Inbound COVID-19 sentiment tracker

In partnership with Visit Wales, VisitScotland and London & Partners, we commissioned research to understand international consumer sentiment towards international travel during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Wave 1 of the tracker was fielded between 2nd-16th December 2020 in 14 markets and you can download the full report for wave 1 here (PDF, 7MB).

Wave 2 of the tracker was fielded between 24th March-5th April 2021 in 20 markets. This includes 14 from the first wave: Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, the Irish Republic, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Sweden and the USA, and then 6 new markets: Brazil, Denmark, Japan, Russia, South Korea, Sweden and the UAE. All trended data is calculated using the 14 markets included in wave 1.

You can download the full report for wave 2 here (PDF, 12MB).

Overall travel intentions:

Overall, 7 in 10 respondents would consider an international leisure trip in the next 12 months from March 2021, showing a resilient desire to travel despite prolonged pandemic uncertainties.  While Australia, Japan, Norway and South Korea show a more reserved attitude, Brazil, Denmark, France, India, Italy, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Spain, the UAE and the USA show the most positive sentiment towards travelling abroad. Intention to travel internationally is highest among respondents aged 18-34, however sentiment towards travel has grown among the older generations since wave 1.

Travel consideration for an international leisure trip

Around 1 in 7 respondents (14%) say they are better off vs. only 8% worse off, when asked about spending power for the next 12 months vs the previous year, but 40% feel uncertain about the impact of COVID on their finances. However, for those who were uncertain or have been impacted negatively, there is still a high proportion who would consider travel in 2021, indicating that the financial situation is still not hugely detrimental to travel intentions. The uptake of a COVID-19 vaccine is confirmed to trigger travel in the short term but perhaps more so in short haul markets compared to long haul markets.

Overall, about 4 in 10 (39%) have a clear plan in mind about where they want to go, but only 7% have already booked, making the destination choice still open for the next year. The majority of leisure intenders having Britain destinations in mind were still in their early stage of their planning.

Trip planning stage per market

Whilst all markets are still primarily motivated by holidays to take their next leisure trip (82%), a stable proportion still express interest in visiting friends and/or relatives (34%) showing pent up demand to connect with others in the current climate. VFR interest is particularly high the UAE (60%), India (51%), the Irish Republic (50%), Saudi Arabia (47%) and Australia (47%).

Receiving a vaccination is the top trigger for international travel in the next 12 months, followed by a significant decrease in coronavirus cases at a destination, a money back guarantee should they wish to cancel their trip, and removal of quarantine policies in the destination country. Hygiene and safety protocols at the destination remain an important trigger but the introduction of a vaccine passport is also fuelling trust for a just under a quarter of respondents and in particular some European markets.

Looking at attitudes to travel, concerns around visiting crowded places have declined 3% between waves, while trust in using public transport has increased by 5%, suggesting a slight shift to pre-pandemic attitudes. Around 60% still say that they will leave booking until later/last minute. Whilst attitudes don’t always convert to behaviour, 63% said that they would think more about sustainability and the environmental impact when planning future holidays. We also saw the likes of Australia, Canada and South Korea stating that they will favour domestic tourism in the future.

Attitudes to travel for short haul markets

Attitudes to travel for long haul markets

Destination Planning

Europe is considered by 60% of leisure trip intenders as their next international destination, making it the most popular global region. This is of course much more pronounced in short haul markets (72% would consider the region), but Europe is still number one among long haul markets (46%). 14% of leisure trip intenders would consider Britain for their next trip. Britain also recorded the second highest increase in visit intention in Europe between waves, moving up one ranking to 3rd place.

Being at least partially vaccinated positively drives intentions to visit Britain, particularly compared to the impact seen among Europe intenders on average, confirming the “vaccination” theme is a competitive trigger for choosing Britain. Holding 17% of share of intention among vaccinated travelers, Britain is ranked second in Europe just behind France (18%).

57% of those considering a trip to Britain would potentially travel to England, 37% would go to Scotland, and 15% would go to Wales.

Within England, the most popular destination for leisure trip intenders is London (41%), followed by the North West (32%), the East of England (30%) and the South East (30%). Those from long haul markets are particularly likely to consider England’s regions beyond London when compared to short haul markets.

Flight remains a confident transport option for almost 9 in 10 potential visitors to Britain on average, while ferry and tunnel are equally considered with confidence particularly seen in geographically close. Train/Eurostar is also seen as a comfortable option. Long-haul markets feel comfortable using all types of transportation modes to travel to Britain, with some nuances for rented vehicles from North East Asian markets. Comfort associated with transport used within Britain is high, and should not stop potential visitors from exploring during their trip, be that travelling on their own or via public transport.

International travellers are open to using a variety of channels to book their next trip; however, online travel agents or tour operators are the most popular channel (37%) followed by travel comparison websites (36%). The large share of VFR travel intentions gives friends and relatives a significant role in the booking process, notably for Indians and Chinese potential visitors.

Perceptions of the safety of the nations of Britain in the context of COVID-19 have improved in all markets except China, where safety perceptions for other destinations have also decreased on average. Looking at the 14 trended markets, Scotland is perceived as the safest nation (60%), followed by Wales (56%) and England (55%).

Travel Preferences

When considering destination types for their next international trip, overall sentiment has increases for all types of areas. Global travellers prefer large cities (48%) and coastlines (38%); however, 43% (up 10% from wave 1) state that they will roam around, visiting many types of places. Those intending to travel to Britain have a particular preference for large cities when compared to other respondents.

Preferred destination types depending on trip intention

The majority of future leisure travellers plan to travel with their spouse or partner (70%), and 28% would travel with children. This suggests that couples and families may be key groups driving tourism recovery.

The most popular accommodation type for leisure trip intenders is a hotel chain (64%). However, interest in most types of accommodation has increased from wave 1, particularly for historic houses/castles and bed and breakfasts whose level of preference increased by around 5%.

Level of interest in activities while on holiday suggest a desire among some to return to many pre-pandemic activities when travelling. Exploring history and heritage was the most popular activity (44%), followed by visiting famous/iconic tourist attractions (44%), dining out in restaurants (43%), outdoor nature activities (42%) and visiting cultural attractions (41%). Activities involving larger groups have seen more interest when compared to wave 1 such as attending sports events, guided tours, attending cultural events and playing sports.

Planned activities for short haul markets

    Planned activities for long haul markets