The European Travel Commission, a pan-European organisation of the tourism industry, says that the European tourism sector continued to bounce back from the Covid-19 pandemic in the year 2022 as the continent enjoyed a strong growth in travel during the summer, driven mainly by demand from visitors keen to make up for experiences lost to the pandemic.
In its year-ending survey, Exploring Consumer Travel Attitudes and Expectations to Drive Tourism Recovery, the body says that the sector faced other major challenges in the year such as staff shortages, increased living costs, and an energy crisis driven by the Russia-Ukraine war.
ETC says that As tourism destinations aim to ensure a sustainable path to recovery, gaining insights on consumers’ behaviour and experiences during the summer of 2022 and their future expectations will allow more relevant and targeted tourism products and services to be designed towards consumers’ needs.
The ETC report comprises the second part of a two-phased research. While the first phase analysed consumers’ travel behaviour prior to the summer of 2022, this second report explores post-summer experiences and tourists’ short and long-term expectations. This study is based on in-depth interviews with consumers from European markets, notably France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom and long-haul markets like Australia and the United States as well as interviews with travel sector experts.
The report says that of all interviewees, 94 pc were satisfied or very satisfied with their European holiday in the summer of 2022. Although 54 pc of respondents were affected by labour shortages, only a few of them feel that their trust in travel providers has been affected, while most express an understanding of the problems faced in the tourism sector post-Covid-19.
The vast majority of interviewees, as many as 91 pc, have a positive perception of Europe as a tourism destination. Travellers appreciate the region’s cultural diversity, tourist attractions and geographical proximity of destinations. However, respondents express concerns related to the war in Ukraine, with almost 2 in 5 mentioning that they will avoid visiting countries neighbouring the conflict zone. But only 7 pc state that they will refrain from travelling to Eastern Europe in general.
Another outcome of the survey was that most international travellers did not worry about contracting Covid-19 during their summer holiday. However, the pandemic is still mentioned as a concern by 22 pc of respondents during their travel planning phase. The interviewees would prefer some pandemic habits to remain in the future, such as enhanced hygiene and social distancing. Offers providing consumer protection through last-minute cancellations, refunds, or flexibility for changes are also still relevant for travellers.
Approximately 3 in 4 respondents expect inflation to impact their future travel. Consumers are expected to do thorough research before booking their next holidays, reduce trip length, travel during the low season, and prioritise their travel budget more wisely. Moreover, at the destination, travellers may also decrease their spending, for example on eating out.
The experts emphasise addressing climate change as a key challenge for the tourism sector. It is not a matter that can be resolved overnight, however, some of the many ways it can be influenced is through improving land-based transport connectivity and emissions offsetting programmes. An openness to greener initiatives is also observed amongst the interviewees, suggesting the eagerness for more eco-friendly travel options among consumers.
The ETC report also provides a set of recommendations for European destinations, allowing them to plan and make strategic decisions to enhance tourist experiences and ensure adequate responses to the shifts in tourism demand.