Skift Travel News Blog

Short stories and posts about the daily news happenings around the travel industry.

Ground Transport

Amtrak Ridership Jumped a Quarter in Fiscal 2023, Fell Short of Full Recovery

4 months ago

Amtrak carried 28.6 million customers on train trips during its latest fiscal year. That number, while an improvement of nearly a quarter from 2022, fell short of its aim to match pre-pandemic ridership of 32.5 million trips.

But even as overall numbers fell short of those four years ago, Amtrak said Thursday that the number of trips across its national passenger rail network had fully recovered — and was up in some places — by September, the last month of its 2023 fiscal year.

“Amtrak ridership continues to set post-pandemic records,” CEO Stephen Gardner said in a statement Thursday. “We’re inspired by the soaring demand for intercity passenger rail and are eager to continue connecting more people and places.”

Amtrak Pacific Surfliner trains in San Diego
Amtrak Pacific Surfliner trains in San Diego. (wyliepoon/Flickr)

The railroad has ambitious expansion plans, dubbed Connect U.S. and largely funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, that could see it add dozens of new passenger rail corridors and trains across the country over the next decade. The first route of that expansion could be new service between New Orleans and Mobile, Ala., sometime next year. The route was previously operated in 2005 but suspended after Hurricane Katrina damaged tracks. And, new engines and passenger cars on order will add capacity and improve service on everything from Amtrak’s high-speed Acela train to its state-funded corridors and long-distance trains.

During the year ending in September, Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor that connects Boston, New York, and Washington, D.C., was once again its busiest route. The railroad carried 12.1 million riders on the corridor, up 31% from last year and down just 3% from 2019. Ridership fell 7% on its second busiest route, the Pacific Surfliner in California, to 1.5 million trips during the year; trains on the corridor between Los Angeles and San Diego were affected for up to six months last fall after coastal erosion temporarily closed the tracks.

Amtrak’s ridership numbers indicate that privately owned Brightline’s new Miami-Orlando passenger rail line that opened in September will likely be the second busiest intercity passenger train this year.

Amtrak posted some of its biggest ridership gains on state-supported routes in Connecticut, North Carolina, Vermont, and Virginia. The largest jump was to Norfolk where ridership doubled from 2019 to more than 480,000 passengers this year; Amtrak added a third daily train to Norfolk from Washington in 2022. And, affirming the maxim “build it and they will come,” ridership climbed nearly 72% compared to four years ago to nearly 87,000 passengers on the railroad’s Ethan Allen service to Vermont that was extended to Burlington last July.

Amtrak leadership will discuss the railroad’s performance and plans at a public board meeting on Friday.

Tourism

International Travel to U.S. Hit 84% of Pre-Pandemic Level in July

6 months ago

Nearly 6.5 million international travelers came to the U.S. in July, representing 84% of its pre-pandemic level, according to the National Travel and Tourism Office’s latest data release. Compared to July 2022, international travel to the U.S. is up 25%.

International travelers from overseas, i.e. not Mexico and Canada, totaled 3.1 million in July, up 21% from the same month last year. The United Kingdom, France and Germany were top overseas source countries for the U.S. in July.

Over 10.6 million Americans traveled abroad in July, which was up 17% from the same month in 2022 and 99% of its pre-pandemic level, according to the National Travel and Tourism Office.

Europe was the largest outbound overseas destination for Americans traveling abroad in July, having welcomed 2.3 million Americans traveling abroad, up 13% from the same month last year.

Airlines

TSA Expects U.S. Summer Flier Numbers to Beat 262 Million Record

8 months ago

The U.S. Transportation Security Administration expects the number of travelers passing through airport checkpoints to beat, if only slightly, the record of 262 million set four years ago.

The TSA screened nearly 228 million travelers from Memorial Day through August 29, or an average or roughly 2.5 million people a day, it said on Tuesday. The agency forecasts another 14 million more travelers passing through airport checkpoints over the six-day Labor Day holiday weekend from September 1-6. That equals roughly 242 million travelers from Memorial Day through Labor Day.

The balance of screenings needed to exceed 2019 numbers by roughly 1% — the agency’s growth forecast — are likely to come from adjustments between initial reports and final volumes, a TSA spokesperson said.

BWI TSA Security
A TSA checkpoint at Baltimore-Washington International Airport. (Edward Russell/Skift)

For the Labor Day weekend holiday, the unofficial end of summer in the U.S., the TSA expects 11% more screenings than last year, Administrator David Pekoske said.

“We are prepared for the increase in travel volumes and are working closely with our airline and airport partners to make sure we are maintaining our wait time standards of 30 minutes and under for standard screening lanes, and 10 minutes and under for TSA PreCheck lanes,” he said. “There are occasions where wait times may be longer, so we encourage you to arrive early, pack your patience and reach out to us before arriving to the airport if you have any questions on our security procedures or items you may bring.”

American Airlines forecasts carrying 3.5 million travelers from August 31 through September 5, and Untied Airlines 2.8 million travelers over the same period.

Airlines

American and Delta Add China Flights as Restrictions Ease

8 months ago

American Airlines and Delta Air Lines will both add more flights to China this fall and winter as geopolitical tensions between the U.S. and China begin easing.

Fort Worth, Texas-based American will add three weekly nonstops for a single daily flight on the Dallas-Fort Worth-Shanghai route in January, an airline spokesperson said Wednesday. And Atlanta-based Delta will add six weekly flights for a total of 10 — once daily Seattle-Shanghai and thrice-weekly Detroit-Shanghai — on October 29, the carrier also said Wednesday.

The additions come less than a week after U.S. and Chinese officials agreed to double the number of nonstop flights between the two countries to 48 a week — 24 for airlines of each country — from October 29. A sticking point in negotiations has been U.S. demands that flights on Chinese airlines to the U.S. avoid Russian airspace, which U.S. carriers are barred from crossing. Flights were capped at 24 a week since China eased Covid-19 travel restrictions in January.

Delta plane lands in Shanghai
A Delta Boeing 777 lands at Shanghai’s Pudong airport in 2018. (hans-johnson/Flickr)

Air China, China Eastern, China Southern, and United Airlines have also outlined plans to add more flights since the new frequency limit was unveiled. The three Chinese carriers each plan to operate five weekly flights through October 28, while United plans to offer at least eight weekly flights between San Francisco and both Beijing and Shanghai from November.

The flight limits have been blamed for stymieing the recovery of Chinese visitor flows to the U.S. The segment generated some $35 billion in annual spending in American cities before the pandemic.

“There won’t be a post-Covid recovery without China because it’s our number one spend market,” Brand USA President and CEO Chris Thompson said earlier in August.

Foreign airlines, like All Nippon Airways, Japan Airlines, and Korean Air, that lack the frequency restrictions their U.S. and Chinese competitors face have picked up connecting traffic on their China flights. ANA President and CEO Shinichi Inoue said in June that the U.S.-China restrictions had created “new demand” for the airline.

In 2019, there were more than 50 daily nonstop flights — or more than 360 weekly frequencies — between the U.S. and China, according to Cirium Diio schedules.

Tourism

Portugal Set a New Tourism Record in May

10 months ago

The number of foreign tourists visiting Portugal hit a record of more than 1.8 million in May, with visitors from the United States becoming the second-largest group, data from the National Statistics Institute (INE) showed on Friday.

Measuring only foreigners staying in Portuguese hotels, the number topped by far the 1.6 million people a year ago, and was above the 1.7 million reported in the same month of 2019, which was a record year for tourism, before the COVID-19 pandemic crippled global travel in 2020.

In the first five months of 2023, the number of foreign tourists visiting the Portugal surpassed 6.4 million, up from 5.7 million in the same period of 2019.

Tourism, a key driver of Portugal’s economy, accounted for almost 15% of gross domestic product before the pandemic.

Visitors from Britain represented the largest share of total arrivals in May, closely followed by the United States, which has significantly grown as a source of tourism to Portugal.France.

(Reporting by Patrícia Vicente Rua; Editing by Andrei Khalip and Angus MacSwan)

This article was from Reuters and was legally licensed through the Industry Dive Content Marketplace. Please direct all licensing questions to [email protected].

Spanish Airports Mark Fifth Straight Month of Post-Pandemic Growth

10 months ago

Passenger traffic at Aena’s Spanish airports exceeded pre-pandemic levels in May for the fifth consecutive month, while other European terminals still operate at a lower capacity than in 2019.

More than 25 million passengers transited Spanish airports in May, or 3.4% more than in the same period in 2019 and also 14% more than in the corresponding month last year.

In the first five months of the year, Aena airports handled almost 103 million passengers, or 28% more than in 2022, and 2.3% more than in 2019.

Passenger traffic at European airports in April was the closest to a full recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic of any month yet despite sharp hikes in air fares, but still a bit lower, Airports Council International (ACI) Europe has said.

May was also the busiest month for Britain’s Heathrow since the pandemic broke out, though passenger numbers are still slightly below those of four years ago.

(Reporting by Matteo Allievi; Editing by Inti Landauro and Clarence Fernandez)

This article was from Reuters and was legally licensed through the Industry Dive Content Marketplace. Please direct all licensing questions to [email protected].

Tourism

Chinese Shift from Short Holidays to Plan Longer Breaks for Labor Day

12 months ago

Outbound travel from mainland China during the Labor Day holiday period reached a three-year high this year, according to data released by travel technology company Travelport.

Also, unlike the rest of the year, the Labor Day period shows a notable increase in the length of travel with holidays lasting longer than 10 days, which could explain the popularity of long-haul destinations during this time.

Among the top 10 destinations during this period, long-haul stops like the UK and Canada have gained popularity, with the U.S. claiming the second spot, Travelport data showed.

Travel bookings for the Labor Day period increased 470 percent this year compared to 2022, while outbound bookings from mainland China in the first quarter increased by 331 percent compared to last year, said Travelport

Labor Day in China, which falls on May 1, is an annual public holiday. The period has been expanded to include a three-day break, making it one of the most popular times of the year for travel.

April 24 through May 7 (the week of Labor Day and the week prior) tend to be the most ideal dates for travelers to get away.

The five-day break starting Saturday will be the first long public holiday for Chinese travelers since the Lunar New Year.

Travelport observed that for the rest of the year, tourists from mainland China are taking shorter holidays as most trips span between two and four days.

As a result, Hong Kong and Macau are the top two destinations this year for which mainland Chinese travelers have made the highest number of bookings, according to Travelport.

According to the South China Morning Post, hotel room rates in Hong Kong have risen significantly in anticipation of the upcoming Labour Day holiday, even though reservations remain lower than pre-pandemic levels.

Meanwhile, the number of visitors to Macau in March increased by 271 percent compared to the same period last year, reaching 1,956,867, according to the Statistics and Census Service.

The majority of visitors, 1,242,358, were from Mainland China. From January to March, there were 4,948,358 arrivals with the average length of stay remaining stable at 1.2 days.

Emphasizing the trend for shorter trips, Travelport’s data also revealed that of all the flight options available from mainland China, the majority (71 percent) are bound for Asia Pacific.

Low Flight Capacity

China is currently facing challenges with flight capacity. A sentiment echoed by Trip.com Group while announcing its fourth quarterly results.

Even as Chinese carriers raised international capacity by 44 percent in April, adding 935,000 seats between March and April, the current international airline capacity is only 37 percent of what it was in April 2019, according to airline data firm OAG.

Moreover, international airline capacity constitutes only 4 percent of all Chinese airline capacity.

On December 27, when China made its much-anticipated announcement removing the quarantine requirement for inbound travelers, outbound flight bookings from mainland China increased by 247 percent when compared to the same day the previous month, Travelport noted.

Pent-up demand for outbound travel from mainland China is massive, with 40 percent of respondents in a McKinsey survey wanting to travel and prioritize international destinations for their next trip.

China has been the largest source market in the world for outbound tourism since 2012.

Chinese tourists made 166 million outbound international trips in 2019, spending $277 billion on global tourism.

Tour Operators

TUI Raising $1.9 Billion to Settle Corona State Aid Debt

1 year ago

TUI is closer to settling the substantial financial aid it received from German authorities during the pandemic. 

TUI chief financial officer Mathias Kiep said the company made an important step back to profitability by launching its intended $1.9 billion capital raise in a LinkedIn post on Friday, 24 March.

“On the back of our strong operational recovery and following an intense journey of preparation — most recently our AGM in February and the 10:1 reverse stock split thereafter. With the proceeds of the capital increase, we intend to repay the Corona state aid in full.” 

Kiep initially announced the raise plans during the company’s 2023 first quarter interim results, stating it would take place under the right market conditions after the company’s Economic Stabilization Fund debt had been recalculated from some $775 million to just short of $1 billion.    

Germany’s Economic Stabilization Fund was instrumental in ensuring the survival of German-based travel companies, including Lufthansa, with its initial lifeline stoking claims of an unfair advantage. It saw a stricter framework applied to the financial aid received by TUI.

The airline announced towards the end of 2022 that it was set to repay the balance of its state-owned debt.

Tourism

U.S. Traveler Spending Abroad Reached Nearly $16 Billion in January, a New High

1 year ago

Americans traveling abroad spent over $15.8 billion on travel to, and tourism-related activities within, other countries in January, more than any single month prior to the pandemic, according to the National Travel and Tourism Office.

International visitors spent over $14.7 billion in January on travel to, and tourism-related activities within, the U.S., causing the U.S. to experience a balance of trade deficit of nearly $1.1 billion in travel spending. That’s the third time in the past six months that the U.S. experienced a monthly trade deficit in travel spending. Compared to January 2021, international visitor spending rose nearly 64 percent in January.

Spending on travel and tourism-related goods and services, which include lodging and entertainment, totaled $7.9 billion in January, down from $11.5 billion for the same period in 2019.

Tourism

International Travel Volume to the U.S. in 2022 Reached 64 Percent of Pre-Pandemic Level

1 year ago

The U.S. hosted 51 million international visitors in 2022, amounting to 64 percent of its 2019 volume, according to the National Travel and Tourism Office’s latest data. Outbound travel from the U.S. totaled 80.8 million, down 19 percent from its pre-pandemic volume.

About 24 million traveled from overseas, i.e. not Canada and Mexico, up 161 percent from 2021. Western Europe was the largest regional source market with over 10 million visitors. South America came in second with 4.2 million. 

Among overseas countries, the UK was at the top with 3.5 million, followed by Germany at 1.5 million and France at 1.3 million. In 2022, New York was the largest point of entry at 4.5 million, Miami at second with 3.8 million, followed by Los Angeles at 2 million. 

In December, international inbound volume rose 46.2 percent year over year to 5 million, representing 73 percent of its pre-pandemic December volume. Overseas visitor volume to the U.S. totaled 2.5 million, representing 94 percent of its pre-pandemic December volume.