According to new research by the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) and ForwardKeys, London has fallen to the bottom of the top 10 most booked European cities, as border restrictions and UK quarantine regulations choked travel.
During the first half of June last year, as the holiday season was in full swing, London was the most heavily booked city in Europe for any date of arrival, followed by Paris and Rome.
However, travel restrictions imposed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, such as the quarantine rules imposed by the UK government, the capital has slumped to the bottom of the top 10.
While Europe has begun to relax travel restrictions and bookings have begun to pick-up, those for London have languished
Under pressure from the travel sector, the UK government finally looks set to announce ‘travel corridors’ to popular European summer hotspots such as France, Germany, Greece, Turkey and Italy.
By doing this, airlines would be able to open flights for bookings to British travellers eager to get away during the summer.
Meanwhile, Lisbon has soared to the top of the list of most booked European cities during the first half of June, compared to sitting close to the bottom in ninth place in 2019.
Portugal has been one of the first countries to establish enhanced hygiene and safety protocols to welcome tourists and has one of the top testing rates to control transmission.
ForwardKeys research indicates that new tickets issued for future international travel to the European Union (EU) dropped by 84.4% in the first half of June compared to the same period in 2019, recovering from a 94.5% overall decline in May.
On the other hand, bookings to the UK plunged by a staggering 96.7% in the first half of June, which was almost unchanged from the 97.2% collapse in May.
New flight bookings for all international future departures from the EU slumped by 80.2% in the first half of June 2020, compared to the same period in 2019, recovering from a hefty 92.3% decline in May.
By comparison, bookings from London only recovered to an 89.8% year on year decline during the first half of June, compared to a punishing 94.0% decline in May.
Quarantines Quash Air Travel
Commenting on the findings, WTTC president & CEO, Gloria Guevara said: “Travel restrictions and quarantines have continued to quash air travel and strangle demand for travel to and from London, causing it to fall to the bottom of the league for top ten most booked European cities, according to latest flight bookings.”
Guevara continued: “However, analysis by ForwardKeys clearly shows demand for flights to and from Europe has begun to recover, thanks in part to a relaxation of travel restrictions which has fuelled the recovery in the Travel & Tourism sector.”
“We eagerly await the UK government’s announcement it will finally allow travellers to make plans for the summer and visit destinations across the whole of Europe and allow the UK Travel & Tourism sector to kick-off its much-needed recovery,” said Guevara.
“The implementation of global protocols as well as testing and contact tracing for intercontinental arrivals, as unveiled by WTTC’s Safe and Seamless Traveller Journey initiative, will restore consumer confidence and encourage travelling to resume,” the WTTC’s boss pointed out.
“We believe these measures will allow travellers to meet the huge pent up demand to travel once more and enjoy a much-need summer break while enabling the Travel & Tourism sector to re-open for business, restoring the livelihoods of millions of people dependent upon tourism,” she noted.
Guevara said that: “The success of the popular holiday destination of Portugal in attracting visitors follows the government’s implementation of a number of enhanced health and safety measures. These are, in line with our global protocols, designed to restart this important sector and ensure safe travel. We are delighted to recognize these efforts through the WTTC Safe Travels stamp.”
London Numbers Alarming
ForwardKeys CEO, Olivier Jager observed that: “It’s alarming to see London, which is Europe’s most popular capital to visit, falling from top spot to 10th place in the ranking of most booked European cities during the first half of June.”
Jager pointed out that: “The UK’s tough new quarantine regulations are almost certainly responsible; and that conclusion is further reinforced by the difference between inbound and outbound bookings. ForwardKeys research clearly shows that European air travel has begun to rebound with a slow but steady rise in bookings, compared to the same period last year.”
He said that: “Our ticketing data shows that while volumes are still low, having fallen across the EU by nearly 84% compared to the same period in 2019, the numbers are beginning to improve. However, new tickets for future arrivals into the UK are still a staggering 97% down compared to the same ticketing period last year.”
Last year, the UK attracted more than 40 million overseas visitors. This data from WTTC and ForwardKeys shows that if the UK government continues to drag its heels in announcing the next steps for reopening the country, including the removal of barriers such as quarantine and establishing ‘air corridors,’ it will have a devastating effect on the Travel & Tourism sector.