Forget the souvenir of the Japanese geisha girl; flick past the
Merlion keyring and leave the cuddly koala toy on the shelf.
Post-pandemic travellers are shrugging off souvenirs, instead demanding
experiences to compensate for almost two years of lockdown.
Tourism spending on "experiences" is roughly 34% above 2019 levels
and has outpaced spending on "things" since July 2021, according to the
Mastercard Economics Institute's third-annual travel report, Travel
2022: Trends & accommodations, and spending on the ground.
The return of the Experience Economy is a global trend, Mastercard
says. “In 2020 and 2021, spending made a sudden, but not surprising,
shift from services to goods. However, spending is now shifting back as
travellers seek out experiences on vacation instead of souvenirs.
“For example, through April 2022, our analysis shows that tourism
spending at bars and nightclubs is 72% above 2019 levels, while spending
at restaurants is 31% above.
“Tourists are also spending 35% more on amusement parks, museums,
concerts and other recreational activities. By comparison, tourist
spending on apparel, department stores, cosmetics and other retail
categories is down compared to 2019,” Mastercard reported.
By comparison with Europe where the experience economy is booming,
Mastercard found markets across Asia are a little more mixed.
South Korea, where borders opened in April 2022, has seen virtually
no inbound tourism, and Indonesia has seen less tourism for similar
reasons. Singapore, by contrast, has enjoyed robust tourism demand for
experiences and things through April 2022.
Other big winners as international travel returns:
Cruise breezes back: Despite huge challenges in the
cruise industry, Mastercard’s research shows spending on cruises
globally, including bookings, is roughly one-tenth below 2019 levels.
“This is another turnaround story, having started the year at roughly minus 75% below pre-pandemic levels.”
Business travel picks up: Business travel has staged an impressive comeback, according to an analysis by the Mastercard Economics Institute.
the end of March 2022, business flight bookings exceeded 2019 levels
for the first time since the pandemic started. Data through April 2022
points to this trend continuing.
A word of caution: Higher costs for airlines have
contributed to higher fares for travellers. Through April 2022, the
average airfare that travellers paid adjusted for the distance flown
increased roughly 18% since the start of the year.
Singapore, prices were recently pushing 27% of 2019 levels through
April 2022. Mastercard says this partly has to do with supply-side
constraints, most markedly in the labour market.