The world opened after COVID-19, and a war in Ukraine will not stop the people in most EU countries to get on a plane, a train, or a car to explore Europe and the rest of the world. It’s travel time again on the European Continent.
Despite the uncertainty caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the ongoing threat of COVID-19, the desire across Europe for intra-European travel remains strong.
Three in four Europeans intend to take a trip in the next six months, with Mediterranean destinations having the highest appeal. This is according to the latest research on “Monitoring Sentiment for Domestic and Intra-European Travel – Wave 11” by the European Travel Commission (ETC), which provides insights on Europeans’ short-term travel intentions and preferences during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Summer 2022 promises strong intra-European travel
With summer approaching, an increasing share of Europeans (77%) are eager to travel between April and September 2022. Over half (56%) of them plan to visit another European country, while 31% choose domestic travel. Across all analysed markets, respondents from Italy, Spain, Poland, the UK, and Germany demonstrate the strongest optimism about taking a trip (>80%). Travel intentions increase with age, rising from 69% among Gen Z (18-24 years old) to 83% among baby boomers (over 54 years old).
The survey results confirm that Europeans’ travel plans follow a seasonal pattern with sun and beach holidays (22%) being the preferred option for the coming months. The interest in city breaks (15%) and vacations by the water or coast (15%) also remains steady. In line with these holiday preferences, the popularity of Mediterranean destinations grows: Spain is the most favoured destination among Europeans travelling abroad between April-September 2022, followed by Italy, France, Greece and Portugal.
As summer approaches, most Europeans with travel plans intend to take a 4-6-night (33%) or 7-9-night (27%) vacation. Only 25% will opt for trips of 10 nights or longer, mostly family travellers. On the other hand, couples strongly prefer micro-trips (up to 3 nights). No matter the length of the trip, one in two travellers will take a flight to reach their next destination.
Travel sentiment resilient despite the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict and the rising cost of living
Although the survey was conducted during the first weeks of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Europeans’ travel sentiment and behaviour have not yet been affected by the conflict.
Notably, the Polish, who neighbours Ukraine, maintain a stable, above-European-average travel sentiment; their planned length of stay and budgets remains consistent with data collected at the same time last year. Furthermore, interest in Eastern European destinations is unaltered, reflecting the limited impact of the ongoing conflict on intra-European travel to date.
A rising share of European travellers are planning to spend €500-€1,500 (now 51%, +8% compared to the previous survey) with a respective drop in higher budgets (-8% for more than €2,000), potentially due to the growing concerns over inflation. At the same time, even though there is more certainty as to when and where the next trip will be, only 25% of travel-ready Europeans have fully booked, indicating a limited level of financial commitment. The European travel sector must ensure it is targeting last-minute holidaymakers this summer.
COVID-19 concerns diminish, yet consistent health precautions for travel remain essential
As COVID-19 travel restrictions are eased and Europeans learn how to live amidst the pandemic, the share of those realising their original travel plans continues to increase steadily (now 27%, compared to 16% in December 2021). Flexibility in cancellation policies (14%) and freedom from restrictions (13%) are now the top factors boosting respondents’ confidence in planning their next trip within Europe. Getting vaccinated for COVID-19 falls to third place since most Europeans have already taken this precaution.
Nonetheless, respondents acknowledge that COVID-19 remains a source of concern when travelling; 17% of travel-ready Europeans are worried about quarantine measures and another 15% about possible changes in travel restrictions. At the same time, Europeans with short-term travel plans acknowledge the importance of strict health protocols, which provide a sense of safety to 37% of them, and peace of mind to relax and enjoy their trip to another 30%.
Commenting following the publication of the report, Luís Araújo, ETC’s President, said: “Our report demonstrates that European confidence in travelling is growing now that COVID-19 has largely become a fact of life. New uncertainties on the horizon, namely the ongoing conflict in Ukraine and the rising cost of living, are presenting challenges for the travel sector. However, ETC is pleased to see that in spite of these uncertainties, appetite for travel is still on the rise and the European tourism sector remains resilient.”