Skift Take

Upward we go. The Skift Recovery index registered a 4 point increase in February, no mean feat compared to the almost complete absence of movement over the past six months. Declining case counts and relaxing lockdown restrictions are to thank.

While many of the industry’s discussions focus on the rollout of vaccines, the Skift Recovery Index shows that at present there is little relation between vaccination success and travel industry performance. Instead, a strong determining factor appears to be case counts, and the good news is that they decreased in many countries during the month of February.

Vaccines will undoubtedly start to have an impact on travel’s performance over the coming months, with more and more countries announcing roadmaps towards opening up to international travelers with vaccination passports. But for now, at least, it is particularly the fall in case counts that boosted the industry’s performance during February, with the Skift Recovery Index increasing 4 points to now stand at 49 points relative to a baseline reading of 100 for the same month in 2019.

Skift Research has produced a new dashboard, accessible at, which shows the relationship between new Covid-19 cases and the Skift Recovery Index scores in 22 countries.

U.S. Takes Back Top Spot in Recovery Index

The U.S. registered a strong increase in performance with passenger throughput as tracked by TSA now consistently around the 1 million per day mark. Data from our Skift Recovery Index data partners also shows that hotel bookings shot up in February to reach 70 percent of pre-pandemic levels.

All this while new daily cases fell dramatically, from an average of around 200,000 new cases per day in December 2020 and January 2021, to 85,000 in February. We see the impact on travel immediately, with the Index score for the U.S. rising from 48 points in December to 62 points in February.

In Europe new cases are also on the way done, with lockdown restrictions slowly being lifted as a result. We are seeing some considerable improvements in the performance in the region. Skyscanner shared some telling data with Skift Research that perfectly represents the growing optimism felt in Europe.

The UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a roadmap out of the county’s lockdown, with a potential opening of borders after May 17. The day after the announcement was made on February 21, flight bookings to popular summer destinations like Spain, Greece, Italy, and Turkey skyrocketed. Some real concrete evidence of the pent up demand that the industry will hope will materialize over the coming months.

Not Good News Everywhere

Not every country registered growth in February. The United Arab Emirates, for example, saw travel performance falling. The country has had low case counts throughout 2020, and seemed to handle the situation well. Around 300,000 people traveled from the United Kingdom to the UAE in November and December alone, numbers that are unheard of in today’s environment.

At an Index score of 60 points, the UAE had the highest score of any country at the end of 2020. Since then, however, performance has dropped while new Covid cases have increased. As our colleague Reem Abdellatif writes: “The city welcomed international visitors too soon … Dubai was accused by the global community of being a ‘super-spreader’ of the virus abroad.” It has fallen back to a score of 51 points.

Skift Research’s latest report, discussing the February 2021 Highlights from the Skift Recovery Index is now available to our subscribers.

Subscribe to Skift Research Reports

Skift Research published its latest report highlighting how travel performance was shaping up during the month of February. The report analyzes recovery by travel sector, as well as by country.

The Skift Recovery Index is a real-time measure of where the travel industry at large — and the core verticals within it — stands in recovering from the Covid-19 pandemic. We work with 17 data partners to track how different sectors and countries are recovering from the current pandemic.

The index provides the travel industry with a powerful tool for strategic planning, of utmost importance in this uncertain business climate. Skift Research members have access to all data and reports.


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Tags: covid-19, skift recovery index, skift research, united arab emirates, united states

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