European travel well below 2019 levels over peak summer months
New research from ForwardKeys reveals that international flights to European destinations in July and August reached 40 per cent of pre-pandemic levels.
This is significantly better than last year (which was 27 per cent), when the Covid-19 pandemic caused widespread lockdowns; and vaccines were not yet approved.
However, the picture was very mixed, with some destinations doing considerably better than others.
Also, the outlook is not improving, as bookings slowed towards the end of the summer period.
Looking at performance by country, Greece was the stand-out.
It achieved 86 per cent of July and August arrivals in 2019.
It was followed by Cyprus, which achieved 65 per cent, Turkey, 62 per cent, and Iceland, 62 per cent.
Greece and Iceland were amongst the first countries to make widely publicised claims that they would accept visitors who had been fully vaccinated and/or could show a negative PCR test and/or could show proof of recovering from Covid-19.
The countries which fared worst were those which rely more on long haul tourism, such as France and Italy and those which imposed the most onerous and volatile travel restrictions such as the UK, which languished at the bottom of the list, achieving just 14 per cent of 2019 levels.
Leisure destinations proved to be much more resilient.
A ranking of all major local destinations (i.e. those with a market share over one per cent) was dominated by traditional seaside holiday hotspots or the gateway to them.
The leaders were Heraklion and Antalya, which exceeded pre-pandemic levels by six per cent and 0.5 per cent respectively.
They were followed by Thessaloniki, 98 per cent; Ibiza, 92 per cent; Larnaca, 74 per cent and Palma Mallorca, 73 per cent.
Aside from the macro trends, certain destinations fared relatively better or worse for more locally specific reasons.
For example, Portugal, which is a favourite destination of UK holidaymakers, suffered when the UK changed its designation from green to amber in June; and Spain suffered at the end of July when Germany warned against all but essential travel.
Olivier Ponti, vice president, insights, ForwardKeys, commented: “When one considers how dreadful things were for tourism in Europe last year, this summer has been a very modest recovery story.
“Benchmarked against normal times, the continued low intensity of international air travel, less than 40 per cent of normal, has been extremely damaging for the aviation industry.
“The continued absence of long-haul travellers, particularly from the Far East (it reached just 2.5 per cent of pre-pandemic volumes this summer) will prove a severe blow to the visitor economy of several European countries.”