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Global travel intent to Europe continues to fluctuate says Sojern

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With the flexibility offered by cancellation policies now implemented by many airlines and hotels, travel intent and confidence are both showing signs of growth.

Will Europeans be going on their usual ‘Summer Holiday’ this year? If so, where? And for how long? These questions are on many travellers’, and travel marketers’ minds. With the volatility in the market, and the different rates of vaccine roll outs across the globe, it is still very hard to predict what the European Summer will look like in 2021. However, by looking at traveller
behaviour we can get a much clearer picture of how many people feel confident in planning and booking trips, and which locations are most popular for a 2021 summer getaway. With the flexibility offered by cancellation policies now implemented by many airlines and hotels, travel intent and confidence are both showing signs of growth. But this is not to say that demand has returned to pre-COVID-19 levels by any means. In fact, many remain cautious of travel due to factors including uncertainty around travel restrictions, and if or when people will receive the vaccine.

YTD Global Flight Searches to European Destinations - Indexed to W/C 5th April 2020

It is no surprise that global travel intent to European destinations continues to rise and fall as lockdowns and travel restrictions are implemented and lifted across the region and world. However, it is positive to see that flight search volumes have not dropped as low as they did back in April 2020 when the effects of the pandemic began to show.

Upcoming Travel Trends for the European Summer
As discussed across many of our previous blogs on travel insights, domestic and regional travel continue to lead the way in recovery due to the ever-changing restrictions being implemented. As a result, we have taken a closer look at regional travel trends for the coming months, and have highlighted the key trends we are seeing for the summer of 2021.

‘European Summer’ Regional Travel - Top European Origins for Flight Searches Comparing YoY 2019 (pre-COVID-19) & 2021 - Same Date RangeWe can get a good idea of which European countries are planning to go on regional trips this summer by looking at the top ten European origins searching for regional flights departing between 1st June and 31st August. Travellers from France, the United Kingdom (UK), and Italy are showing the highest levels of regional travel intent for this summer.

With that in mind, summer 2019 trips planned before February 9th 2019, compared to those planned prior to February 9th 2021 for this summer show very similar trends. In 2019 almost 60% of regional summer flight searches were made by France, Italy, and the UK. Similarly, this year around 55% of travel intent comes from the same three origin countries.

‘European Summer’ Regional Travel - Top European Destinations for Flight Bookings Comparing YoY 2019 (pre-COVID-19) & 2021 - Same Date RangeNot only are European travellers dreaming of their summer trips, many are also booking their travel and accommodation. When looking at the top ten European destinations that are currently being booked for this summer (between 1st June and 31st August) and comparing these volumes to 2019 bookings, there are some interesting differences.

Confidence in regional trips to Spain for summer in 2019 was high, with bookings to the country made before February 9th 2019 accounting for 32%. Spain continues to be a popular destination between European travellers currently planning for this summer, with 46% of regional flight bookings being to the country. Greece has also seen a growth in confidence, with 14% of regional flight bookings being made to the destination. This is a big increase from the 4% of bookings made in early 2019 for the summer months, potentially due to how well they dealt with the pandemic last summer. This makes Greece the second most popular country that European travellers have confidence in booking for this summer and is a positive sign for what are considered peak months for inbound travel. Portugal is another destination which has shown a growth in confidence.

On the contrary, flight bookings to the UK have dropped from 12% in 2019, to 3% in 2021. This is likely in part due to the current lockdowns and quarantine regulations that have recently been introduced for inbound travellers, as well as uncertainty around when leisure travel will be allowed again . Similar circumstances in France have likely caused the decrease in confidence
that we can see in the graph above, from 15% in 2019 to 10% in 2021. It is important to note that domestic travel intent and confidence are not always taken into account when looking at flight trends, and for an analysis of this, it is better to look at hotel searches and bookings.

‘European Summer’ Regional Travel - Top Travel Dates for Flight Searches Comparing YoY 2019 (pre-COVID-19) & 2021 - Same Date RangeUnlike previous years where we tend to see peaks in travel during certain weeks of the summer in line with summer holidays from school, and peak seasons for various destinations, the picture for this year is slightly different. Regional flight searches highlight that there is no clear standout week or date where European travellers are intending on departing for their holidays. This could be due to the volatility of travel at the minute with lockdowns still in place, so travellers are unsure of when destinations will be open, or when travel will be allowed.

‘European Summer’ Regional Travel - Hotel Searches, Duration of Stay Comparing YoY 2019 (pre-COVID-19) & 2021 - Same Date Range

Finally, when looking at the change in trip durations from those planned in 2019, compared to those being planned in 2021, there is a clear shift in preference to longer trips. This could reflect the fact that many have not taken a trip abroad in a long time due to the pandemic, or have holiday carried over from work from not taking a long break in 2020, meaning they are ready to ‘switch off’ and have a longer holiday. Compared to 2019 where 69% of hotel stays were being planned for a duration of zero to three days, this year that has decreased to 37%. In return, trips of four days or more have almost doubled in popularity from 31% to 61%.

Conclusion
The findings this month include an analysis of travel intent and confidence within Europe, focused on regional travel for the summer months. France, Italy, and the UK are currently the top three destinations searching for European Summer holidays. This has not changed in comparison to 2019. However, regional flight bookings show a slightly different pattern, with countries such as Spain and Greece benefiting from travellers making bookings already, whereas the UK and France have seen a drop in confidence compared to 2019 volumes. Lastly, we have explored which months European travellers are intending to travel, as well as trip
duration. There has been a significant shift towards longer trip durations when compared to 2019 summer holidays.

As the vaccine is rolled out more comprehensively across the globe, travel restrictions and quarantine requirements are bound to change. We will continue to share more insights as we monitor the situation.These insights help travel marketers shape their strategies as the industry recovers.

 

When talking about ‘European Summer’ in this article we are referring to the following destinations/origins to get a general overview - Belgium, Czechia, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, United Kingdom - unless otherwise stated.
When talking about ‘European Summer’ in this article we are referring to dates between 1st June and 31st August.

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