Travel adspend recovery stalled until 2023 despite 36% boost next year

Domestic holidays are expected to remain popular, while business travel has been slower to bounce back, the report by Zenith says.

A parent and child look out of the airport terminal window as a plane takes flight
Travel adspend: recovery from the pandemic will stretch beyond this year [Getty Images]

Travel adspend is set for a 36% annual rise in 2022 but will not return to pre-pandemic levels until 2023, according to new international estimates.

A total $16.4 billion (£12.3 billion) is projected for advertising on airline and accommodation next year across 13 major markets including the UK, the US and China, data from media agency Zenith shows.

The figure is up on the $12 billion estimated for 2021 – which is a 24% increase on 2020 – but is still far off the pre-pandemic level of $18 billion in 2019.

Analysts from Zenith do not expect travel adspend to surpass pre-pandemic levels until 2023, when $19.6 billion should be within reach.

“Pent-up” demand for travel by consumers who were restricted during the Covid pandemic will be the main driver for adspend increases over the next few years, the latest Business Intelligence report from Zenith said.

However, the agency warned it will be “a long road back to pre-pandemic spending” after the travel ad market lost nearly half its value in 2020, compared with just a 4% contraction across the whole ad market.

Between 2019 and 2023, India and Russia are expected to see the biggest rises in travel adspend, increasing by 31% and 21% respectively.

“Here, rising disposable incomes mean more people are travelling, and existing travellers are travelling more frequently,” the report said.

In the US, where adspend is predicted to be 13% higher in 2023 compared with 2019, the “robust” market is pushing up media prices, in turn creating higher adspend.

The UK’s travel adspend is predicted to contract by 0.3% between 2019 and 2023, though France is expected to fare the worst, with spending declining by 8.6%.

Factors including consumer demand, media inflation and adoption of digital technology will dictate these changes, Zenith noted.

Despite the improving situation overall, the report warned: “In all markets, though, the recovery of travel advertising from the 2019 baseline will be well behind the growth of the market as a whole.”

Business travel is recovering “much more tentatively” than holiday trips and it is “far from clear” to what extent companies will use remote video-based meetings on a permanent basis.

Meanwhile, in almost all of the 13 markets, travel is expected to become more focused on domestic trips. In 2019, 28% of British spending on trips went towards UK travel, while in 2023 that is set to rise to 30%.

The pandemic made travellers realise the value of domestic trips – but at the same time there is a rising awareness of the environmental impact of going abroad, the report highlighted.

In the short term, ongoing government restrictions on travel due to the pandemic mean domestic trips, or those within nearby regions, are likely to be more popular with customers, it added.

Jonathan Barnard, head of forecasting at Zenith, said: “As travel begins to recover from the unprecedented drop in demand in 2020, brands are rebuilding their relationships with consumers, using digital technology to guide them at every stage.

“Online video in particular will play a key role in creating emotional connections with consumers, inviting them to take their first step on their digital journey."

Earlier this year, UK adspend across all sectors was expected to experience a 24.8% annual rise – to £29.3 billion – for 2021, higher than initial estimates.

Start Your Free 30-Day Free Trial

Get the very latest news and insight from Campaign with unrestricted access to, plus get exclusive discounts to Campaign events.

Become a subscriber


Don’t miss your daily fix of breaking news, latest work, advice and commentary.

register free