Stats: Europe Draws in Long-haul Travelers Despite Rising Costs

According to the latest “Long-Haul Travel Barometer (LHTB) 3/2023,” published by the European Travel Commission (ETC) and Eurail BV, long-haul travelers are showing enthusiasm to explore European destinations this autumn, with travel intention from key markers remaining steady or seeing an increase compared to last year.

The LHTB monitors travelers’ intentions to visit Europe in six key long-haul markets—Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Japan and the United States. The latest issue covers travel sentiment in the September–December 2023 period.

Interest in traveling to Europe has surged in China. Despite concerns about high travel costs and inflated airfares, 74 percent of Chinese survey respondents intend to visit a European destination between September and December 2023. This represents a notable 10 percent increase since the same period last year and an increase of 9 percent compared to autumn 2019, the last travel period before China closed its borders to travel. Travel enthusiasm also increased slightly in the U.S. (+3 percent) and Canada (+2 percent) despite rising inflation.

In Australia and Brazil, intention to travel to Europe declined slightly compared to last year. Australia recorded a 3 percent decrease, possibly due to increased interest in exploring other destinations and the Southern Hemisphere’s summer season, making domestic travel more attractive for them. Brazil also recorded a 3 percent decrease, but sentiment remains strong in this market, with over half (52 percent) of respondents expressing a desire to travel to Europe.

Japanese respondents showed a significant surge in travel intention to Europe, up 12 percent compared to the same period in 2022. However, despite the positive trend, Japan remains the most reserved among all surveyed markets, with only 25 percent of respondents intending to visit Europe in the coming months.

Although the desire to travel to Europe remains strong overall, prospective travelers in all six markets cite high prices as their primary deterrent. This applies especially to Brazil and Australia, where 45 percent and 40 percent of travelers respectively feel discouraged from a European holiday due to the high costs. Consequently, a growing number of travelers across all markets are placing greater significance on the perceived affordability of services and experiences within the destination (32 percent) compared to last year (28 percent).

Amid rising travel-related costs, tourists are adopting new strategies to maximize their experience while still fitting within the available budget. The most popular tactic is to reduce shopping expenses (35 percent), an approach which is particularly popular among respondents from Canada, Australia and Japan. Other new spending patterns include using loyalty schemes and affordable all-inclusive packages, both of which are considered by 30 percent of respondents in all markets and are particularly favored in Brazil and China.

Culture and history are mentioned as Europe’s biggest draws for travelers in five out of the six surveyed markets. The exception is China, where travelers’ strong interest in culture and history is secondary only to gastronomic and urban experiences. Notably, the overall interest in slow travel is growing this autumn (+7 percent compared to 2022), especially among tourists from Japan, Australia, Canada and the U.S.

World-renowned sites are also popular among long-haul travelers this autumn. An increasing number of respondents (+6 percent) indicated that they are most interested in visiting destinations that are home to Europe’s iconic landmarks, compared to the same period in 2022.

Favorable weather conditions are another key determiner of where travelers choose to travel. Climate considerations are especially important for Chinese tourists (39 percent), followed by Australians and Brazilians (both at 34 percent).

Australian travelers have shown an interesting shift in the preferred means of transportation between destinations. While air travel remains the predominant choice, there has been a notable increase (+8 percent) in interest in train passes and a slight uptick in bus travel (+2 percent).

For Canadian tourists, rail travel continues to hold the top spot as the preferred mode of transportation, with 34 percent of survey respondents inclined to buy a rail pass and 32 percent interested in at least a single train ticket. U.S. travelers are also being drawn in by rail transport’s affordability and efficiency of travel times despite having traditionally favored air travel.

Though rail holds a strong position as a transportation option for long-haul travelers, low-cost flights are the most popular. While rail has traditionally been Brazilian travelers’ preferred choice, air travel is gaining popularity, with interest in low-cost flights increasing by 13 percent in the Brazilian market. The same trend can be seen in the Canadian market, in which the popularity of cheap flights rose by 9 percent.

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