INTERNATIONAL. Domestic tourism is increasing and “lesser-known” airports are growing in importance, according to a new report by travel analytics firm ForwardKeys.

Its recent study of July flight data looked at regional airports worldwide to determine the busiest according to departing traveller volumes. Dallas (US), Chengdu (China), Moscow Domodedovo (Russia) and Sharjah (UAE), despite showing significant falls in passenger numbers, are still ahead of other major airports in their respective regions, according to the research.

The Americas and Asia Pacific have had a heavy recent reliance on domestic air passengers (Click to enlarge)

The Asia Pacific (APAC) region – the one to watch for recovery, ForwardKeys noted – had a -54.3% decline in bookings year-on-year, while the Middle East and Africa (MENA) region, which has been hit the hardest, is down -79%.

ForwardKeys said that this could be caused by a traditional reliance on international travel.

ForwardKeys Senior Analyst Lorena Garcia said: “More often than not, the travel data we’ve been collecting in the recent weeks is showing a similar pattern. People still want to travel and if travel restrictions make it too complicated to venture abroad, they’re spending their hard-earned cash locally.’’

In North America, domestic travel accounted for around 93% of total travel within the region for that month, against 77% in July 2019. Dallas has been the busiest airport so far this year, but Denver came in a close second.

The busiest US airport in terms of volumes was Atlanta, but Dallas performed better in July as it registered the lowest year-on-year decline in passenger numbers among the top five listed.

The passenger performance of major airport hubs across the regions in July (Click to enlarge)

Across the APAC region, where domestic travel registered around 95% of total air passengers in July against 66% in the corresponding month last year, Chinese travellers contributed 68% of total passenger numbers in the region.

Chinese city airport Chengdu proved to be the most resilient among the top five departing airports in the region, followed by Shenzhen. They registered a year-on-year decline of around -12%, far below the regional average for July of -54.3%.

ForwardKeys suggests Chengdu’s resilience may be down to its low percentage and reliance on international traffic when compared to the other regional airports. Pre-COVID-19, Shanghai Pudong, Beijing and Guangzhou international routes represented 45%, 25% and 23% of their total traffic respectively, while in Chengdu international routes only accounted for 9%.

Ease of travel and enhanced duty free allowances on popular resort island Hainan may be another factor, Garcia said. She added: “The increase in duty free allowances and discounted flexible air passes is working a treat in China. It gives us hope that this can transpire in other countries too.”

ForwardKeys’ research on Europe showed a different pattern, with international traffic accounting for around two thirds of total air travel in July – 64% against 79% last year. In the MENA region, international departures registered 84% of total departures in the region, compared to 83% the previous year.

Among major European airports, Moscow Domodedovo saw by far the lowest decrease of departing passengers this July of the airports surveyed when compared to last year, down -32%; as was the case for Sharjah airport in the MENA region, down by -25%.

ForwardKeys is a Silver Partner at the upcoming Moodie Davitt Virtual Travel Retail Expo 2020.