Majority of Italian, Spanish and French Public Believe Borders Between European Countries Should be Closed

July 30, 2020
Coronavirus | Travel/Tourism
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Across Europe, Governments have started to re-open their borders after months of closure during the coronavirus pandemic. However, a majority of the public in Italy (54%), Spain (57%) and France (63%) think that the borders between European countries should be closed. Notably, despite the importance of tourism to the major Mediterranean nations (in 2018, half of the total nights spent by non-residents in the EU were spent in Spain, Italy and France) the public in these countries remains opposed to welcoming in arrivals from other European states. In Germany, which was less affected by the pandemic, a slight majority (52%) of respondents believe borders should be kept open.

Just 23% of the Italian public believe that borders should be kept open, while in France, a quarter (25%) of respondents hold this view. 30% of Spaniards favour borders being kept open. 

The reluctance amongst the European public to support the reopening of borders may be linked to their opinion about whether the arrival of tourists from Britain, Germany and other parts of Northern Europe will be safe or unsafe. A clear majority of Spaniards (60%) think that allowing tourists to visit would be unsafe, even if certain measures are in place to try and combat the spread of coronavirus, such as testing, contact-tracing, masks, and social distancing measures. The concerns of the Spanish public may be directly related to reports which have emerged in recent days of care-free Germans and Brits partying in the country without adhering to social distancing.

In France, a slight majority (52%) think that welcoming tourists back to Southern Europe would be unsafe, yet less than a third (32%) consider that it would be safe. Although a plurality (43%) of Italians think that it would be unsafe for tourists from Northern Europe to travel south, over a third (37%) think it would be safe, a much closer result than in neighboring France and Spain. Notably, in Germany, a clear majority (56%) believe that it would be unsafe for themselves or their compatriots to visit Southern Europe on holiday, while just 29% think it would be safe.

Across all four major western European countries, a majority of respondents do not intend to travel anywhere this summer: 61% of Germans, 60% of Spaniards, 53% of the French and 51% of Italians expressed this intention. Public concern about the safety of travelling abroad on holiday during the coronavirus pandemic will significantly reduce the number of tourists traveling this year compared to a typical summer. In Spain, just 8% of the public intend to travel abroad for holiday this summer, compared to 26% who stated that they were intending to travel abroad prior to the coronavirus pandemic. In Germany, 15% now intend to travel abroad, compared to 41% who had planned to visit a foreign country on holiday before the pandemic.

The data also indicates there will be a significant drop in the number of French and Italian tourists visiting a different country this summer. In France, 31% of the public were intending to travel abroad prior to the pandemic, yet only 12% of the population now think they will travel outside the country on holiday. Less than one in ten (9%) of Italians will travel abroad for holiday this summer, compared to over a third (36%) who believed they were going to before coronavirus.

Notably, the levels of domestic tourists travelling within major European countries looks set to remain stable compared to a typical year. Prior to the pandemic, 22% of Germans intended to take a domestic holiday, yet at this stage 24% of Germans believe they will travel domestically this summer. In Italy, 39% of the public had intended to travel domestically before coronavirus hit the continent, while 40% of respondents now think they will. 35% of French respondents intended to engage in a domestic holiday before the pandemic, a percentage that is mirrored at this stage: 35% of the French public still intend to travel domestically this year. In contrast to the other three nations, domestic travel in Spain is likely to be a little lower compared to a typical summer: 43% of Spaniards were intending to visit another part of the country this summer before the impacts of the coronavirus, yet only 32% now think they will.

During a series of polls conducted in Europe a month ago (between 20th – 23rd July), 12% of French respondents stated they intended to travel abroad (the same percentage as at this stage), while 39% expressed their intention to travel domestically, a proportion slightly higher than it is currently. In Spain, just 8% of the public highlighted they intended to travel abroad – the same percentage as it is now – while 37% intended to travel within the country (the percentage has now dropped to 32%). When polled in June, 17% of Germans intended to travel overseas on holiday, yet the figure has dipped slightly to 15% now. A month ago, 24% of Germans believed they would visit another part of their country for leisure this summer, the same percentage as in our most recent findings. Finally, in June 41% of Italians stated their intention to travel in-country on holiday, which is just 1% higher than the figure at this stage. 12% of Italians polled a month ago said they intended to travel to a foreign country, which has since dropped to 9%. It is unclear whether a slight drop off in some instances is due to the fact that some individuals have already taken their summer holiday, yet it is notable that there is no rise in the proportion of respondents who wish to travel for holiday in July compared to a month previously. 

Among those who do not intend to book a holiday abroad this summer at this stage, respondents are divided on the primary reason for this. In Italy and Spain, an equal number of respondents are primarily worried about contracting coronavirus on the airplane (Italy: 24%, Spain: 25%), as are concerned about contracting the virus in the destination country (Italy: 24%, Spain: 25%). In Germany (32%) and France (23%), a plurality of those who were interested in traveling abroad initially are mainly concerned about contracting coronavirus in the destination country.

A majority of the Spanish (61%), German (56%) and Italian (51%) public support the creation of a pan-European coronavirus tracing app that works across all EU member states. In France, a clear plurality (41%) support this idea. Only a small minority in each of the countries actively oppose this idea (Spain: 16%, Germany: 21%, France: 19%, Italy: 14%).

Ultimately, our latest polling continues to highlight that the public across Europe remains extremely cautious about the dangers of travelling during the coronavirus pandemic. Majorities, or strong pluralities, across Europe believe that foreign travel remains unsafe, which is directly correlated to the continued support for closing the borders. Concern about the risks of travel abroad is likely to significantly decrease the number of tourists visiting other countries over the summer compared to an average year, yet the level of domestic leisure travel may remain stable. Finally, Europeans still favour inter-country co-operation in tackling the coronavirus through technology by creating a pan-European coronavirus tracing app.

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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