Airlines and hotels are starting to see lifts in bookings and traveller sentiment is strengthening in many parts of the world as vaccination programmes continue. As projected, the leisure and VFR markets are showing the strongest recovery, short-haul is ahead of long-haul and LCCs ahead of legacy models due to this current traveller demographic.
The travel space though remains complicated and a coordinated approach and structured rules on international travel will be crucial to instil confidence in the return of international travel, particularly for long-haul travel. Looking at Europe, frameworks are beginning to be put in place, but are complicated by government reactions to further waves of COVID-19 infections, particularly of more virulent strains such as those that have emerged and already spread from India, Nepal and Vietnam.
According to the latest research from the European Travel Commission (ETC) and Eurail even after a year of strict COVID-19 restrictions, travellers from overseas markets are still hopeful to travel but are also cautious to consider Europe as a destination due to the continuous lack of harmonised rules on travel across the region. “Over the coming months, unity and consistency of safety measures will be of key importance if European destinations are to capitalise on recent positive developments,” it says.
The Long-Haul Travel Barometer 2/2021 anticipates short-term travel intentions in five overseas markets – Brazil, China, Japan, Russia, and the United States every four months and provides some insights into how the rest of the world view travel to Europe. Intention to travel is measured in an index that reflects the dominant sentiment expressed by a market, either positive or negative. Values above 100 indicate a positive evolution, whereas values below 100 indicate negative attitudes towards travel in a given period.
The sentiment index for overseas travel in the US and Russia remains positive, however worryingly, only two in five respondents from these markets are optimistic about visiting Europe in summer 2021. US, Russia and Brazil are more optimistic in general about long-haul travel in summer 2021.
For US respondents, a positive index value of 110 points was recorded for long-haul travel, but that was a decrease of 17 points from the beginning of the year and shows sentiment is slipping as 2021 proves more of challenge. The index score drops even further to a negative sentiment at 97 points, suggesting that Americans are not yet confident that it will be possible to visit and move freely to and within Europe this summer.
In Russia, the situation is somewhat similar, with higher index values for general overseas trips (119 points) and lower index scores for overseas trips to Europe (93 points). Interestingly, Russian respondents appear not to be especially worried about COVID-19 when travelling, however, they are more cautious about travel-related costs, suggesting that affordability will be a top priority for future trips.
Brazilian respondents demonstrated optimism about travelling overseas (126 points) between May-2021 and Aug-2021, however, the sentiment for travelling to Europe is much lower at 100 index points. “It is unlikely that there will be an immediate improvement on this sentiment given that an increasing number of European countries are introducing entry bans on Brazilians due to a more transmissible variant of the COVID-19 virus,” notes the research.
Results from the Chinese market disclose eagerness for overseas travel to resume with 53% of respondents enthusiastic to travel abroad, but their understanding of current travel restrictions in Europe, however, reveals that only 26% were confident that they will travel to the region if permitted. “The evolution of travel demand from China is hard to predict at the moment,” notes the report, and will depend on mutual recognition of COVID-19 vaccines, the resumption of air activity between the regions, and the Chinese Government’s travel advice.
Across all analysed markets, the sentiment index score for long-haul trips is the weakest in Japan (75 points), where less than one in five respondents are considering travel to a destination outside East Asia in the May-2021 to Aug-2021 timeframe. When asked about the reason for this decision, 44% of Japanese respondents indicated that they simply do not have plans to visit overseas destinations in the next months, signalling that travelling is not a priority for them at the moment, while another 43% acknowledged COVID-19 related concerns.
While respondents wishing to visit Europe in summer 2021 remain uncertain about the exact timing of their trip due to travel bans and fragmented processes across destinations, results reveal that the high season months of July and August are the most desired months for travel to Europe, with 31% of Brazilian, 26% of US, 25% of Chinese and 22% of Russians hoping to visit Europe in Aug-2021, the peak month.
They say ‘a picture paints a thousand words’. In this regular section CTC – Corporate Travel Community offers a graphical insight into a key industry observation or trend, this week highlighting a chart from the referenced Long-Haul Travel Barometer 2/2021 that illustrates that while traveller confidence might start improving, overseas trips are not the preferred option just yet.
This regular section also now incorporates and expands on the charts produced in the 2020 air capacity series ‘Coronavirus Statistics Snapshot’. These are based on an analysis of OAG schedule data and include a weekly look at how the pandemic is impacting global flight levels in the world’s largest markets; a week-on-week and year-on-year comparison of flight departures by geographical region and a look at how weekly capacity is trending: the latter comparing levels to 2020 and also to the 2019 baseline performance.
HEADLINE FIGURES FOR WEEK COMMENCING 07-Jun-2021:
Departure frequencies up 1.31% versus last week; up+75.93% versus 2020 and down -38.93% versus 2019.
Seat capacity up+0.35% versus last week; up +83.40% versus 2020 and down -40.97% versus 2019.