The European tourism sector continues to bounce back from the COVID-19 pandemic. Europe enjoyed a strong travel rebound over the summer months of 2022, as people want to make up for experiences lost to the pandemic. However, the sector faced other major challenges this year such as staff shortages, increased living costs, and an energy crisis driven by the Russia-Ukraine war.
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. To this end, the European Travel Commission (ETC) has published the market study on “Exploring Consumer Travel Attitudes and Expectations to Drive Tourism Recovery”.
This 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 (France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom) and long-haul markets (Australia and the United States) as well as interviews with travel sector experts.
Staff shortages had minor impact on satisfaction during summer holidays
Of all interviewees, 94% are satisfied or very satisfied with their European holiday in the summer of 2022. Although 54% 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.
Perceptions of Europe as a tourism destination are positive
The vast majority of interviewees (91%) 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. Only 7% state that they will refrain from travelling to Eastern Europe in general.
Tourists have not completely forgotten about COVID-19
Most international travellers did not worry about catching COVID-19 during their summer holiday. However, COVID-19 is still mentioned as a concern by 22% 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.
Travellers increasingly desire value for money
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.
Road towards environmentally-friendly travel
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.
Based on these findings, the report 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.