Europeans are increasingly interested in travelling during the second quarter of 2021, according to a new report published by the European Travel Commission.

The ETC report, entitled “Monitoring Sentiment for Domestic and Intra-European Travel – Wave 4”, features data collected in December 2020. The report indicates that the proportion of Europeans willing to travel during spring 2021 grew by 20% compared to the November 2020 survey, with 1 out of 3 respondents now stating this intention. At the same time, the number of Europeans planning to travel in the next six months increased slightly from 49% to 52%. These two figures point to a brighter outlook for spring-summer, while only 12% of respondents consider taking a trip in January-February 2021.

Polish residents are the most bullish regarding upcoming travel. 74.1% of Polish people surveyed said they were planning to travel in the coming 6 months – an increase of 9% compared to the previous survey result in November. Four other countries – Italy, France, Austria and Spain – all came in with over 50% of respondents wanting to travel in the first half of this year.

In terms of demographics, the most eager to travel are those aged between 25 and 34.


32% of respondents indicated that they intend to take a trip during April-June 2021, a 20% rise compared to the previous research wave

52% of Europeans plan to travel in the next six months, a 5% increase compared to the November 2020 survey

40% of respondents planned to visit another European country compared to 36% that prefer to travel domestically

The survey indicates that intra-European travel is now the top choice as more respondents are willing to take a trip to another European country (40%) than travel domestically (36% – a 7% decline compared to the November survey). Leisure is the primary purpose for almost 63% of the surveyed Europeans planning to travel in the short-term, while visiting friends and relatives is the main motive for another 21%. Business travel accounts for 9% of respondents.

Confidence in air travel also seems to be steadily on the rise. 52% of Europeans now state that they are willing to travel by air, compared to 49% in September. By the same token, a lower percentage of respondents (17%) consider that flying poses the greatest risk to their health, down from 20% in September 2020.

In terms of preferred intra-European destination, Spain tops the bill, followed by Italy, France, Greece and Germany.


Decision-making factors

A COVID-19 vaccine and flexible cancellation policies are still at the head of the list of travel decision-making factors for 11% and 10% of respondents respectively. Due to a spike in cases during the period of the second wave, destinations’ effectiveness in managing COVID-19 in general is also important for 10% of Europeans. The report reveals that 67% of Europeans feel safe and relaxed enough to enjoy their trip when strict health and safety protocols are in place. Only 22% state that strict protocols can spoil – to a greater or lesser extent – the travel experience.

Covid-19 vaccine prompts some optimism

While vaccines are rolling out, the share of respondents planning to travel after a vaccine/treatment is found remains close to 46%. Within Europe, the top five markets most likely to resume travel when a vaccine / treatment is found are:

  • Spain (58.8%)
  • Poland (58.4%)
  • Italy (53.9%)
  • UK (49.6%)
  • Germany (46.0%)

Mature travellers become more social media friendly as the pandemic continues

Older travellers are increasingly engaged on social media, recalling past trips and looking forward to travelling in the future. While tourism-related mentions on social media for the age groups 18-25 and 25-35 were down in November 2020 compared to the same month in 2019, there has been a significant increase in such mentions among the 55-65 (86%) and over 65 (136%) age segment.

Recommendations for destinations

The increased interest in international travel can be interpreted as a preliminary signal for destination marketers to slowly return their focus to cross border tourism, especially eyeing the period of April – June 2021. The report recommends that destinations should continue investing in and developing strict health and safety (H&S) protocols to further enhance travellers’ confidence and peace of mind as their personal health is a top priority. Cultural attractions could also be certified for H&S, as audiences interested in these kind of trips, put even more focus on strict protocols. Destinations should incorporate all relevant H&S measures in communication campaigns, visuals and messaging, aiming to further enhance travellers’ confidence.


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