ETC: Global Air Bookings to Europe Down 72 Percent Versus 2019

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The European Travel Commission (ETC) is calling on European Union (E.U.) governments to better coordinate their COVID-19 (coronavirus) recovery efforts by adopting a harmonized approach to lifting or reinstalling restrictions and safety measures, as tourism confidence plummets to a record low across the continent. Taking into account the latest epidemiological developments across Europe, ETC also insists that any potential new measures should be local and science-based, avoiding imposing blanket country bans or quarantines, and should be communicated to travelers well before their travel dates.

The announcement follows on the heels of the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) calling on G7 governments and others to coordinate their recovery efforts.

While many Europeans are keen to travel again and enjoy summer 2020, ETC says they don’t have the confidence to book a trip given the lack of clarity around border barriers, availability of transportation, along with the health and safety protocols in their chosen destination. New data from Sojern, which collects and analyzes travel intent data from thousands of airline and hotel partners from around the world, highlights that despite most restrictions in Europe being lifted in mid-June, European tourism is showing very slow recovery. Sojern, working with ETC, analyzed search and booking data across three aspects of the European tourism market: domestic travel, travel between European countries and international trips to Europe.

Here’s what they found:

Domestic travel: European interest for domestic travel, as expressed in flight searches and bookings, remained very low in July 2020 with year-over-year drops of 37 percent 67 percent, respectively. While the current situation does not look encouraging with actual flight bookings being very low, an upward trend in searches for domestic flights has been recorded in the second half of July, which is indicative of people’s enthusiasm to travel within their countries, meaning it is now more critical than ever for a coherent coordinated E.U. response.

Intra-European travel: The first two weeks of July saw a slight increase in air bookings (up 6 percent) for intra-European travel when compared to June. As the month progressed, however, this positive trend faded, with flight bookings dropping again. Similarly, searches picked up only slightly. These fluctuations demonstrate people’s simultaneous eagerness and hesitation about travellng in these uncertain times, according to ETC.  

International travel in Europe: Global searches and air bookings to Europe are also well below last year’s levels for July, down 67 percent and 72 percent, respectively, with Sojern’s data showing that this downward trend has been almost flatlining since May. Searches from overseas consumers for travel to Europe declined by 4 percent between the first and the last week of July, which may be taken, partially, according to ETC, as a signal of weakening interest. This trend is a further illustration that the rebound of long-haul travel will take considerable time, as well as concerted effort from industry and regulators alike. 

Proving the importance of tourism recovery as a catalyst for European economic revival, the latest WTTC research shows that every 2.7 percent increase in travel flows would generate or bring back 1 million jobs in the sector.

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