watches on Hopper from Europe to U.S

Bookings on Hopper

The day of the announcement, inbound international bookings for round-trip flights from Europe to the U.S. shot up 160%. We have since observed a 73% increase in the rolling weekly average for flight bookings from Europe inbound to the U.S.

Each day since the announcement has represented the highest daily bookings from Europe to the U.S. we've seen since the beginning of the pandemic.

Impact on Airfare Pricing

Overall international airfare for round-trip flights both to and from the U.S. is on the upswing. After bottoming out in mid-September at $612 round-trip for outbound international flights and $490 for inbound international flights, airfare has increased 10% to $670 round-trip for outbound flights and 7% to $520 for inbound flights. 

With sharp drops in outbound airfare to Europe bringing overall outbound international airfare to as low as $612, the dip was much lower than the $700 round-trip average for the month that we had forecast in August. Overall outbound international airfare is currently around 4% under our forecast. Our estimate for outbound international airfare at $750 round-trip by December would represent a 12% increase from current prices. 

Since the announcement, only inbound international U.S. airfares have risen, which correlates with where we are primarily seeing search demand volumes pick up (more so for inbound international flights than outbound international flights). Inbound international U.S. airfare is up 4% since the announcement, up to $523 round-trip from $502 round-trip.

Overall
International airfare prices for round-trip flights to and from the U.S

In September, airfare from the U.S. to Europe in particular dipped to the lowest we’ve ever seen since we began tracking airfare along this route five years ago. While fares still remain well below summer prices, those incredible deals are disappearing. Outbound flights to Europe from the U.S. are now just shy of $700 round-trip on average. Inbound flights from Europe to the U.S. are $685 round-trip on average, and interestingly have not yet increased following the announcement. We do expect both segments to increase in airfare into the holidays, with higher fares for those inbound flights.

Airfare
Airfare to and from Europe for Round-Trip Flights

In the following graphics, we compare current airfare to 2019 (pre-pandemic) levels for both inbound and outbound international flights to/from the U.S. 

For overall international airfare (all regions), both segments are currently cheaper than they were this time in 2019, with outbound international fares being 20% cheaper than 2019 levels and inbound international fares being 26% cheaper than 2019 levels. Similar to 2019, outbound round-trip airfares are more expensive than inbound round-trip flights, and by a similar margin (30% more expensive). 

Overall
Overall International Airfare for Round-Trip Flights to and from U.S

For Europe, outbound airfare to Europe remains cheaper than 2019 levels (by 17%) whereas inbound airfare from Europe is equivalent to 2019 prices. For much of this past month, outbound flights were cheaper than inbound flights, reversing the trend from 2019, and we expect this to continue following the announcement as demand for inbound flights to the U.S. ramps up (although as of today, both segments are roughly equal in price).

Airfare
Airfare to and from Europe for Round-Trip Flights

Destinations

Most Searched U.S Destinations from Foreign International Travelers

Hopper collects, from several Global Distribution System partners, 25 to 30 billion airfare price quotes every day from searches happening all across the web. Think of most searched rankings as a measure of “Where are most people thinking of going?” Note that this does tend to strongly correlate with larger cities. The most searched U.S. destinations following the announcement on September 20th are New York City, NY (#1), Miami, FL (#2), and Los Angeles, CA (#3). 

Most
Most Searched US Destinations from Inbound International Travelers

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