Just five months on from the start of the European lockdowns, ILTM has been able to reveal some stark insights that show a remarkable return of confidence. Out of the many findings that our Global Buyer Survey gave us, one clear trend discovered was that despite many European destinations being among the hardest hit locations – with Italy, in particular, becoming the media’s morbid face of the crisis for many weeks- it’s in fact European buyers that have seen some of the biggest increments of recovery since the pandemic began.
Notably, 64% of buyers from Europe have reported that they have received bookings since March. Even more astonishing is how soon these bookings are set to take place, with European buyers stating that half of their bookings are set to happen within 3 months. Furthermore, across the entire study, it was European buyers that had the highest number of regional flights booked at 37%.
Of those European buyers with bookings, the top 5 destinations booked were Greece, Spain, France, Italy and the Maldives and the most popular trip category was beach escapes at 73%. Not only are travellers returning to travelling quicker than anticipated, but also back to core destinations that were not long ago being deemed ‘hot spots’ of the pandemic. This is particularly welcome news for the many European destinations that rely heavily on tourism who will be hoping for a quick uptick in international visitors as the next step on the road to rebuilding their business.
Furthermore, when European buyers were asked to pinpoint when they expected the luxury travel industry to recover, 51% estimated it would only take a year, with 37% estimating up to two years.
The possible reasons for the growing sense of recovery are interesting. The ability to travel regionally across European destinations is undoubtedly one of the biggest factors. Unsurprisingly, another key factor affecting people’s travel plans are safety concerns, with 64% of all buyers who are yet to take a booking citing this as the core obstacle for clients travelling. However, the more practical issue of quarantine rules was also highlighted and 68% of European buyers without bookings noted it as the key reason clients were reluctant to book.
This emphasis on the obstacles faced by European clients being mainly practical in nature is promising in two ways. Firstly, it shows that a significant number of people wish to travel despite the crisis and that travel will rebound strongly once restrictions are lifted. Put simply, the pandemic has not changed what we’ve heard said numerous times: people will always want to travel. Secondly, practical barriers are much easier to address than shifts in behavioural attitudes and fears.
Significantly, as of the 10th July 2020, Europe and the UK announced the launch of numerous air bridges to key locations – many of which without the need for a 14-day quarantine upon returning. While not all the locations on this worldwide list of 73 are practising reciprocal agreements, it has allowed the floodgates for much-needed tourism to open and to date, there seems to be little reluctance to take this new opportunity.
Considering the swift return to regional travel by a significant number of HNW European travellers – based upon our buyer research, coupled with the increasing number of restrictions on travel being lifted – it’s entirely feasible that this trend will grow. Moreover, this is happening beyond just European travellers, with many other key demographics also showing signs of recovery and renewed confidence.
While life as we know it will come back, there will patently be some key changes and new facets to the way we book travel. Questions of brand loyalty, the reassurance travellers seek, and the elevation of travel advisors will all be shifted and perhaps reborn. ILTM will be looking at these aspects in more detail next week, but for now, the key take away seems to be that travel is a fundamental human desire and this industry continues to weather the storm.
We very much look forward to the very first face-to-face event in the industry calendar for 2020, ILTM in Cannes.