How the Covid crisis changed our holiday wishlist
With temperatures in London almost as hot as in downtown Riyadh this week, the idea of flying to somewhere warm seems slightly absurd. Still, as airport queues attest, Britons can’t pack their bags fast enough this summer, with many holidaymakers giddy at the prospect of unrestricted travel for the first time since Covid-19 hit.
But where is everyone going? And how has the pandemic affected our choice of destination?
Old favorites – but forget France
An analysis of flight data and information from major tour operators suggests, among other things, a strong desire to return to old and familiar favourites. After all, who in the depths of the third lockdown hasn’t found themselves flipping through old holiday snaps, yearning for Andalusian warmth, French cuisine or the limpid shores of Italian lakes? Or, frankly, anywhere but the lonely, puddle-strewn parks of lockdown Britain.
So it’s no surprise to see Spain, France and Italy among the busiest destinations so far this summer. And yet still not back to pre-pandemic levels; the number of passengers to Spain fell by 12%, to Italy by 17% and to France by 26% in the second week of this month compared to July 2019. This is according to data from the flight analysts. OAGwho says the snapshot reflects a larger trend – maybe we didn’t miss French food so much after all.
The reduced air capacity has an impact, however. “We are currently around 15% below available capacity in the UK,” says OAG chief analyst John Grant, who is optimistic about the impending change. It could be October, at the earliest, until the sky is full again.
East beats west
However, some destinations are going against the trend. Data reveals that more people are traveling to the Eastern Mediterranean than before the pandemic. Passenger numbers to Greece and Turkey increased by 19% and 25% respectively in the second week of July, compared to the same period in 2019. Again, this is part of a wider trend .
Grant attributes Greece’s rise to its quick easing of travel restrictions, giving it a leg up on some rivals. The country opened up to tourists last May with the emphatic message: “We are leaving confinement behind us”. Turkey, meanwhile, didn’t even order a legal lockdown until April 2021, lifting it three months later.
However, the idea that laissez-faire Covid restrictions amount to a rapid rebound is dispelled by data from Sweden. The Scandinavian nation had a reputedly laid-back approach to the pandemic – a policy that is still hotly debated – but there are around a third fewer tramps in seats in Sweden this month, compared to July 2019.