With vaccines being rolled out around the world, travelers are looking to reclaim something that was most abandoned during the lockdown era: the summer vacation.
The travel search is increasing and the bookings are not far behind. But it doesn’t happen uniformly across continents.
Here’s who books, where people go and what draws travelers back out of their homes.
Europe on the move
According to the European Travel Commission, a non-profit that represents over 30 countries in Europe, more than half (56%) of Europeans intend to travel this summer, with the vast majority choosing to stay on the continent.
Almost half (49%) of respondents plan to travel to another European country, while 36% intend to stay within their own borders. Of those most likely to travel, 29% plan between May and June, while 46% wait for July and August, according to the study published in April.
Where Europeans want to go this summer
- Spain: 10.4%
- Italy: 9%
- France: 7%
- Greece: 6.2%
- Germany: 5.2%
Source: European Travel Commission
Family and friends take a back seat this year; Only 19% book trips primarily to see them. Two-thirds (66%) of those most likely to travel are motivated for leisure reasons, and 34% are in favor of coastal travel.
More than 50% of travelers are ready to fly, while car journeys (36%) are the second most popular transportation option.
Portugal ranks 6th on the European Travel Commission’s list of Favorite Destinations, but its poll leads the way to bookings by British travelers after Portugal was placed on the UK’s “green list” on May 7th.
Israel, Iceland and several other countries and overseas territories are also on the green list, which means that as of today, travelers from England will no longer require quarantine when returning from there.
Small town America
“Americans continue to take the opportunity to explore their own backyards and discover destinations in the US,” said Misty Belles, managing director at Virtuoso, a global network of travel agencies specializing in luxury and adventure travel.
While Hawaii and other beach towns attract those looking to relax after a stressful year, Alaska attracts travelers who might otherwise have left the US.
With 30 square miles of sand, the Great Sand Dunes near Alamosa, Colorado attracts visitors looking for a secluded, outdoor vacation.
Patricia Giraldo | Moment | Getty Images
“High-end travelers who typically travel to more exotic places like Africa choose the outdoor, adventure playground and big game viewing in Alaska,” she said. “With no cruise lines arriving at Alaska’s ports this season, people are exploring by land and discovering more of the inner terrain.”
California draws people to perennial favorites like the Napa Valley while travelers on the east coast book trips to Nantucket and Cape Cod, Belles said, adding that summer availability is already scarce in those areas.
Less well known places also attract travelers. Nearly 70% of Airbnb searches for the US Memorial Day weekend are in remote locations 50 to 300 miles from travelers’ homes. The site’s most popular rural locations for the vacation weekend starting May 29th, which some consider to be the unofficial start of summer in the US, are:
- Alamosa County, Colo.
- 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 three-digit increase in searches for tents (260%), houseboats (142%), farms (119%), and tree houses (111%), which some travelers consider hotels leave quirkier, secluded accommodations.
While flight bookings have increased, road trips are still happening – at least on social media. According to Chicago-based social media analytics firm Sprout Social, more than 1.6 million travel-related conversations on Twitter have mentioned road trips and 22,000 flights more than 32,000 times since April 29.
Americans look to Europe
While Americans are expected to travel domestically this year, transatlantic flight searches rose 47% after EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen suggested, according to Montreal-based travel app Hopper, that vaccinated Americans may travel to Europe this summer can.
London, Paris and Barcelona are the most popular European cities. However, Hopper’s data showed that Denmark (+ 84%), Poland (+ 72%) and Switzerland (+ 63%) saw the largest percentage change in searches according to Leyen’s comments April 25.
Read more about summer travel in the age of Covid
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 for the reopening of Europe,” said Belles.
While Greece and Iceland are popular with Virtuoso’s customers, she said: “Italy is the main European travel destination with bookings secured before the borders are open.”
“That’s not entirely surprising when you consider that Italy is always one of the top destinations for the Virtuoso network, but it shows that people like to return to their favorite places,” she said.
Italy is the top European destination for Virtuoso’s American travelers this summer, despite not officially opening the country to them, Misty Belles said.
© Marco Bottigelli | Moment | Getty Images
Virtuoso’s top summer hotel booking destinations by Americans include (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 one more reason to rejoice. Flights to Europe are cheaper than in the past, according to Hopper.
“Reopening a country can allow more competition between airlines and increase the number of seats available on these routes, which in the short term leads to a reduction in airfare,” said Adit Damodaran, an economist at Hopper.
Flights to Iceland declined after the country reopened, and there are similar trends in transatlantic flights as Europe becomes more likely to open to vaccinated Americans this summer, he said.
According to Hopper, the most wanted European destinations for Americans from April 27th to May 11th.
Courtesy of the Hopper Travel App
However, the trend is not expected to last much longer.
“Hopper estimates airfare to Europe will be $ 700 round-trip around May 15, before rising to $ 775 in mid-June,” said Damodaran.
Last week there were particularly good deals on round-trip flights to Portugal (501 US dollars) and Iceland (530 US dollars).
Asia at a standstill
Summer trips between Asian countries are still largely paralyzed as the region struggles with rising Covid rates associated with variant B.1.617 first identified in India in December last year.
Of the estimated 43,000 Covid cases in the Maldives, more than 13,000 have been confirmed in the past two weeks.
Abllo Ameer | Moment | Getty Images
Infection rates remain high in countries like the Philippines and Indonesia, while vaccination rates are low across Asia. In the past month, countries with relatively stable case numbers – such as Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam – also saw an increase in new infections.
The few Asian travel destinations that embrace mass tourism, namely the Maldives and Sri Lanka, are suffering from catastrophic infection peaks.