New Mastercard Study: Flights are Back + Spending on Experiences Up 34% from 2019

Updated: May 21

To paraphrase the late artist formerly known as Prince seems like "we're gonna party like it's...2019" according to a report this week released by the Mastercard Economics Institute global leisure and business flight bookings have surpassed pre-pandemic levels. The even bigger news, spending on experiences––restaurants, nightclubs, museums, etc.–– is up 34% over 2019! Here are some highlights of the study, Travel 2022: Trends and Transitions, which examined spending across 37 markets about the global state of travel in a post-vaccine and less restricted chapter of the pandemic era.

Mastercard Travel 2022

  • Up, up and away! Travel recovery has been largely a consumer story for much of the pandemic, but now that has shifted as leisure and business flights surpass pre-pandemic levels. By the end of April, global leisure flight bookings surpassed 2019 levels by 25%; short- and medium-haul leisure flight bookings were up 25% and 27%, respectively. Global business flight bookings exceeded pre-pandemic levels for the first time in March, with long-haul specifically growing double-digits in April. The return to the office was an important driver.

“If flight bookings continue at their current pace, an estimated 1.5 billion more passengers globally will fly in 2022 compared to last year.”
  • People want to DO stuff, not buy stuff: For the better part of a year, international tourists spent more on experiences instead of goods when in destinations. Experiential spending is now 34% above 2019 levels; the areas seeing the largest spending increases are bars and nightclubs (72%) and amusement parks, museums, concerts and other recreational activities (35%). International tourist spending on experiences in destination grew 60% in Singapore and roughly 23% in the U.S. In the U.K., spending growth each month in 2022 more than doubled compared to 2019 levels, currently 140% for April.

Mastercard Top 10 Travel Destinations
  • Loosening of restrictions resets tourism map for 2022: Not surprisingly, the ability and convenience of travel has been a driving factor in booking destinations, though 2022 has provided a clean slate with restrictions loosened in much of the world, aside from parts of Asia-Pacific. The result is that the U.S., U.K, Switzerland, Spain, and The Netherlands are now the top destinations for tourists globally.

  • Hard-hit transportation industries see spending rebound: Recent spending levels point to greater comfort with group travel. Global spending on cruises gained 62 percentage points from January to the end of April, though remains below 2019 levels. Buses are back at pre-pandemic levels, while passenger rail spend remains 7% below. Meanwhile, car road trips maintain their appeal, with spending on tolls and auto rentals up nearly 19% and 12%, respectively.


For more insights, read the full report here.