As the EU looks set to open its borders to more countries and vaccinated holidaymakers this summer, coordinated rules on international travel will be crucial to instil confidence in tourists considering a visit to the region. According to the latest Long-Haul Travel Barometer 2/2021 (LHTB), even after a year of strict COVID-19 restrictions, travellers from overseas markets are still hopeful to travel but are also cautious to consider Europe as a destination due to the continuous lack of harmonised rules on travel across the region. Over the coming months, unity and consistency of safety measures will be of key importance if European destinations are to capitalise on recent positive developments.
The LHTB from the European Travel Commission (ETC) and Eurail B.V. anticipates short-term travel intentions in five overseas markets – Brazil, 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 sentiment index for overseas travel in the US and Russia remains positive, however worryingly, only 2 in 5 respondents from these markets are optimistic about visiting Europe in summer 2021. This is a warning sign for Europe and may lead to the region losing out to domestic and short-haul destinations due to their geographical proximity and openness to travellers from either the US or Russia.
Results from the Chinese market disclose eagerness for overseas travel to resume with 53% of respondents enthusiastic to travel abroad. Their understanding of current travel restrictions in Europe, however, reveals that only 26% were confident that they will travel to the region if permitted. The evolution of travel demand from China is hard to predict at the moment and will depend on mutual recognition of COVID-19 vaccines, the resumption of air activity between the regions, and the Chinese Government’s travel advice.
Across all analysed markets, the sentiment index score for long-haul trips is the weakest in Japan (75 points), where less than 1 in 5 respondents are considering travel to a destination outside East Asia between May-August. When asked about the reason for this decision, 44% of Japanese respondents indicated that they simply do not have plans to visit overseas destinations in the next months, signalling that travelling is not a priority for them at the moment, while another 43% acknowledged COVID-19 related concerns.
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