COVID-19: Insights on Travel Impact, Europe #6

March 30, 2020

With around 800,000 confirmed cases and over 35,000 deaths from COVID-19 globally as of 30th March, we are undoubtedly seeing significant impact across all industries around the world, including the travel industry. 

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 and be prepared for the recovery once the situation stabilises. 

Whilst no-one can anticipate the full impact of these exceptional circumstances, our data can provide some insight into how travellers are responding to the current situation, the more long-term impact that COVID-19 will have on destinations, and when the first signs of recovery start to appear. 

These insights are based on data collected on the 30th March, 2020. We will be reviewing our data on a weekly basis in order to provide a regular 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.

Global Flight Searches and Bookings to Europe Still Declining 

While unprecedented travel restrictions and lockdowns are still firmly in place across Europe, it’s no surprise that we see global flight searches and bookings to Europe continue to decline. 


Global flight searches to Key European Markets 


Global flight bookings to Key European Markets

Recovery will start domestically, then regionally before showing an uptick internationally 

This crisis has no doubt impacted the travel industry beyond what anyone expected or predicted.  It will take some time for the industry to recover and also for consumer confidence to return. As a result of this, we expect recovery to start domestically with travellers opting to travel closer to home. This is certainly the case for European countries including France (17%), Italy (103%) and the UK (60%) which all show a very early indication of year-over-year increases in domestic travel searches for January 2021. 


Domestic Flight Searches Made In Last 14 Days to Key European Destinations


Regional Travel to UK Showing Upward Trend For End of Year

When we look at regional travel bookings made in the last 14 days from Europe to the UK, we see an upward trend from November this year rising to a significant 724% above average year-over-year increase for Western European travel bookings. This spark of consumer confidence could potentially be a result of some low-cost carriers unveiling winter 2021-2021 sales and summer 2021 programmes early as well as releasing more flexible cancellation and booking policies. 


Regional Travel Bookings Made in Last 14 Days from Europe to UK  

UK Travellers Showing Pent-Up Demand For Travel to Spain 

The data shows that although UK travellers are in lockdown, they are still dreaming of and researching their next holiday.  Where we would usually see a spike in travel searches for the summer period, due to COVID-19, the data shows that travel searches over the summer are well below average with travellers preferring to plan their next trip for later in the year. And where are UK travellers dreaming of holidaying next? Spain. We see a notable spike in travel searches for January 2021 from the UK to Spain with a year-over-year increase of 1626%. From the data we see an early upward trend of travel searches from October this year onwards to Spain, France and even domestic travel within the UK. Travel searches from the UK to France in January 2021 show an early increase of 409% year-over-year and even Italy shows a significant above average year-over-year increase of 385%. UK travellers currently seem more reserved in planning trips to Germany with travel searches still below average.

Whilst actual travel bookings are a stronger sign of consumer confidence, many consumers will search out of general interest, to check for availability and pricing and for travel inspiration to their favourite destinations. The departure date of January 2021 is extremely far out and we usually only see a small percentage of early searches looking at regional travel this far in advance. We are, however, seeing an increase in early searches due to the current situation. Therefore, these numbers, although significant in terms of increases, are very early signs of travel intent. 


UK flight searches made in last 14 days to Key European Markets


International Flight Bookings to Europe Still Down For Year

As we said, due to the anticipated pace of returning consumer confidence, it is logical that domestic travel will be the first to rebound, regional next, and lastly international.  We are already seeing signs of this in our data. When we look at international flight bookings to Europe made in the last 14 days, the data shows that these overall remain well below average for the entire year up to January 2021. International flight bookings to Germany in January 2021 show a 70% year-over-year decline with Spain, France and the UK following a similar downward trend of declining year-over-year figures including -65%, -54% and -34% respectively.


European Flight Bookings From International Origins Made In Last 14 Days 

We will continue to share more insights as we monitor the situation. While global flight searches and bookings are inevitably declining rapidly due to travel restrictions and lockdowns, it is reassuring to see that there are sparks of European consumer travel intent towards the end of this year and for January 2021. We are also starting to see early signs of domestic and regional travel interest from UK travellers to destinations such as Spain and France in January 2021.  Whilst actual travel bookings are a stronger sign of consumer confidence, travel searches show a very early sign of travel intent. These forward looking insights will hopefully help travel marketers shape their strategies when the industry starts to recover from this outbreak. 

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

About Susie Bindman

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