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.

Four waves of research were commissioned for this project:

Wave 1: 2nd-16th December 2020 in 14 markets. Read the full report (PDF, 7MB).

Wave 2: 24th March - 5th April 2021 in 20 markets. All trended data is calculated using the 14 markets included in wave 1. Read the full report for wave 2 here (PDF, 12MB).

Wave 3: 23rd August and 6th September 2021 in 13 markets. All trended data is calculate using the 13 markets consistently included in waves 1 and 2. Read the full report (PDF, 7.6MB)

Wave 4: 10th and 23rd February 2022 in 20 markets including Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Denmark, France, Germany, India, the Irish Republic, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Sweden, the UAE and the USA. Read the latest findings in our detailed report (PDF, 8MB).

Overall travel intentions:

Overall, 8 in 10 respondents would consider an international leisure trip in the next 12 months from February 2022 with 52% saying they would ‘definitely’ consider travelling – showing a steady desire to travel despite prolonged pandemic uncertainties. France, Italy and the Irish Republic show the most positive sentiment towards travelling abroad whilst Norway has a more reserved attitude.

Over 4 in 10 (43%) have a clear plan in mind about where they want to go but only 11% have booked their trip, making the destination choice still open for the year.

Markets are still primarily motivated by holidays to take their leisure trip (83%) but stable proportion still express interest to visit friends and/or relatives (33%) showing the continued pent up demand to connect with others in the current climate. Nearly half of respondents in India and Saudi Arabia would like to travel to visit friends and/or relatives in the next 12 months whilst in the UAE this is even higher at 59%.

Cost-related factors are now top for triggering bookings for international travel in the next 12 months with money-back guarantee should I wish to cancel my trip still at top place followed by an attractive offer/discount at second. This is followed by a removal of quarantine, a significant decrease in coronavirus cases and insurance for Covid-19 related changes.

The top two factors remain the same for triggering a booking to Britain specifically, followed by a significant decrease in coronavirus cases, a removal of quarantine in destination, hygiene/safety protocols and insurance for Covid-19 related changes. Top concerns for travelling abroad for Britain intenders were around others not respecting Covid-19 rules and access to healthcare abroad for Covid-19 – both 71%.

Looking at attitudes to travel, we saw a further shift to pre-pandemic behaviours with those looking for less crowded places decreasing and fewer booking last minute, as well as comfort with public transport increasing. 

Destination Planning:

Europe continues to be the most popular global region, with 59% of respondents saying they would consider travelling there. This is most pronounced in short haul markets (74% would consider it), but Europe remains top in long haul markets too (45%). 13% of those interested in leisure trips in Europe would consider Britain specifically.

Regarding top European destinations for travellers, Britain has maintained or increased its competitive ranking in most short haul markets except in the Netherlands and Sweden. For long haul markets, Britain is top in Australia and  China and increased its consideration in Saudi Arabia, South Korea, the UAE and the USA from wave 3.

The impact of various factors on propensity to consider Britain was examined in more detail:

Age: Interest in England (and London) is predominantly by those aged 18-34 but Scotland and Wales saw a more balanced age distribution of potential visitors.

Sex: Largely equal, except in long haul markets which saw slightly more interest from men compared to women (16% vs 14%).

Financial situation: A determinant of travel to England and cities more so than to other Britain and Europe destinations.

Previous visits: the propensity to consider Britain increases with the number of past visits among respondents.

For destinations within Britain, 57% are interested in England, 36% in Scotland, and 18% in Wales (multiple answers allowed). Long haul markets are generally more interested in England and Wales whilst short haul markets had a higher than average interest for Scotland. For destinations within England, interest is predominately for London with 41%. This was followed by the North West (33%), East of England (30%) and the South East (29%). The top city considered in Britain was London, followed by Liverpool, Manchester, Oxford and Cambridge.

A direct flight remains the most popular transport option for about 91% of potential visitors (79% for connecting flights) whilst half of respondents would want to travel via their own vehicle. Once in Britain, trains and the tube were the most popular forms of transport but there is a preference for using personal vehicles from respondents in the Irish Republic, Netherlands, France, and Germany.

When booking international trips, travel comparison websites (36%, multiple answers allowed) and online travel agents/tour operators (36%) are among the most popular channels, especially the latter for long haul markets (38%) – showing the continued use of expert intermediaries is reassuring to consumers facing uncertainties over travel.

Travel preferences:

When looking at the destination types of international leisure trip, sentiment to visit large cities remain the most popular type with 49% mentioning it, while roaming around visiting many types of places was next (41%), followed by coastlines (37%). 68% of Britain intenders are interested in visiting large cities, more than the average for Europe intenders in general (52%), indicating a continued strong desire to experience lively urban environments, with 50% interested in roaming around visiting many types of places too.

Regarding activities for international trips, this wave showed there was higher interest in all activities listed, but particularly those that require more interactive and crowded spaces such as dining in restaurants, culinary activities, learning new skills, experiencing nightlife, experiencing local lifestyle, playing sport and attending sports/cultural events. For those visiting Britain in the next 12 months, interest in social activities whilst experiencing culture, heritage and outdoor nature were amongst the top activities of interest. 

Read the full report for wave 4 which includes infographics for each inbound market and each Britain destination.