Year in Review


On 6 January 2022, it will be precisely two years since we first reported the story of a mystery virus in Wuhan, one that authorities declared was not SARS but a new phenomenon – named in February 2020 as COVID-19. Travel, tourism and travel retail have been battling its effects ever since, with a deep and lasting impact on lives, jobs, incomes, companies – their valuations, reputations and very existence – and forcing all those with a stake in that ecosystem to examine their role, structure and health, both for today and tomorrow. As this second anniversary approaches, much has changed from a year ago. Vaccinations, at an early stage at the start of 2021, have rolled out across the developed world, saving many lives. But the shame of vaccine inequity, with 69% of all distributed vaccines around the world concentrated in just ten countries, means that billions remain vulnerable, in turn putting the recovery, health and future prosperity of the wider world at risk. [Like others in the travel sector we support the Go Give One campaign to help fund COVID-19 vaccines worldwide. Click here for details on how you can participate.] Travel, encouragingly, has rebounded in many markets through 2021 as restrictions have been eased in line with the spread of vaccinations. US, China, Brazil and Russia domestic markets continue to benefit from strong growth; so too destinations in the Americas popular with US visitors and holiday hotspots in southern Europe, notably from mid-year onwards. Data analyst ForwardKeys recently published an illuminating list of top destination cities worldwide for arrivals in 2021 that indicate some of those shifting travel patterns.

Top destination cities in 2021 vs 2019

Worldwide international arrivals in January ­- December 2021 as of 23 November 2021, vs same period 2019

Source: ForwardKeys Air Ticket Data

While Dubai remains at the top of the list, the most notable rises include Miami, which leapt from 18th to fifth, Madrid from 16th to tenth and, new into the list, Cancún (Mexico) at second. Other notable inclusions in the top 20 are Cairo (Egypt) at ninth, Punta Cana (Dominican Republic) at 12th, San Juan (Puerto Rico) at 13th, Lisbon at 14th, Athens at 15th, Mexico City at 16th, Palma Mallorca at 17th and Frankfurt at 20th. Major pre-pandemic destination cities that have fallen out of the top 20 list include Bangkok, Tokyo, Seoul, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taipei, Shanghai, Jeddah, Los Angeles and Osaka. Note the Asian domination of that list. Changing traffic flows, new travel rules and the speed with which the aviation industry reacted to crisis this year have also played a part in reshaping the list of airport power players. In the Middle East, Hamad International in Doha led Dubai (in traffic terms) for much of 2021, becoming the preeminent hub connecting traffic between South Asia, Middle East, North America and Sub-Saharan Africa (ForwardKeys data). By share of intercontinental flight connections, Amsterdam is the global leader in 2021, followed by Frankfurt, Istanbul, Doha and Dubai.

Broadly, the picture of recovery ran positively from the first quarter of 2021, when global air traffic was less than 20% of 2019 levels, to the fourth quarter, when it had climbed to over 50% – even with sharp downturns associated with the Delta variant sweeping the world (March) and a dampening of travel demand associated with Omicron (since early November). Now, the emergence of Omicron casts us back to the start of 2021, when uncertainty about travel ran high, and when few travellers were booking more than a few days or at most weeks ahead. Demand is already muted for the holiday season ahead and the spread of the variant – and how it is managed by governments – will be a key factor in dictating the fortunes of our sector in early 2022.

The Moodie Davitt Report: An updated portfolio of titles amid changed times

Click the video above for The Moodie Davitt Report’s snapshot of 2021

Against that shifting backdrop for the travel market through the year, our own coverage has evolved too. We have continued to report fast and frequently on changing restrictions and on the welcome reopening of markets, but also on the shutdowns that have punctured our optimism at certain intervals – reminders that the pandemic remains very much with us. With the industry broadly in rebuilding mode, we have also brought readers extensive coverage of stories that reflect innovation and investment across both physical and digital space, and reported a flurry of outstanding consumer campaigns. Look at how brands and retailers in the Hainan offshore duty free channel are embracing the opportunity to engage with the Chinese consumer through a heady blend of physical activations and targeted digital communications. It’s almost certain that this market will remain the world’s most dynamic location for travel retail in 2022.

Our Spotlight eZine titles have covered a range of themes in 2021, delivered with elegant design and punchy journalism

Watch also in coming months as Hamad International Airport peels away the hoardings on its ambitious terminal expansion to reveal the latest stage in its transformed customer experience, as the FIFA World Cup comes to Qatar in late 2022. Or take note of the next phase in the consumer and commercial evolution at locations that are critical to our industry’s economic health and reputation, from Singapore to Dubai to Zürich to Heathrow to New York JFK, as momentum builds behind what has so far been a stuttering recovery.

Our best-read stories of 2021 reflect that keen reader interest in projects of ambition and quality alongside subjects that underline how diverse and varied our channel remains. Those stories (see list below) include the opening of two shopping arenas with DFS’ stamp on them, Haikou Mission Hills in Hainan and La Samaritaine Paris Pont-Neuf; China Duty Free Group’s rise to become the world number-one travel retailer by sales; Louis Vuitton’s refocusing on the airport channel; the re-energising of the cruise retail business; and, of course, the impact of Brexit. We have also devoted more space than ever to addressing topics such as sustainability, diversity and inclusion, themes that matter to us, to our readers and to the traveller audiences that our industry serves. We promise to do that with even more emphasis in 2022, while working constantly to remain true to our values and be an honourable, trusted partner, employer and corporate citizen. As this year closes – one characterised by resilience, reimagination and (partial) recovery for our sector – we wish all of our readers health and happiness, and safe passage through 2022.

Martin Moodie Founder & Chairman

Dermot Davitt President & Editorial Director

Best read stories of 2021

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The Moodie Davitt eZine Issue 304 | 21 December 2021

The Moodie Davitt eZine is published 15 times per year by The Moodie Davitt Report (Moodie International Ltd). © All material is copyright and cannot be reproduced without the permission of the Publisher. To find out more visit and to subscribe, please e-mail

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