Long-haul travel was a key driver of growth for the European tourism sector in the years before the Covid-19 pandemic but has been severely impacted since then. 2021 saw the start of a recovery, especially from the US market. In 2022, the global vaccine roll-outs will help Europe regain some of its prior prominence in terms of the importance of long-haul travel, though the full recovery will take some time. According to the latest Long-Haul Travel Barometer (LHTB), the intention for overseas travel to Europe has begun to improve, while travel restrictions can be seen as one of the leading factors causing travel hesitancy.
The LHTB from the European Travel Commission (ETC) and Eurail BV anticipates short-term travel intentions in six overseas markets – Brazil, Canada, China, Japan, Russia, and the United States every four months. Intention to travel is measured in an index that reflects the dominant sentiment expressed by a market, either positive or negative. Values above 100 indicate a positive evolution, whereas values below 100 indicate negative attitudes towards travel in a given period.
The current issue of the LHTB provides insights on the travellers’ sentiment and plans for the first four months of 2022 (January-April) and the whole year of 2022 (January-December).
1. Travellers more upbeat about visiting during 2022
- The 2022 indexes for travelling to Europe in Brazil (104) and the US (104) reach their respective pre-covid-19 levels, reflecting a desire for travel among consumers in these markets.
- In China, 57% of respondents want to visit Europe by the end of 2022. However, the weak index value (98) indicates that although the desire to return to Europe is strong, the hesitance of whether this would be possible is even stronger.
- Russian respondents are sceptical about travelling to Europe in 2022 (94). They place the largest importance on fully lifted travel restrictions (45%) and the availability of destinations’ attractions and activities (28%) as activators for travel to Europe. The emergence of the Omicron variant at the end of November 2021 may have raised doubts about whether such restriction-free travel would be possible in 2022. Russians, however, are the most open to bargains and deals (39%), increasing the possibility for last-minute travel planning.
- Meanwhile, Japanese travel sentiment has remained weak but relatively stable between 2021 and 2022 (99 Vs 98).
2. Sentiment for travel in first months of 2022 is less positive
Regardless of the improved sentiment for overseas travel in 2022, the sanitary situation and uncertainty penalise short-term demand over the year’s first four months. Yet, for most markets, stability or slight increases compared to January-April 2021 are visible.
2.1. Multi-national routes entice Americans and Canadians
The sentiment in the US for visiting Europe improves faintly from 98 in January-April 2021 to 99 in January-April 2022. According to the survey’s results, Americans’ interest in Southern and Western European destinations increases, along with their desire for visiting metropolitan areas and national parks. Europe is perceived as the perfect destination for multiple-country rail and road trips.
Similarly, Canadians adore the possibility of visiting multiple destinations within Europe and the variety of cycling routes in the region. Rail and road trips also help drive sentiment for visiting Europe. More than half of Canadian respondents shared interest in visiting European metropolitan areas, with France, Italy, the UK and Germany on top of their destination wishlist.
2.2. Brazilian travellers rank travel costs as a deterrent to travel
In Brazil, the index to travel to Europe in January-April 2022 is 95 (vs 94 in 2021), with 20% of respondents highlighting high travel costs as a deterrent to travel. Nevertheless, Europe’s e-reputation as reflected in Brazilian social media conversations and posts has remained positive and above the long-haul average, despite the new Omicron variant.
For their next trip to Europe, Brazilians are most eager to dive into European city life (51%), though many (49%) would not limit their vacation to just one type of experience. Gastronomy and wine experiences also appeal to travellers from this market.
2.3. Russians concerned about quality and cost of available tourism experiences
Russians are sceptical about travelling to Europe in January-April 2022 (index 92). Respondents in this market place a high emphasis on travel costs (18%), limited tourism offer (13%) and travel not being allowed (12%). Meanwhile, Covid-19 concerns are only stated as a barrier to travel by 25% of Russian respondents, significantly lower than the average 42% across all markets.
Cities and beach resorts in milder climates attract Russians to Europe at the beginning of 2022, with Eastern European destinations being viewed as more budget-friendly to Russian travellers.
2.4. Chinese travel sentiment at record low for the January-April period
The sentiment index for travelling to Europe is at its lowest level (94) for the first trimester of the year, with 63% of respondents citing Covid-19 as a primary concern. Travel costs are only highlighted by 2% of respondents, suggesting the lack of an economic barrier to travel.
While Western Europe continues to be the first choice of Chinese travellers, the curiosity in visiting Eastern European destinations has increased significantly compared to last year. European gastronomy and opportunities for wildlife watching are two key drivers for Chinese travellers. However, coastal and beach resorts have seen a decline in interest from this market.
2.5. Japan remains a risk-averse market
In Japan, sentiment for visiting Europe (97) is much higher than for long-haul travel in general (54), potentially due to Europe being viewed as a luxurious destination. However, only 15% of all surveyed Japanese shared plans to visit Europe in the coming months, wiping out completely any hopes for the recovery of demand from this market, at least in the short term. Compared to other markets, where currently the main travel deterrent is the Covid-19 pandemic, in Japan, a bigger part of the respondents (44%) shared that they were simply not planning travel in January-April 2022.