EUROPE. New research from ForwardKeys reveals that air travel to European destinations in July and August was 39.9% of pre-pandemic levels. This is an improvement from the comparable period last year (26.6% of 2019 levels), when the COVID-19 pandemic caused widespread blockages and vaccines were not still approved. The travel data analyst noted that the outlook “is not improving as bookings slowed towards the end of the summer period.”
This summer, Greece stood out, with 86% of bookings in July and August 2019, followed by Cyprus at 64.5%, Turkey 62% and Iceland 61.8%. ForwardKeys noted that Greece and Iceland were among the first countries to announce that they would accept visitors who had been fully vaccinated, may present a negative PCR test, or may show evidence of their recovery from COVID-19.
The countries that have performed least well in Europe over the summer are those that rely more on long-haul tourism, such as France and Italy, and those that have imposed the more “onerous and volatile” travel restrictions. Like the United Kingdom, which only reached 14.3%. 2019 arrivals in July and August.
Excluding low-cost airlines, intra-European flights represent 71.4% of arrivals, against 57.1% in 2019.
The sharp decline in long-haul visitors, who tend to stay longer, spend more and focus their attention on cities and sightseeing, was highlighted in the rankings of top and bottom performing local destinations.
London was at the bottom of the list of busiest European cities, with just 14.2% of arrivals in 2019. This list was led by Palma de Mallorca, which reached 71.5% of 2019 levels and Athens at 70, 2%. Next come Istanbul with 56.5%, Lisbon 43.5%, Madrid 42.4%, Paris 31.2%, Barcelona 31.1%, Amsterdam 30.7% and Rome 24.2%.
In comparison, leisure destinations held up better. A ranking of all major local destinations (those with a market share greater than 1%) was dominated by traditional beach resorts or their gateway. The leaders were Heraklion and Antalya, which topped pre-pandemic levels by 5.8% and 0.5% respectively. They were followed by Thessaloniki, 98.3%; Ibiza, 91.8%; Larnaca, 73.7% and Palma Mallorca, 72.5% (see table).
Some destinations fare relatively better or worse as the rules change in their main home markets. Portugal, a favorite destination for British holidaymakers, suffered when the UK changed its designation from green to amber in June. Travel to Spain was hit in late July when Germany warned against all but essential travel.
ForwardKeys Vice President Olivier Ponti commented: “When you consider how terrible things have been for tourism in Europe last year, this summer has been a story of a very modest recovery. Compared to normal times, the continued low intensity of international air travel, below 40% of normal, has been extremely damaging to the aviation industry. The continued absence of long-haul travelers, especially from the Far East (it only reached 2.5% of pre-pandemic volumes this summer) will take a heavy toll on the economy of visitors from several European countries. “
Ponti concluded: “If there is one element of consolation, it is the people who ‘stay on vacation’, that is, take a vacation in their own country. While domestic aviation holds a minority share of the market in Europe under normal circumstances, it has fared much better during the pandemic as it has not been subject to such harsh travel restrictions. For example, the Canaries and the Balearics received more visitors from Spain than in the normal season.