Summer 2022 travel prospects look optimistic for Europe
Despite the challenging end to 2021 and ongoing COVID-19 travel restrictions, travel prospects across Europe shows more resilience, with signs of optimism for the early 2022 summer months.
The Omicron outbreak and the fragmented travel restrictions in response to the new variant have negatively impacted Europeans’ travel confidence at the beginning of 2021. However, travel sentiment across Europe shows more resilience, with signs of optimism for the early summer months. This is according to the latest research on ‘Monitoring Sentiment for Domestic and Intra-European Travel – Wave 10’ by the European Travel Commission (ETC), which provides timely insights on Europeans’ short-term travel intentions and preferences during the COVID-19 pandemic.
New wave of uncertainty caused by Omicron spread
Due to the disruption brought about by the Omicron variant on Europe’s travel environment, Europeans are once again battling uncertainty when it comes to travel. Newly introduced restrictions and requirements, even for vaccinated or recovered travellers, hampered Europeans’ readiness to travel (-eight per cent) and has left many unsure about the timing of their next trip. Fragmented policies across Europe towards the validity period of the EU Digital COVID certificate for national use also undermined its role as a tool to facilitate travel (down 11 per cent from September 2021). Furthermore, an increasing number of Europeans believe that strict health protocols in destinations have a direct negative effect on their travel experiences.
As a result, Europeans are avoiding making concrete plans and bookings. For instance, hesitation on when to travel has increased from 11 per cent in September 2021 to 21 per cent in December. 36 per cent of ‘early bird’ travellers plan to embark on holidays in May or June 2022, and only 17 per cent of them have fully booked their next trip.
Signs of optimism for early-summer vacations and business travel
Nonetheless, more than half (61 per cent) of Europeans remain optimistic about travelling between January to June 2022, demonstrating continuous resilience in spite of disruption caused by Omicron. Intra-European trips remain the preferred choice for 50 per cent of ‘early bird’ travellers.
The intention to stay longer and spend more while at their chosen destination is another positive trend amongst travellers. This correlates to a growing desire for trips in early summer. Preference for journeys of over 10 nights surges by 38 per cent compared to the previous survey, while the share of travellers planning to spend more than €2.000 grows by 31 per cent, specifically among those with travel plans in May or June 2022.
Leisure travel remains the top choice for 63 per cent of ‘travel-ready’ Europeans. At the same time, business travel is also showing signs of improvement for the first time since autumn 2020. Over the next months, 15 per cent of respondents expect to travel for business or participate in events and conferences.
Last-minute bookings as travellers look for enhanced flexibility
In the short and mid-term, Europeans expressed a desire to see a healthy balance between COVID-19 protection measures and the ability to enjoy themselves while travelling. Quarantine measures remain a major concern to travel around Europe (18 per cent), followed by the rising COVID-19 cases at the destination (15 per cent) and potential changes in travel restrictions (14 per cent). To realise their winter and spring travel plans, Europeans count on vaccination (14 per cent), on flexible cancellation policies (11 per cent), on destinations’ effectiveness in managing COVID-19 (10 per cent), and fully lifted restrictions (nine per cent) as key drivers to travel.
Even though Europeans are eager to travel, they are delaying the booking process in the hope of enjoying more freedom and mobility later. Thus, trip planning is prolonged, and the booking window is broadened: four out of 10 have chosen their destination but have not yet booked, while only 19 per cent have partially booked transportation or accommodation for their next trip.