A ‘raft of uncertainties’ could put a damper on travel pricing in 2020, predicts latest CWT and GBTA global travel forecast

After posting sharp rises in 2019, prices in the global travel industry are likely to slow in 2020, with flights rising a modest +1.2%, hotels rising only +1.3%, and rental car rates up +1%, according to the sixth annual Global Travel Forecast, published last week by CWT and GBTA. While the global economy is doing well overall – and expected to grow a solid +3.6% in 2020 – “a raft of uncertainties are set to put a damper on pricing,” it says.

The 2020 Global Travel Forecast uses data generated by CWT Solutions Group, to give an early look at the trends and developments that will shape the business travel industry in the year ahead. It shows that technological advancements and an increasingly volatile economic and political landscape across the globe have changed today’s landscape for travel buyers and provides insights into the key drivers forcing these shifting priorities and gives a road map for travel buyers looking to plan their 2020 travel programmes.

“The risks and ambiguity have increased over the past few months – not least the threat of escalating trade wars, the impact of Brexit, possible oil supply shocks, and the growing likelihood of recession. This forecast will help travel buyers make the right decisions in an increasingly challenging environment,” says Kurt Ekert, CWT’s president and CEO.

There are notable regional differences in the forecast. Across Asia Pacific, Asia’s expansion has slowed down due to worsening US-China relations, tighter global financial conditions, and natural disasters. But the region remains the most dynamic, with steady GDP growth, benign inflation, and a sense of optimism. Air rates are forecast to rise +1.3%, hotel rates a similar +1.3% and ground service +0.5%.

In Europe, the Middle & Africa, it notes the International Monetary Fund (IMF) expects steady growth, ranging from +0.3% in the Middle East to +1.6% in Europe, and +3.6% in Africa. Across Europe, labour unrest, climate change protests, global trade wars, rising oil prices and regional terrorism all have the potential to cause a slowdown.

In fact across Eastern Europe it forecasts a -0.2% fall in air rates and a modest +0.7% rise in hotel rates and +1.5% in ground transport rates. In Western Europe air rates are forecast to rise +0.5% air rate rise, but hotel rates at 0.7% and ground at 0.5% will rise less than in Eastern Europe. Much higher rates are expected across Middle East & Africa with air up +2.2%, hotels up +2.5% and ground rising +0.5%.

Economic activity in Latin America continues to grow – albeit slower than anticipated – and is expected to rise +2.5% in 2020. A volatile political and economic situation in some of the largest economies like Argentina, Mexico and Brazil will hurt prospects, says the report and will see air rates slip -1.6%, hotel rates fall -0.4% and ground rates grow a modest +1%.

While the US economy is thriving, there is growing uncertainty, due to tariffs and trade wars. US GDP growth is set to slow to +2.1% in 2019, and slow further in 2020 and 2021, to +2% and +1.8%, respectively. But, this will still translate into rate rises across North America – up +2.3% for air and hotel and up +1% for ground transport.

Projections are based on transaction data from CWT’s global client portfolio, including anonymized client travel patterns, over the past ten years. Key macroeconomic and per-country indicators, such as current and expected GDP growth, the consumer price index, unemployment rates and crude oil prices, were used in the statistical model, as well as key supply-side drivers sourced from OAG and STR Global. All air statistics represent point of origin and include all trip types.

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