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 2-16 December 2020 in 14 markets: Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, the Irish Republic, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Sweden and the USA.

Download the full report (PDF, 7MB) and see market infographics on the right hand menu. 

Overall travel intentions:

Overall, 70% of respondents would consider an international leisure trip in 2021, showing a resilient desire to travel despite pandemic uncertainties.  While Nordic markets express a more reserved attitude, France, Italy, India and Saudi Arabia show the most positive sentiment towards travelling abroad. Intention to travel internationally is highest among respondents aged 35 years or less.

Travel consideration for an international leisure trip

Around 1 in 6 (16%) say they are better off vs only 7% 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 not hugely detrimental to travel intentions.

Overall, about 4 in 10 (38%) 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 2021. The majority of leisure intenders having Britain destinations in mind were in the early stage of their planning.

Trip planning stage per market

Whilst all markets are primarily motivated by holidays to take their next leisure trip, just over one third (35%) express interest to visit friends and/or relatives suggesting there is a real need for connection in the current climate. VFR interest is particularly high in India, the Irish Republic and Saudi Arabia.

The availability of the vaccines is the top driver 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.

When we explore attitudes to travel, 63% said they would leave bookings to the last minute. 74% of respondents also say they would look for less crowded places even if they miss out on iconic attractions, although we know from other data in the report that it is more about the concern of crowding rather than not wanting to visit an iconic attraction. In line with what we have seen in the past year, 60% say they will favour domestic travel opposed to international travel. We also see that public transport is driving some concern with around only half (51%) of respondents feeling comfortable to use it in a destination.

Attitudes to travel

(% Completely + Somewhat agree)
 
Total Short haul Long haul AU CA CH FR DE IN IE IT NE NO SA SP SW US
I will look for less crowded places to visit, even if it means “missing” must-see attractions. 74% 70% 77% 65% 72% 84% 66% 72% 88% 73% 75% 70% 68% 82% 72% 64% 70%
I will leave booking until later/last minute 63% 63% 64% 59% 63% 71% 61% 72% 71% 63% 64% 72% 50% 62% 74% 49% 56%
I will favour local destinations in my home country instead of travelling 60% 54% 65% 69% 60% 66% 54% 51% 75% 54% 49% 49% 51% 66% 68% 58% 60%
I will be intending to take fewer but longer holidays 55% 43% 67% 51% 53% 81% 42% 39% 88% 53% 44% 36% 37% 71% 47% 43% 55%
I would be comfortable using public transport within the destination 51% 41% 61% 53% 39% 82% 46% 42% 74% 49% 34% 42% 42% 55% 39% 36% 50%
I will favour destinations I have been before rather than new places 50% 44% 56% 57% 49% 55% 38% 47% 74% 56% 32% 43% 495 60% 41% 48% 49%

 

Destination Planning

Europe is considered by 59% 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 for the long haul markets (46%). 13% of leisure trip intenders would consider Britain for their next trip, meaning that Britain ranks in the top four within European markets.

86% of those considering a trip to Britain would travel to England, 51% would go to Scotland, and 29% would go to Wales. As this was a multiple-choice question, we could see a high proportion of travellers considering multiple nations within Britain.

Within England, the most popular destination for leisure trip intenders is London (46%), followed by the South East (38%) and North West (31%). Those from long haul markets are particularly likely to consider England’s regions beyond London when compared to short-haul markets.

International travellers are open to using a variety of channels to plan their next trip; however, online travel agents or tour operators are the most popular channel (35%) followed by travel comparison websites (34%).

Perceptions of the safety of the nations of Britain when it comes to COVID-19 are highly varied across markets. However, Scotland tends to be perceived as the safest nation, followed by Wales, and then England. Geographically close markets such as France, Germany, and the Irish Republic tend to have poorer perceptions of the safety of Britain’s nations when compared to some long haul markets.

Planned booking channel for an international trip

  Total Short haul Long haul AU CA CH FR DE IN IE IT NE NO SA SP SW US
Through a travel agent/tour operator online 35% 31% 38% 28% 29% 58% 24% 41% 45% 21% 25% 35% 37% 25% 33% 37% 30%
A travel comparison website 34% 34% 33% 32% 35% 27% 35% 28% 50% 27% 50% 19% 29% 31% 46% 40% 31%
Direct with airline/train/ferry operator 31% 31% 32% 35% 37% 21% 19% 20% 38% 48% 24% 26% 44% 33% 32% 36% 35%
Direct with accommodation provider 29% 29% 29% 38% 33% 20% 27% 37% 34% 37% 24% 36% 20% 15% 29% 25% 36%
Direct from the official website of the destination 29% 25% 32% 29% 28% 34% 22% 20% 40% 33% 24% 28% 18% 28% 32% 21% 33%
Through a travel agent/tour operator at a storefront 24% 20% 28% 23% 20% 38% 21% 26% 40% 14% 25% 21% 10% 19% 24% 20% 22%

 

Travel Preferences

When considering destination types for their next international trip, global travellers prefer large cities (45%) and coastlines (38%); however, 33% 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.

 

Main destination types for an international leisure trip

  Total Short haul Long haul AU CA CH FR DE IN IE IT NE NO SA SP SW US
Large city 45% 40% 50% 43% 40% 31% 33% 25% 61% 40% 56% 30% 40% 44% 56% 42% 44%
Coastline 38% 38% 38% 29% 33% 48% 33% 53% 42% 41% 35% 34% 42% 42% 27% 35% 32%
I will roam around visiting many types of places 33% 28% 38% 34% 32% 44% 29% 23% 50% 24% 53% 30% 24% 33% 22% 21% 34%
Small/mid-sized city/town 25% 23% 27% 23% 20% 33% 21% 20% 35% 24% 24% 19% 22% 19% 31% 25% 25%
Mountains or hills 21% 15% 26% 23% 16% 21% 11% 20% 59% 12% 16% 24% 8% 19% 18% 14% 23%
Countryside or village 20% 14% 26% 24% 21% 28% 14% 16% 37% 16% 12% 18% 10% 27% 10% 19% 23%
I'm not sure 6% 6% 6% 9% 11% 1% 7% 7% 3% 5% 2% 6% 10% 3% 4% 8% 9%

 

The majority of future leisure travellers plan to travel with their spouse or partner (70%), and 29% 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 (58%), and these are particularly popular among those from short-haul markets. There is also a high interest in self-catered accommodation, perhaps indicating a desire to limit interactions with other guests in a COVID context.

Level of interest in activities while on holiday suggest a desire among some to return to many pre-pandemic activities when travelling. Dining out was the most popular activity (44%), followed closely by visiting famous/iconic tourist attractions (43%) and outdoor nature activities (43%).