HIS MUCH is certain: travel in 2021 will be easier than in 2020. More flights will take off and land. A greater number of countries will welcome visitors. There will be fewer restrictions. But those gains will come, as statisticians like to say, from a very low base. After a year in which flights came to a near-complete standstill, many countries closed their borders and those that still allowed visitors imposed onerous restrictions, even the slightest loosening will be a welcome improvement.
The signs are encouraging. By September 2020, 115 of the 217 destinations tracked by the UN World Tourism Organisation had loosened their travel restrictions. Global hotel-occupancy rates more than doubled from a low of 22% in April to 47% in August. And travellers are keen to get going. According to Skyscanner, a price-comparison website, there is plenty of pent-up demand. Searches on the website spike every time Britain adds a country to its quarantine-exempt list. In China, where covid-19 cases are few, domestic air-travel approached pre-pandemic levels by August.