Travel apps bounce back as restrictions around movement ease
Tiahn Wetzler, Senior Manager, Content & Editorial, Adjust, Oct 12, 2021.
As many countries and markets around the world have begun easing travel restrictions and reopening borders, the use of travel apps has started to bounce back. As the possibility to reconnect with family and even explore new places is slowly becoming realistic in some markets, so is the popularity of travel apps, which suffered huge losses throughout lockdowns. Air travel, for example, has hit two million passengers per day in the U.S., which is close to the pre-pandemic level of around 2.5 million and up significantly from around 90,000 passengers in April 2020. Hotels and rental cars have also been in high demand.
In the U.S., travel apps have seen an 86% increase in downloads in July YoY, and Sensor Tower reported that first-time installs of travel apps on the App Store rose to 61 million and 24 million on Google Play during Q2 2021 — the highest quarterly adoption since the COVID-19 outbreak.
Adjust’s data reflects this growth, showing that following a massive decline in global installs and sessions for the travel apps vertical starting in April 2020, the industry is now rapidly recovering.
Travel apps are making a comeback
Global installs of travel apps decreased by 36% in 2020 compared to 2019, but are back up by 27% in 2021 so far. If we look at APAC, the bounceback is even more impressive. Installs declined 35% in 2020, but have skyrocketed by 86% in 2021. Compared to other regions, North America saw the most significant drop in installs in 2020 (43%), but has also come back with 21% in 2021 so far.
The huge decline for travel apps started globally in April 2020, and it’s April 2021 when things really started to turn around. In April 2020, global installs of travel apps were down 56% YoY compared to 2019 and in April of 2021, they were up 117% YoY.
Travelers spending more time in-app
Similar to installs, sessions have been picking up the pace as well. While not as drastic as installs, global sessions were down 9% in 2020 compared to the 2019 average. In 2021 up until the end of Q3, however, global sessions have jumped 26% compared to 2020. Again, we can compare April to highlight these respective turnarounds. In April 2020, global sessions dropped 44%, but in April 2021, they grew by 137%.
Compared to other regions, it’s APAC where the most significant increase in sessions can be seen, with a boost of 75% in 2021 so far. EMEA and North America follow with growth rates of 21% and 17%, respectively.
Session lengths are also increasing across the board and are much higher than pre-pandemic. While the global average session length in 2019 was 11.49 minutes, it was 16.02 in 2020 and has climbed to 16.94 in 2021. EMEA's session length grew the most in the 21 months, with 13 minutes in 2019, 19.46 in 2020, and 21.24 in 2021 so far. Session lengths in North America have been the most consistent, with 7.6 minutes in 2019, 7.1 in 2020, and 7.41 in 2021.
Similarly, when we compare the overall time spent in-app in Q2 of 2020 to Q2 of 2021, we see that users are engaging for more extended periods now that more options within the world of travel are possible. We can see that in Q2 2021, users spent far more time in-app overall throughout a 30 day period, with the average at the end of that period sitting at 5.15 minutes in Q2 2021, compared to 4.7 in Q2 2020.
What's next for travel apps?
While restrictions are easing, the travel industry is unlikely to return entirely to it’s pre-pandemic self any time soon. The success of apps in the travel vertical moving forward will depend on their ability to adapt to changes in consumer habits as well as the nature of travel itself. With a growing number of consumers eager and able to travel, apps need to ensure that they help make the process as accessible, safe and seamless as possible.
Travel restrictions differ between regions, countries and even states, and are still susceptible to overnight changes. It’s the apps that help travelers stay organized that will see the most success moving forward. Features like on-trip notifications, touchless mobile payments, digital boarding pass options and the ability to store health data are among those that will set apps apart and allow them to meet the demand of a changing global landscape.
To learn more about travel app marketing and how you can successfully grow your app, download our Mobile Travel Trends Report here.