Paris cityscape

Europe’s most resilient destinations are leisure hotspots

Europe’s most resilient destinations in the face of the devastating COVID-19 pandemic are leisure hotspots.

This is the conclusion of the latest edition of the ECM-ForwardKeys Quarterly Barometer. It is published jointly by ForwardKeys, the travel analytics company, and the non-profit organization, European Cities Marketing.

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, usually Europe’s second most popular destination, climbs 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 of the destinations is Faro, the gateway to Portugal’s Algarve region, known for its beaches and golf resorts, 48.7% behind. In the next three positions are Athens, 71.4% behind; Naples, 73.4%; and Larnaca, 74.2%. 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.

Travelers book at shorter notice

“When one digs into the data behind these headline numbers, we see that people are still making travel plans; and within those plans there are five clear trends,” says Olivier Ponti, VP, Insights, ForwardKeys.

“Leisure and personal travel is holding up much better than business travel, which is virtually non-existent right now. Bookings are dominated by the Christmas holiday period. People are booking at even shorter notice than usual, probably wary of travel restrictions without warning. Fares are consistently on the low side, with airlines doing everything to tempt back travelers. Destinations which are open to EU travel, such as Stockholm, have suffered relatively less badly.”

“Once again the ECM-ForwardKeys Air Travelers’ Traffic Barometer allows us, as destination marketing organisations to identify trends which, in this time of crisis, are clearly different from last year. Since 2013 ForwardKeys provides ECM Members with a quarterly report with important data on air traffic and an interesting analysis of tourist activities. The latest data show the power and resilience of cities, even though the meetings industry is still running behind. The past months were very difficult for city tourism. This challenging time is frustrating for stakeholders within destinations. We are developing various tools and content to support our members on their path to recovery,” Petra Stušek, ECM President says.

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