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2020 traffic round-up and 2021 roadmap to recovery revealed in latest m1nd-set research

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Traffic declines during 2020 vary from -47% to -61% for domestic travel and from -69% to -82% for international travel according to m1nd-set. Total traffic fell from 4.48 billion travellers in 2019 to just over 1.7 billion travellers in 2020 globally, an overall (global average) decline of 62%.

Responsibility and sustainability, technology and online retail are fundamental to travel retail’s robust recovery according to m1nd-set. The latest m1nd-set research – and final report for 2020 – provides an in-depth retrospective on 2020 and the impact the Covid pandemic has made on global air traffic. The research also assesses how international travellers will change the way they travel as well as how their shopping behaviour will evolve, revealing both the global trend as well as an analysis across each world region.

The research analyses both international and domestic air traffic region by region for the full year 2020, with forecast data from October to December. The data is taken from m1nd-set’s traffic and shopper behaviour insights tool, B1S, which uses both current and forecast traffic from IATA’s air traffic database, DDS. The IATA database is the most comprehensive and precise air traffic data and forecasting tool as it compiles both actual flight and reservation data from more than 850 airlines, including 150 low cost carriers.

Traffic declines during 2020 vary from -47% to -61% for domestic travel and from -69% to -82% for international travel according to m1nd-set. Total traffic fell from 4.48 billion travellers in 2019 to just over 1.7 billion travellers in 2020 globally, an overall (global average) decline of 62%.

The research details the fluctuations both by airport regions and nationalities. The most significant decline is seen in Asia Pacific where international travel has nosedived from 508 million passengers in 2019 to 93 million in 2020. The hardest hit region for domestic travel in 2020 is Africa where passenger numbers have fallen by more than 61%, from 31.8 million in 2019 to just over 12 million in 2020. The most significant declines in traffic among the top-ranking nationalities for air travel were seen in China’s international market where passenger numbers have fallen by nearly 88%. India and Indonesia both experienced losses of circa 80% in international traffic by nationality, Spain -75% and both Italy and the United States, -73%.

The research reveals that when international travel restrictions are lifted, the majority of international travellers (79%) will be willing to travel by air again within the first 6 months. More than eight out of ten travellers will change their travel frequency on average though. Asia Pacific travellers will be the most likely to change (and reduce) their travel frequency (87%); the Chinese slightly less so (83%). 81% of travellers in the Middle East and Africa and 78% among travellers in the Americas will change their travel frequency, while in Europe considerably fewer than average (72%) will change travel frequency.

While 65% of international travellers plan to spend less time at the airport, fewer than one sixth of travellers will avoid the duty-free shops. According to m1nd-set around one in three shoppers will spend less time in the duty-free shops and the percentages of travellers considering not purchasing products in the duty-free shops on their next international trip remain quite low across the categories, varying from 8% for Tobacco to 17% for Toys.

Peter Mohn, Owner & CEO at m1nd-set commented: “With around two thirds of global travellers planning on spending less time at the airport on their next international flight, retailers and other commercial operators are going to have to make the airport shopping and dining experience all the more enticing in order to engage and excite passengers and draw them into the stores and restaurants.” Mohn continued: “The additional time that will be required to pass through security and immigration due to social distancing, means passengers will need to be encouraged to arrive earlier than usual at the airport, so there is sufficient time for them to browse the shops, grab a coffee, or wine and dine.”

Remaining relevant to guarantee robust recovery
The research concludes with some concrete recommendations for adapting and ensuring the business remains relevant to the post-pandemic consumer mindset. Mohn explained: “We have identified three key steps that will be essential for a robust recovery for travel retail. The inexorable shift towards online needs to be embraced by the industry more concretely and holistically firstly. Investments in state-of-the-art technology to provide a seamless contactless in-store experience to entice all consumers back to shop is another essential ingredient. Of equal importance – and perhaps of utmost importance for some customer segments – is how businesses perform on social and environmental responsibility. This will be one of the main drivers for customer and brand loyalty in the future as consumers will be more attentive to ethical and environmental values: how a product is sourced, whether the packaging is compostable, the impact of a product on physical health and whether the brand or retailer is placing planet over profit.”

Mohn concluded: “It will be essential for all stakeholders to anticipate these changes and adapt, to remain relevant to the post-pandemic consumer.”

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