Europe Travel Demand Fragmented but Largely Moving Forward

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The COVID-19 pandemic has affected parts of Europe differently, especially the varied hotel segments across the continent.

Eduardo Santander, CEO and executive director of the European Travel Commission, provided some third quarter 2021 statistics that highlight the hotel industry across Europe. The ETC is a nonprofit organization established in 1948, comprised of representatives of European national tourism offices and partly funded by the European Commission.

The ETC’s findings emphasize the opportunities, challenges and often disparate nature of the continent as its numerous governments react differently to the pandemic. The European Union has tried to harmonize COVID-19 passports and pan-EU regulations and guidance to help ease travel.

European hotels appeared to gain back more occupancy, Santander said. Consumer interest in staying in hotels or resorts rose by 13% to its highest level since September 2020, and 25% of those surveyed expressed a preference for independent hotels. Continent-wide, Europe reported a 10.5% increase in hotel occupancy over the second quarter of 2021.

The popularity of short-term rentals isn’t waning, Santander said.

“European short-term rental reservations have recovered to [down just] 33% of 2019 levels throughout 2021, and now sit just behind North America — making it second in terms of world region recovery,” he said.

 

Approximately two thirds of Europeans surveyed in the ETC study planned to travel domestically or internationally in the fourth quarter of 2021 or the first quarter of 2022. However, this data was gathered in the third quarter of 2021 before the onset of the more transmissible omicron variant of COVID-19.

European travelers say they are most confident to travel to Poland (73%), Spain (72%), Italy (68.3%), The Netherlands (68.2%) and Germany (67.5%).

“Overall, assessing Europe’s performance this year, despite several destinations seeing a moderate rebound in tourist arrivals this summer, [more than] 50% [of markets] still posted declines in excess of 74% compared to 2019 volumes,” Santander said.

 

Greece was the first nation to reopen its borders to COVID-19-negative tourists, which paid dividends, Santander said. Greece hotels realized the strongest rebound in overnight bookings, which were only 19% behind 2019.

Several other European markets reported substantial tourist arrivals, including Croatia, Montenegro, Luxembourg and Monaco.

“Croatia was able to extend its outstanding performance off-season welcoming 1.9 million tourist arrivals in September,” Santander said.

Elsewhere, some European markets fared worse. The Czech Republic reported the sharpest decline in tourist arrivals, according to data through June of 2021. Santander said the Czech Republic’s travel outlook was marred by stringent COVID-19 restrictions in the first half of the year.

“In addition, [more than] 20% of the Czech Republic’s international arrivals are attributable to long-haul markets, with China and the U.S. ranking as the fourth and sixth largest source markets in 2019,” he said.

Finland similarly posted a sharp drop in inbound arrivals.

“Russia was Finland’s top source market in 2019, accounting for 12% of total international arrivals, but none of Russia’s authorized vaccines are on Finland’s list of approved vaccines,” Santander added.

 

According to ETC numbers, business-travel spend could rise by 36% when fourth quarter 2021 numbers come in, slightly ahead of leisure spending. In 2022, the ETC expects business travel in Europe to increase by a further 28%, Santander said.

“In-person meetings are still expected to remain a key tenet of business relationships,” he said. “Face-to-face contact remains a deep-rooted feature of business activity, and in-person meetings — including at large events — cannot be fully replaced by digital alternatives.”

source : costar

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