This summer was a record breaking one for flights to Greece with international visitor arrivals to the country exceeding pre-pandemic levels, ForwardKeys said on Friday.
According to new data by the travel analytics firm, Greece has proven the most resilient destination in Europe, with departures for European destinations in July and August matching 2019 levels.
Moreover, Greece is also one of the countries ahead in bookings for the autumn season despite the energy crisis and increased inflation.
Top performing destinations in Europe in summer 2022
ForwardKeys’ data shows that air travel to the southeast corner of Europe substantially exceeded pre-pandemic (2019) levels in the peak summer months of July and August.
Air travel to Albania (a relatively small destination with less than 1 percent market share of European flight arrivals) was also up by 28 percent. While no other major country destinations recovered to the numbers seen in 2019, Slovenia, just 7 percent down; Iceland, 8 percent down;and Portugal, 10 percent down, came close.
The list of best performing city destinations was headed by Istanbul, which recorded a 2 percent increase in flight arrivals. It was followed by Athens, 7 percent down; Reykjavik and Porto, both 8 percent down; and Malaga, 13 percent down.
Factors that impacted travel trends
According to ForwardKeys, major factors driving the strong performance of Turkey include an ongoing decline in the value of the Turkish lira and its openness to the Russian market, from where direct flights to most of Europe have been banned. In the summer of 2019 Russians accounted for 4 percent of all arrivals to Europe, whereas in 2022, this dropped dramatically.
Greece most resilient destination in Europe
More into the data, Greece was found to have performed strongly as a destination throughout the pandemic by implementing relatively visitor-friendly COVID-19 travel restrictions.
An analysis of origin markets reveals that within Europe, Greece was the most resilient, with departures for European destinations in July and August matching 2019 levels. It is followed by Poland, 9 percent down; Spain, 12 percent down; the UK, 13 percent down; Denmark, 14 percent down; and Portugal 15 percent down. Overall, intra-European departures were 22 percent down.
The strongest extra-European market was the United States, just 5 percent down on 2019. It was followed by Colombia and Israel, both 9 percent down; South Africa, 10 percent down; Mexico 12 percent down; and Canada and Kuwait, both 13 percent down. Overall, extra-European origin markets were 31 percent down.
ForwardKeys says that European destinations could have attracted more visitors during the summer months if the aviation industry had been better able to cope with the surge in demand for travel during late spring and early summer. Had there been no disruption, ForwardKeys estimates that the recovery in intra-European flight bookings would have been five percentage-points higher.
Turkey and Greece ahead in autumn bookings
“While there is much talk of recession and inflation damaging the prospects of a post-pandemic travel recovery, the trend remains positive,” ForwardKeys says.
In July and August, air travel across the whole of Europe was down by 26 percent, however, the outlook for the next three months shows that as of 31st August, flight bookings were 21 percent behind the equivalent moment in 2019, with bookings for Turkey and Greece 20 percent and 5 percent ahead respectively. The next best booked destinations are currently Portugal, 3 percent behind; Iceland, 7 percent behind; and Spain, 15 percent behind.
The strongest origin markets are led by the UK, where outbound flight demand for the next three months is just 2 percent down compared with before the pandemic. It is followed by Spain, 3 percent behind; the US, 5 percent behind; Ireland 6 percent behind; and Germany 11 percent behind.
“We are still cautious about the outlook because the continued war in Ukraine and consequent impact on energy prices will negatively affect European economies, which will likely dent consumer confidence and corporate demand. That said, there is currently a concentration of flight bookings during the autumn half term peaks and Christmas, which could lead to further flight disruption if the recent recruitment difficulties experienced by the aviation industry persist,” Olivier Ponti, VP Insights, ForwardKeys, said.