Friday, May 7, 2021

ETC: Europe Records 85% Drop In International Tourist Arrivals, UK & US External Markets Provide Ray of Hope

The European Travel Commission has revealed that based on figures for January 2021, Europe marked an 85 per cent decrease in international tourist arrivals.

With Europe working to speed up the vaccination programmes over the forthcoming months and control the further spread of the COVID-19 pandemic and its mutations, the expected easing of restrictions gives some hope for travel to be safely restored in summer 2021.

Nevertheless, the international travel demand is anticipated to remain lower than the pre-pandemic figures, until 2024 at least, reports.

Through its quarterly report called “European Tourism Trends & Prospects”, ETC outlined that regardless of the hardships in terms of the vaccine roll out in recent months, the injection programmes are fundamental to enable the restart of travel.

The optimism for restoring travel is backed up by the demand, which shows that 56 per cent of Europeans are willing to travel by the end of August.

In a press release issued by ETC, it was pointed out that the recurrence of COVID-19 cases and its mutations together with quarantine and testing requirements discouraged travel in 2020 and 2021, with the figures revealing an 85 per cent decrease in international tourist arrivals to Europe in the first month of 2021.

According to ETC, the latest predictions estimate that international arrivals in Europe during 2021 will continue to remain 46 per cent below the level registered in 2019, with the full recovery of the sector not expected earlier than 2024.

Furthermore, the EU COVID-19 Certificate, which is planned to be introduced during June, is expected to support the reopening of travel in Europe in 2021, hopefully by the end of August.

“Following a gloomy 12 months, we finally have reasons to be more optimistic about summer 2021. The rollout of vaccination programmes in Europe, although hampered by some hurdles, has proven its effectiveness in stopping COVID-19 infection rates,” Executive Director of ETC Eduardo Santander said.

European Destinations Suffer Large Drops of up to -99% In 2021

The European destinations continued to register a major drop in tourist arrivals in the first quarter of 2021, ETC revealed. The most significant declines were reported in Austria, with -99 drop per cent due to the strict entry rules, and in Iceland, where fully vaccinated visitors are now exempt from restrictions upon arrival, with a -97 per cent drop.

Several Central and Eastern European destinations, along with Cyprus, Slovenia, and Finland, experienced the hardest hit, with all reporting decreases above 93 per cent. In contrast, Monaco (-41 per cent) was the only destination that did not report a decline of over 50 per cent.

UK & US External Markets Provide Hope for the Industry

Based on ETC’s press release, the last twelve months have been pessimistic for the European aviation sector, as the air traffic figures for March 2021 show a 68.9 per cent drop compared to March 2019, but still better than the decline of 70.9 per cent registered in February.

As for the industry of hospitality, occupancy numbers in European hotels remain lower compared to other major global regions.

However, the likelihood of UK and US external markets revival rises, considering the fast rate of COVID-19 vaccination in these countries.

The plans of the British Government to lift the measures after May 17 have already caused an upsurge in hotel bookings by the Britons, mainly to Spain, Greece, Portugal, Cyprus, France, and Turkey.

Moreover, fully vaccinated US citizens are now allowed to travel internationally as the number of those vaccinated is constantly rising, and the EU is also considering allowing entry for Americans upon proof of vaccination.

Domestic Travel an Alternative If International Travel Is Unattainable

Considering that the population is more willing than ever to enjoy summer holidays this year, ETC predicts that many will return to the domestic travel offers.

“Last summer resulted in a high degree of domestic substitution due to prohibitive travel guidelines: as a share of total travel within European destinations, domestic travel jumped from 55 per cent in 2019 to 69 per cent in 2020,” the statement of ETC reads.

However, in case of continuous lockdowns and stringent restrictions, Southern and Mediterranean Europe would be harshly hit since these destinations rely heavily on international tourism. In contrast, Central and Eastern European destinations can better mobilise domestic travel demand when foreign travel is no longer available.

Nonetheless, only a small number of European destinations with the largest domestic markets, including Romania, Germany, Poland, Finland, and Sweden, could potentially see domestic demand fully compensate for declines in internal travel.

Recently, the International Air Transport Association revealed that passenger demand in March 2021 decreased by 67.2 per cent compared to the same period in 2019, which represents an improvement compared to the decline of 74.9 per cent registered in February 2021 versus the pre-pandemic figures.

Whereas, the Airports Council International Europe (ACI) previously revealed that the European air passenger traffic is suffering a deep crisis, with EU, EEA, Swiss, and UK airports reporting a drop from -85 per cent in January to -89 per cent in March.

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