In a report that the European Travel Commission (ETC) published outlining the effects of COVID-19 on international travel to Europe, the research finds that international travel to Europe has been down 68% in the first of 8 months of 2020, compared to the first 8 months of 2019.
The report outlines that the major decrease in international arrivals is due to travel restrictions, lockdowns, curfews, and general uncertainty and distrust from travelers.
The overall projected decrease in travel to Europe in 2020 compared to 2019 is 61%, according to the report.
“International tourist arrivals to Europe were down 68% the first eight months of the year relative to 2019. Heightened uncertainty and risks tilted to the downside (e.g. evolution of the pandemic, further lockdowns, consumer confidence, economic recession, etc.) continue to dampen the outlook with European arrivals set to decline 61% in 2020,” the report reads.
The report outlines the ETC’s projections for when travel will likely return back to pre-pandemic levels:
- For domestic travel, it is projected that it will return to “2019 levels” by 2022.
- For international travel to Europe, it is projected that it will return to “pre-pandemic levels” by 2024.
The report also highlights several key areas of concern, which are listed and summarized below:
Lingering travel barriers weaken air passenger demand
- A weaker demand for international travel due to uncertainty and restrictions has devasted travel in all regions.
- Rising COVID-19 infections are likely to further devastate the travel economy in the coming months.
Occupancy rates remain at historically low levels in Quarter 3 of 2020
- Hotel occupancy is historically low, especially in Southern Europe.
- The best performing occupancy rate in 2020 is France, however, it is still down 42% compared to 2019.
Sufficient uncertainty surrounds the outlook
- Even after a vaccine is developed and distributed, it will likely still take until 2024 for international travel to Europe to recover to pre-pandemic levels.
- A faster recovery time is possible with more prepaid economic recovery and a faster distribution of a vaccine.
- There are significant further risks to the industry, and it is very possible that demand could fall even further in 2021, especially since recovery is essentially completely dependent on a vaccine.
Two-speed recovery in domestic and international travel
- Travel within the EU will recover faster than travel from third countries to the EU.
- Slower recovery will likely be due to travel restrictions, people have less disposable income and lower travel budgets, as well as lower confidence among higher uncertainty.
- The need for quarantine and testing will act as further impediments to people traveling internationally.
But there is opportunity to reset tourism policies
- In recent years, over-tourism has been considered a problem in some locations, disproportionately impacting certain groups and individuals.
- The pandemic presents an opportunity to “reset” the tourism industry and focus on “spreading visitors” more evenly across locations.
- The impacts of over-tourism on local populations are magnified when seasonality becomes a major factor.
- A shift in policy could not only “reset” the tourism industry, but also better help destinations find better ways to allocate their resources.
The European Travel Commission is one of Europe’s leading travel authorities, advocating to governments and companies to make travel increasingly more accessible and relevant over time in regard to policy and public standing.