Fewer Planning to Travel in Europe, Despite More Thinking It Is Safe

July 7, 2020
Coronavirus | Travel/Tourism
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A series of polls conducted in late June by Redfield & Wilton Strategies indicate that the public in France, Germany, and Italy remains anxious about travelling abroad for the upcoming summer holidays. In France and Germany, the proportion of respondents planning to travel abroad this summer has decreased since May, from 17% to 12% in France, and from 26% to 17% in Germany. In Italy the proportion planning to go overseas has remained stable but is still low at 12%.

In France, Germany and Italy, there has also been a decrease in the percentage of respondents who plan to travel domestically this summer (from 45% to 36% in France, 31% to 24% in Germany, and 44% to 41% in Italy). Taken together, this data points to a general trend of Europeans increasingly deciding against holiday plans, both domestically and abroad, in spite of the improving coronavirus situation across Europe.

In Spain, we polled respondents on this subject for the first time in June and found that only 8% of respondents plan to travel abroad, and 37% plan to travel domestically. A majority (54%) of Spanish respondents therefore do not plan to travel at all, fitting with the trend seen in the other countries.

When questioned on their reasons for not going abroad, over 45% of Germans, Spanish and Italians cite concerns related to coronavirus – either from contracting coronavirus on the plane or in the destination country. In France, a particularly high proportion of respondents (39%) said they were not interested in travelling abroad this summer irrespective of coronavirus, a proportion that was lower yet still significant in Germany (31%), Italy (17%), and Spain (17%). However, this category includes not only those who did not wish to travel as a matter of personal preference, but also those who have financial or physical concerns which prevented them from contemplating a holiday in the first place, regardless of the pandemic.

Strong majorities of more than 70% of respondents in all four countries state they would not feel safe traveling to another country by plane.

There are, however, a few encouraging signs for the struggling tourism industry. Respondents are much more divided on the safety of travelling abroad by car compared to going by plane. At least 40% of the respondents across the four countries would consider it safe. In Italy, 47% feel it is safe, compared to 53% who think it is unsafe.

Among the small proportion of French and Italian respondents who still intend to travel abroad, 38% and 35% respectively listed Spain as a possible destination where they might travel. Preferences among Spanish travellers are fairly evenly divided among Portugal, Italy and Greece, while German travellers seem to lean towards Italy and Spain. However, as many of these sample sizes are under 50, the results might not representative of the actual numbers of tourists each country should expect.

Despite the decreasing proportion of respondents making holiday plans, travel abroad is now seen as slightly safer. Large concerns still linger. The German public remains sceptical about the safety of travelling abroad in July even with mitigation measures such as contact tracing in place. In May, 67% of Germans said they thought travel would be unsafe to travel abroad, and 58% continue to hold this view. 60% of the Spanish public also think travelling abroad would be unsafe. In France and Italy opinion is slightly less firm. The percentage of French respondents considering it unsafe has dropped from 58% in May to 48% in June.

Notably, in Italy, a larger proportion of respondents now consider travel from abroad safe (43%) compared to unsafe (36%), a relatively marked change from May, when 43% of Italians considered the travel unsafe and 33% considered it safe. The shift in opinion may highlight increasing concerns among Italian respondents around the financial impact of the coronavirus, and an understanding of the importance of foreign tourists to supporting a relatively swift economic recovery. It may equally be a sign of the increasing confidence Italians have in the reopening of their country, which is causing them to feel safer about travel.

Overall, the European public largely continues to believe that air travel is unsafe. Prospects for relatively long-haul travel abroad therefore do not look particularly promising, although it may be the case that inter-European travel via private vehicle remains relatively stable. More importantly, the percentage of the public intending to go on holiday this summer has remained constant or declined between May and June, depending on the country. This decline suggests that while many may feel safe enough to travel, these members of the public are adopting a wait-and-see approach. If there is no corresponding spike in coronavirus infections following the tourists who do travel this summer, more members of the public may become comfortable with traveling again.

To find out more information about this research contact our research team. Redfield & Wilton Strategies is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

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