COVID-19: Insights on Travel Impact, Europe #57

July 29, 2020

With our access to real-time traveller audiences and unmatched visibility into global travel demand, we’re in a unique position to share the current travel trends at the forefront of marketers’ minds. In this blog series, we’ll take a look at the data in order to aid travel marketers in their assessment of this worldwide event. They can use these trends to inform their marketing strategies during this period, as the industry stabilises. 

These insights are based on data collected on the 27th July, 2020. We will be reviewing our data on a regular basis in order to provide a view of trends and patterns in consumer behaviour. Sojern’s insights are based on over 350 million traveller profiles and billions of travel intent signals, however it does not capture one hundred percent of the travel market.

Steady Growth in Global Flight Searches to European Destinations 

There has been no major growth in searches to any selected European destination within the last few weeks. However, since the 5th July 2020, travel intent to Greece has revived, and continues to gain momentum at a greater pace than the other markets. It remains the country with the highest levels of travel intent compared to last year at -15%. 


YoY% Global Flight Searches to Key European Markets

The UK, Switzerland, Poland, and Greece are all showing more growth in bookings than in searches. This is a good sign that travel confidence is returning in these markets. However, in the remaining markets, bookings are lagging behind, as travellers continue to deliberate if they are confident in booking their trip whilst travel restrictions are still changing on a regular basis. Global flight bookings to Greece have almost returned to 2019 levels, sitting at -8% year-over-year (YoY). 


YoY% Global Flight Bookings to Key European Markets 

Increase in COVID-19 Cases Likely to Impact Summer Holidays to Spain

Spain reopened its borders to tourists on 21st June but has since experienced a steep incline in COVID-19 cases. As a result, some quarantine rules are being reinforced. For example, as of 26th July, UK travellers are being advised to travel to Spain for essential travel only, and will have to self-isolate for 14 days on their return, highlighting how fluid the current situation is. This will likely have a negative impact on bookings and searches to Spain over the coming weeks. Currently, bookings to Spain are 63% down YoY, and searches are 52% down. Looking at future departure dates for flight bookings to Spain, there is currently a peak in interest for July and August, but this is also expected to change as travellers begin to shift their summer plans to slightly later in the year, or change destinations, while cases in the area settle. 


YoY% Global Flight Booking Departure Dates to Spain from last 14 days

German Outbound Travel Recovery – Domestic, Regional, and International

Inbound and outbound travel across the world has been impacted by the pandemic, and the general consensus is that domestic travel will recover first, followed by regional, then international. We have seen this to be true in travel search and booking behaviour over the last few months, and we have focused on which markets are opening up, and where travellers feel most confident in booking their next trips. However, it is also interesting to look a little deeper into the outbound travel planning behaviours for a particular destination. Below, we take a look at where travellers situated in Germany are intending on travelling, where they feel most confident booking to, and when this will be. 

Firstly, flight searches originating in Germany show the true impact of the success countries such as Greece and Italy have had in recent months of managing the spread of COVID-19. It is very clear when looking at flight searches to a selection of key markets for German travellers, that travel confidence in Greece (one of the most successful countries in managing cases) has gone from previously the lowest of those shown below (pre-COVID impact), to now displaying the most positive recovery. YoY search levels have risen above those recorded for the same period in 2019, and have overtaken YoY searches seen in February 2020, before the impact of COVID. This suggests that Greece is replacing other destinations in the minds of German travellers, and this will have an impact on the other outbound destinations for the area. Flight searches to Italy, Spain, and Turkey have all shown YoY growth, but none as drastically as Greece. On average there is a steady increase in outbound regional travel, gradually returning to 2019 intent levels. 


YoY% German Origin Flight Searches to Key European Markets

When looking at hotel searches, we see a very similar story. Travel intent to Greece has grown the most dramatically, followed this time by Italy, Turkey, then Spain. This could be a reflection of the recent growth in COVID-19 cases across Spain. 


YoY% German Origin Hotel Searches for Key European Markets

Not only is the outbound German market looking to travel regionally, but global hotel searches and bookings suggest that confidence is growing internationally too. European hotel searches have risen 50% YoY above those experienced back in April when the region as a whole was experiencing the greatest impact on travel as a result of the pandemic. Indexing to the 12th April 2020 means that the volumes for each destination are adjusted to zero for this date, providing a more accurate comparison of how each region has fared against the others, in the same given period. Both hotel searches and bookings made in Germany show that Europe is currently the primary market. 

What is interesting is that regional travel intent and confidence have grown at a steady pace since April, but the impact on international travel was a lot longer-lasting. The next biggest YoY growth in hotel searches is for China, followed by the Middle East and Africa (MEA). Although China saw a growth in travel intent from German travellers, it appears that travel confidence has not recovered so quickly. However, bookings to MEA made in Germany, show a positive growth, especially over the last two weeks. This significant increase in booking volumes suggests that MEA is the first international travel destination that German travellers are confident in when planning their future trips. 


YoY% German Origin Hotel Searches and Bookings for Global Destinations – Indexed to 12th April 2020

Back in January before the major impact on global travel plans, September was the most popular month for German outbound travel to regional destinations. Travel plans for Italy and Spain appear to have shifted to August 2020, January 2020, and March 2021 being the most popular months for departure. However, trips continue to be booked to Greece for September suggesting that travel confidence is high, and German travellers are still dreaming of their Greek summer holidays.


YoY% German Origin Hotel Bookings for Future Months in Key Markets

We will continue to share more insights as we monitor the situation. Travel intent and confidence continue to grow across the region for both inbound, and outbound travel. Although it is clear that German travellers focused their initial efforts in planning local and regional trips, confidence is growing to the levels where international trips are increasingly on the agenda. However, Greek summer holidays remain mostly unaffected, with September bookings above the levels experienced in German outbound travel in 2019. These forward looking insights will hopefully help travel marketers shape their strategies as the industry recovers from this outbreak. 

For the rest of the COVID-19 insights series click here

About Suzy Ley

Suzy is Sojern's Marketing Manager, EMEA and APAC and works in the London office. With a background in Fashion, Technology and Interiors PR, as well as Marketing in the security industry, travel is her true passion and has led her to her previous role at Singapore Airlines, and current role at Sojern. She loves all things creative and can't resist taking part in an escape room.  

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