Travel trends

Testing the resilience of European destinations amid the pandemic

As the COVID-19 second wave wreaks fresh economic havoc around the world, travel analytics company ForwardKeys has been assessing summer flight data across Europe and looking at prospects for the final quarter. Mark Lane reports.

Photo by Erik Odiin on Unsplash

In the third quarter of 2020, Europe seemed to be showing the way ahead for travel post-COVID. The year-on-year flight data showed that the continent was down by -74.7%, significantly outperforming Asia Pacific’s -94.5% plummet.

Travel analytics expert ForwardKeys attributes this to the relative success some Southern European countries and cities achieved through reopening their frontiers. From 1 July to 30 September, Southern Europe was down by -69.2% in international arrivals, compared to the same period in 2019. Its numbers led the way for the continent as a whole.

One stand-out location was the city of Heraklion on the Greek island of Crete, which was down by just -30.9%. This performance was in marked contrast to the UK capital, London, which saw its numbers collapse by -85.6%.

Q3 international arrivals to world regions

1 July to 30 September 2020; Year-on-Year variations by region

This reflects a common theme throughout the 2020 summer, where sun and sand destinations still appealed to travellers seeking to escape the stress of the pandemic. Their appeal was further supported by the brief easing in travel restrictions and some airlines offering competitive fares from Ireland, Germany, and the Netherlands to Southern Europe.

“This summer saw Portugal and Greece put on the map as the place to be in Europe,’’ says ForwardKeys VP of Insights Olivier Ponti. “Smaller, lesser-known cities such as Heraklion in Greece and Faro in Portugal beat the typical tourism hotspots in each destination. Clearly, people still wanted to keep a safe distance away from others even when on holidays.”

Now, the big question is whether the momentum of mid-Summer can be regained, following the latest lockdowns in many European states, with quarantine rules still applying to visitors in many cases.

Top ten reslient destinations cities* by tickets issued during Q3 2020

Tickets for international travel issued between 1 July and 30 September; 2020 vs 2019 volumes

While many airports and airlines have scaled back their projections for the months ahead, there are some potential bright spots, notably in Southern Europe, based on advance ticket purchases.

Ponti says: “Through our Actual Air Tickets data, we can see leisure travel for the Christmas period is starting to pick up, demonstrating that people have not given up hope on travelling somewhere for Christmas.

“One trend that will continue through to December, from examining the tickets issued as of October 27 for travel from October-December, Christmas this year is less about it being a ‘White Christmas’ and more about it being a sunny one as Faro (-51.3% YOY), Mallorca (-67.3% YOY) and Porto (-71.9% YOY) prove to be the most resilient cities in Q4.

“Regarding business travel, we believe this sector will remain flat over the next few months as long-haul travel is put on pause.”

Ticketing pace for Christmas travel to Europe

Ticketing dates for travel from 21 to 27 December 2020

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The Moodie Davitt eZine Issue 286 | 16 November 2020

The Moodie Davitt eZine is published 15 times per year by The Moodie Davitt Report (Moodie International Ltd). © All material is copyright and cannot be reproduced without the permission of the Publisher. To find out more visit and to subscribe, please e-mail

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