Europeans somewhat split about travelling in post-pandemic era

09 September 2021 4 min. read
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While global travel activity is gradually picking up after the Covid-19 pandemic, European interest in travelling is somewhat divided, a global study by Oliver Wyman shows.

A year and a half into the pandemic, international and domestic travel has become more frequent again, but continued health and safety concerns as well as the practical complications of restrictions related to travel still cause caution in some countries.

In a new survey conducted by global strategy and management consulting firm Oliver Wyman, a third of the nearly 5,300 respondents indicate that they feel comfortable traveling again. The study was conducted in nine countries across the world, including the United States, Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and United Kingdom, with those surveyed in the US and France showing most willingness to travel.

Factors influencing readiness to travel, by country

“A quarter to a third are still uncomfortable where extensive interaction with people might be involved. However, this is almost a 20% improvement from October 2020, when nearly half of all respondents were uncomfortable engaging in these activities,” said Bruce Spear, Jessica Stansbury and Bruno Despujol, all partners in Oliver Wyman. 

While more than half of respondents in France were keen on travelling again, other European countries, including Germany, Spain and Italy showed significantly less interest. Out of the European countries, the United Kingdom was the lowest on the list, with only little over 10% of respondents indicating that they were comfortable being on flights and public transport again.

A surprising outlier perhaps, as the country has the highest level of immunity (80%) among the countries surveyed. Only respondents from China (8%) and Canada (9%) showed even less interest in travelling again. 

“The outlook for travel is much brighter but is still being buffeted by the slow pace of vaccinations in some geographies, unease over new Covid-19 variants, and uneven government policies regarding travel restrictions,” the authors said.

Business travel plans and impact on volumes

While travel is generally expected to boom once restrictions lift fully, the picture looks somewhat different for business travel than for leisure travel, especially in Europe. According to the survey, Europeans intend to travel less for business purposes than in pre-pandemic times, compared to the other countries surveyed.

However, the authors suggest, this trend might become more common elsewhere as the new ways of working have become the norm, with companies implementing new policies to limit business travel. At the same time, many respondents also indicate that teleconferencing is not always a suitable option, with only 60% indicating that their work can be done effectively via online meetings. As a result, business travel is still somewhat harder to predict, and is likely to change in the long-term, as companies continue to adjust to the post-pandemic era.

Share of travelers uncomfortable doing the following after the end of the COVID-19 pandemic

As for leisure travel, the consultancy expects an increase in shorter trips closer to home, as respondents are still more uncomfortable taking international flights (25%) compared to domestic flights (15%). Last minute bookings are likely to become another trend, leaving time to adjust to any new potential health measures and restrictions.

In general, health and safety measures, as well as transparent communication about these measures have become and will continue to be a significant part of travellers’ considerations. Social distancing measures seem to remain the most important in this context, with roughly a third of respondents indicating that they wish to have an empty seat next to them, and masks to be mandatory. In contrast, only a quarter of travellers find a negative Covid-19 test or proof of vaccination status important.