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  • Writer's pictureWan Qing

Summer's Over, How Did Europe Fare?

Now that summer is officially over, let’s take a look at how European tourist cities fared. Does the rollout of vaccinations and digital COVID passports truly mark the beginnings of travel recovery? Portier looks at some predictions and trends that emerged over the summer.

International Flights

According to ForwardKeys data, Europe, in general, fell short of 40% by a mere percentage point of 2019’s international flights. This was significantly better than 2020, where only 26.6% of international flights were recorded. It is not surprising however, as 2020 was before the introduction of vaccines worldwide and the implementation of digital COVID passports. The results from the top 20 European destination countries surveyed are extremely polarised and showed a huge disparity in tourist arrivals.

Greece, a popular destination country, did exceptionally well among its peers with 85.7% of tickets confirmed during 2021 summer when compared to 2019. Followed by Cyprus (64.5%), Turkey (62%), Iceland (61.8%) and Croatia (60.3%). A possible reason why Greece and Iceland fared well could be the early announcement of border openings to receive fully vaccinated international tourists which was announced as early as March.


71.4% of international flights were Intra-European in nature. In fact, the forecast for 2021 suggests that intra-European flights will account for 83% of Europe’s international inbound flights. Early booking data from the start of the year also suggests that short-haul leisure destinations will aid in leading the recovery in Europe. Pent-up travel demand is the main reason why travellers are looking for short-haul leisure travel experiences. The general wariness of the pandemic still lingers, and behavioural data can confirm that despite the pent-up demand, travellers will still opt for somewhere nearer, preferably somewhere where they can make last-minute booking decisions.

Domestic Demand

A key emerging trend - domestic travel is the crux of travel recovery in certain countries. In Savill’s report, these countries include both Germany, France and the UK, all of which possess a strong domestic source. Even pre-COVID, the French and the British were most likely to seek domestic trips. These countries however, did not fare well according to ForwardKeys data on the top 20 European destinations in the summer of 2021. France ranked the highest, at 9th place, Germany, 17th, and the United Kingdom coming in at a dismal 20th placing. (See chart below)

Not to be discouraged however, they also have the highest potential to turn typical outbound tourists to domestic local travellers. These 3 powerhouses are the largest sources of outbound travellers in Europe.

Closing Thoughts

The summer of 2021 fared significantly better than 2020, however, international travelling has not quite yet reached expectations. Perhaps the ever-changing traffic light rules that the EU adopted has something to do with it. Hotels can expect to welcome more travellers taking short-haul leisure trips and domestic demand, as these 2 travelling trends will continue to lead travel recovery in Europe. The tourism sector in France, Germany and the UK can benefit the most if they can convert some of their usual outbound travellers to explore local destinations.


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