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Tourist hotspots glimmer in Europe’s travel gloom

Tourist hotspots glimmer in Europe’s travel gloom
Tourist hotspots glimmer in Europe’s travel gloom
Written by Harry S. Johnson

The latest edition of the Quarterly Barometer reveals that Europe’s most resilient destinations in the face of the devastating COVID-19 pandemic are leisure hotspots.

As at 27th October, total inbound flight bookings for the EU and the UK, for the fourth quarter of 2020, were 85.6% behind where they were at the equivalent moment last year. Symbolically, Paris, which is normally Europe’s second most popular destination, has climbed to top spot, even though its bookings are 82.3% behind 2019 levels.

In a ranking of the EU’s most resilient major cities (ie: cities with at least 1.0% share of international arrivals), the news is not quite so awful; and a common theme is that all are major leisure destinations. Top of the list is Heraklion, the capital of Crete, known for the ancient Palace of Knossos. There, flight bookings are only 25.4% behind their 2019 level. In second place is Faro, the gateway to Portugal’s Algarve region, which is known for its beaches and golf resorts, 48.7% behind. The next three positions are taken by Athens, 71.4% behind; Naples, 73.4% behind; and Larnaca, 74.2% behind. The cities in the second half of the list, in descending order, comprise Porto, 74.5% behind; Palma Mallorca, 74.6% behind; Stockholm, 75.8% behind; Malaga, 78.2% behind; and Lisbon, 78.8% behind.

The data shows that people are still making travel plans; and within those plans there are five clear trends. First, leisure and personal travel is holding up much better than business travel, which is virtually non-existent right now. Second, bookings are dominated by the Christmas holiday period. Third, people are booking at even shorter notice than usual, probably wary of travel restrictions being imposed without warning. Fourth, fares are consistently on the low side, with airlines doing everything in their power to tempt back travelers; and fifth, destinations which have remained open to EU travel, such as Stockholm, have suffered relatively less badly.

The ECM-ForwardKeys Air Travellers’ Traffic Barometer allows the destination marketing organisations (DMOs), to identify trends which, in this time of crisis, are clearly different from what the industry experienced last year. The data from the latest barometer show the power and resilience of cities, even though the meetings industry is still running behind; and the past months were very difficult for city tourism. This challenging time is frustrating for stakeholders within destinations and for DMOs.