Despite ambitious Covid-19 vaccination programs, fewer travel restrictions, and the upcoming launch of the EU’s green certificate, the European Travel Commission (ETC) is expecting the number of international arrivals to Europe to remain 46 percent below 2019 levels in 2021.
Citing January 2021 data of an 85 percent drop in international tourist arrivals to Europe, the ETC predicts that full recovery should not be expected before 2024.
According to the ETC’s “European Tourism Trends & Prospects” quarterly report, recovery of travel demand relies on the success and reach of vaccination rollouts. It does however note that countries, including Greece, that have said they will be accepting vaccinated travelers or vacationers who test negative to Covid-19, are set to see a rise in bookings.
Some ‘Cause for Optimism’
The report goes on to add that travel intent has improved, particularly when taking into consideration an expected rebound in UK and US markets. The ETC notes that there is “cause for optimism” thanks to pent-up demand after months of lockdown measures. Indicatively, according to the ETC, more than half of (56 percent) of Europeans are willing to travel by the end of August this year. This demand is expected to increase after the EU introduces its travel pass (digital green certificate) expected sometime in June.
“Following a gloomy 12 months, we finally have reasons to be more optimistic about summer 2021. The rollout of vaccination programs in Europe, although hampered by some hurdles, has proven its effectiveness in stopping Covid-19 infection rates,” said ETC Executive Director, Eduardo Santander.
Santander also referred to the proposed EU Digital Green Certificate, which he said “opens the door for destinations across Europe to welcome back European and international travelers in the coming season, much earlier than we thought. What’s needed now to revive consumer confidence is clarity of communications regarding the applicable travel rules and the speedy rollout of EU certificate”.
Hopes on UK & US tourism markets recovery
The report found that European destinations continued to see major declines in tourist arrivals in the first quarter of the year. The largest declines were recorded in Austria, where arrivals were down by 99 percent and in Iceland by 97 percent.
European destinations including Cyprus, Slovenia and Finland, were amongst the hardest hit posting decreases over 93 percent, the ETC said.
On a bright note however, compared to a 70.9 percent drop in February, ETC analysts are hoping for a revival of UK and US outbound markets thanks in large part to a faster vaccination rate there.
Greece is among the countries standing to gain as the British government begins to lift travel restrictions after May 17. In view of the news, UK holiday bookings have increased mainly to Southern European destinations including Greece, Spain, Portugal, Cyprus, and Turkey.
Additionally, Greece is also expecting US travelers – who are allowed to visit the country after a year-long ban – to boost the tourism sector. Both the UK and US are major source markets for Greece.
Although the ETC forecasts that there will be “some uplift” in domestic tourism this year, it adds that it will be insufficient to offset any corresponding declines in inbound travel, adding that in case of continuous containment measures, the impact would be mostly felt in Southern and Mediterranean European destinations, which are more reliant tourism.