Summer Seaside holiday

Where Europeans will Travel This Summer?

As in 2020, the pandemic continues to impact summer holiday decisions in 2021. However, many Europeans plan to travel this year and they reveal their holiday destinations.

According to the 2021 edition of the Holiday Barometer survey from Europ Assistance and Ipsos, conducted in May 2021, 57% of Europeans expect to travel during the usual summer holiday period, this is a six percent drop from 2019.

Even with the drop, more Europeans expect to travel than Americans (50%), Chinese (53%), or Thais (44%).  Some countries are seeing double-digit drops in summer travel plans, such as Germany (-21 points), United Kingdom (-14 points), and Belgium (-12 points).  Other European countries are seeing a rise in travel desire including Italy (+6 points) and Poland (+5 points).

Francine Abgrall, Group Head of Travel at Europ Assistance commented: “We have been sponsoring the Ipsos Holiday Barometer for two decades and we think this is the most important one we have commissioned. As we see the impact of the pandemic lingering into a second summer travel season, there is room for optimism.  Several European countries are expecting increases in summer travel over 2019 numbers.  Almost 70% of Europeans see travel returning to normal over the next three years.  This year’s Holiday Barometer shows that people are excited to see and hug their families again (58%) and back to the simple activities like eating in a restaurant (40%).”

Europeans report their travel budgets have taken a bigger hit than their American counterparts.  Overall European travel budgets dropped over 20% from 2019, but American budgets only dropped 2%.  The biggest drops in were seen in Spain (-30%), France (-26%), Germany (-25%) and Austria (-21%).  Portugal was the only country from the 2019 survey in which travel budgets stayed the same.

The British, Belgians and Americans lead the world in travel optimism with most of them seeing travel returning to normal in 2022 or 2023.  The Czechs, Poles and French lead the survey when it comes to those who think travel will never return to normal. 

Holiday Destinations during Summer 2021

Europeans are still heading to the seaside – topping all areas with 58% of respondents. Trips to the countryside (26%) and the mountains (24%) each gained four points from 2019 and are closing the gap.

Europeans continue to favor spending their holidays within their home country (47%). For those traveling outside of their country, the top destinations are Spain, France, and Italy, which historically have been the top three are the traditional survey leaders.

Some countries that traditionally lead the survey in traveling abroad saw large increases in those staying within their borders for summer holidays compared to 2019. Belgians staying in Belgium grew 17 points up to 32%. The number of Swiss travelers was up 15 points and UK respondents were up 16 points.

While they lead the survey in the desire to travel, Europeans trail the pack when it comes to actually book holiday travel. Only 35% of European respondents booked any part of their summer travel, compared with 47% of Americans, 37% of Chinese and 50% of Thai respondents. The Italians are among the fewest to have booked their holiday travel at 23%, whereas UK residents lead in Europe at 56%.

Europeans 2021 Summer Travel infographics

Impact of Pandemic Restrictions

The restrictions caused by the pandemic over the past year impacted the habits of European citizens.  This is particularly true for the Italians, Poles, French and Austrians, who greatly miss seeing their relatives (58% miss it a lot), being able to move without restrictions (52%), enjoying daily activities like going to the restaurant (40%), and traveling freely within their own country (39%). 

Unsurprisingly, there is an increased focus on travel insurance due to the pandemic. Over 45% of Europeans reported they would increase their travel insurance coverage as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. Find the Perfect Insurance Plan for Your Trip

Vaccines are not an obstacle to travel, as 81% of Europeans indicate that they are ready to get vaccinated in order to travel again.

Finally, respondents are strongly considering including the environmental, societal, and economic impacts of their travel into their habits, and changing their behaviors to be more respectful of the environment around them: 

  • 89% of Europeans are considering using a travel bottle instead of disposable plastic (57% are already doing it and 32% are ready to take the leap).
  • 88% are willing to change their behaviors to avoid wasting local resources. 
  • The same number of travelers are willing to help the local economy by eating and shopping in places owned by locals (87%) and staying at locally-owned accommodations (85%).

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