With vaccines being rolled out around the world, travelers are looking to reclaim something most abandoned during the lockdown era: the summer holidays.
Travel searches are booming and bookings are not far behind. But it doesn’t happen uniformly across the continents.
This is who books, where people travel to and what beckons travelers back from their homes.
According to the European Travel Commission, a non-profit organization representing more than 30 countries in Europe, more than half (56%) of Europeans plan to travel this summer and the vast majority choose to stay within the continent.
Nearly half (49%) of the survey respondents plan to travel to another European country, while 36% plan to stay within their own country’s borders. Of those most likely to travel, 29% make plans between May and June, while 46% wait for July and August, according to the survey published in April.
- Spain: 10.4%
- Italy: 9%
- France: 7%
- Greece: 6.2%
- Germany: 5.2%
Source: European Travel Commission
Family and friends are taking a back seat this year; only 19% book trips primarily to see them. Two-thirds (66%) of those most likely to travel are motivated by leisure, with 34% preferring a seaside trip.
More than 50% of travelers are willing to fly, while traveling by car (36%) is the second most popular mode of transport.
Portugal ranks sixth on the European Travel Commission’s list of most popular destinations, but the poll predates a mad dash for bookings by British travelers following Portugal’s inclusion on the UK’s “green list” on May 7. .
Israel, Iceland and several other countries and overseas territories are also on the green list, which means travelers from England will no longer have to quarantine from today if they return there.
“Americans continue to take the opportunity to explore their own backyards and discover destinations within the US,” said Misty Belles, director of Virtuoso, a worldwide network of travel agencies specialized in luxury and experiential travel.
While Hawaii and other beach locations attract people trying to relax after a stressful year, Alaska attracts travelers who would otherwise have left the United States.
“High-end travelers who normally go to more exotic locations, such as Africa, opt for the outdoor adventure playground and big game spotting in Alaska,” she said. “With no cruise ships entering Alaska ports this season, people are exploring overland and discovering more of the interior.”
California draws people to perennial favorites like Napa Valley, while East Coast travelers book trips to Nantucket and Cape Cod, Belles said, adding that summer availability in these areas is already scarce.
Places with less name recognition also attract travelers. Nearly 70% of Airbnb searches for the US Memorial Day weekend are for off-the-beaten-path locations 50-300 miles from travelers’ homes. The site’s most popular nationwide locations for the holiday weekend beginning May 29—what some consider to be the unofficial start of summer in the United States—are:
- Alamosa County, Col.
- Nye County, Nev.
- Sanpete County, Utah
- Angel Fire, NM
- Forks, wash.
- Sandpoint, Idaho
- Washington County, Va.
- West Yellowstone, Mont.
- Jackson County, NC
- Harper’s Ferry, W.Va.
Compared to Memorial Day travel trends two years ago, Airbnb data shows a triple-digit increase in searches for tents (260%), houseboats (142%), vacation farms (119%) and treehouses (111%), as some travelers leaving hotels for more quirky, remote accommodations.
While flight bookings have increased, road trips still reign supreme — at least on social media. As of April 29, of more than 1.6 million travel-related conversations on Twitter, road trips were mentioned more than 32,000 times and flights were mentioned 22,000 times, according to Chicago-based social media analytics firm Sprout Social.
While Americans are expected to travel mostly domestically this year, searches for transatlantic flights rose 47% after European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen indicated that vaccinated Americans may be able to travel to Europe this summer. according to Montreal-based travel app Hopper.
London, Paris and Barcelona are the most popular European cities by total searches, but Hopper’s data shows that Denmark (+84%), Poland (+72%) and Switzerland (+63%) show the largest percentage change in searches saw after Leyen’s comments on April 25.
Online searches for Croatia (+31%) and Iceland (+22%), both of which are already open to Americans, also increased after von der Leyen’s comments.
“Internationally, we see great optimism about the reopening of Europe,” said Belles.
While Greece and Iceland are popular among Virtuoso’s clients, she said that “Italy is the main European destination, with bookings already secured before the borders even open.”
“This is not entirely surprising as Italy has always been one of the top destinations for the Virtuoso network, but it does illustrate that people like to return to their favorite places,” she said.
Virtuoso’s top destinations for American summer hotel bookings are (in order): the United States, Italy, Mexico, France, the Bahamas, the United Kingdom, Greece, Canada, Spain, and Ireland.
If Europe opens up to them, Americans may have another reason to rejoice. According to Hopper, flights to Europe are cheaper than in the past.
“Re-opening a country can allow for more competition between airlines and increase the supply of seats sold along those routes, which tends to lower airfares in the short term,” said Adit Damodaran, an economist at Hopper.
Airfares to Iceland dropped after the country reopened, and similar trends are evident for transatlantic flights as it becomes increasingly likely that Europe will open to vaccinated Americans this summer, he said.
However, the trend is not expected to last much longer.
“Hopper estimates that airfares to Europe will bottom out at $700 round-trip around May 15, then climb to $775 around mid-June,” Damodaran said.
There were particularly good deals on round-trip flights to Portugal ($501) and Iceland ($530) last week, he said.
Summer travel between Asian countries is still largely paralyzed as the region struggles with rising Covid rates linked to the B.1,617 variant first identified in India last December.
Infection rates remain high in places like the Philippines and Indonesia, while vaccination rates in Asia are low. In the past month, countries with relatively stable cases — places like Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam — have also seen an increase in new infections.
The few Asian destinations that welcome mass tourism, namely the Maldives and Sri Lanka, are experiencing disastrous spikes in infections.