SINGAPORE, 6 March 2020: The outbreak of the Covid-19 virus in Italy has triggered a wave of trip cancellations to Italy and a collapse in new bookings to Europe from intercontinental source markets according to a report released Thursday by ForwardKeys a leading travel analytics company.
It follows on from a 23.7% decline monitored from the moment
China imposed restrictions on outbound travel, in the week 20 January, until 22
February, when the outbreak of COVID19 cases in northern Italy began.
Since the final week of February, the has situation worsened
considerably, as the cancellation of existing bookings suddenly outpaced new
bookings trends. The impact on travel was not confined to just Italy.
Simultaneously, the overall number of new flight bookings to Europe fell by
Bookings swiftly reverted to trend after a few new cases
were reported there in the following three weeks. However, everything changed
almost immediately after a cluster of cases was detected in Lombardy on 21
February – and Italy’s first deaths were reported the following day.
Since then, reported cases in Italy have passed 3,000, and
the death toll now stands at 107 (5 March). As rapidly as the cases numbers
escalated, flight bookings to Italy have decreased. Bookings to Italy, in the
final week of February, fell by 138.7%, meaning that the number of
cancellations exceeded the number of new bookings.
Breaking the global origin markets down into sub-regions, in
order of least to worst affected, revealed that bookings from North Africa
decreased by 30.4%, from Sub Saharan Africa, by 33.3%, from Central America by
63.6%, from North America by 63.7%, from the Middle East by 66.1%, from the
Caribbean by 66.5%, from Oceania by 81.5%, from South Asia by 85.9%, from South
America by 87.1%, from Southeast Asia by 133.2% and from Northeast Asia by
While the analysis of bookings reveals people’s travel
plans, the analysis of arrivals reveals how many have travelled. Looking back
over the first two months of the year, from 1 January to 29 February, visitor
arrivals in Europe have shown a two-phased decline as a consequence of the
Initially, intercontinental visits to Europe tracked collectively
1.3% above 2019 levels in the period from the start of the year to 28 January.
The first phase of decline in Europe began on 29 January, nine days after the
beginning of the crisis in China, when European destinations started to suffer,
and arrivals decreased by 17.6% from 29 January to 23 February.
Phase Two began with the sharp slump in visits which happened in tandem with the explosion of Covid-19 cases in northern Italy. In Phase 2, arrivals in Europe collapsed by 25.9% between the 24th and 29 of February alone, leaving the year to date results 10.5% below the same period last year.
ForwardKeys VP Insights Olivier Ponti said: “The
arrival of the Covid-19 virus in Italy marks a new phase in the travel crisis
in Europe. The drop-off in bookings to Italy is even worse than we have
observed in the past for some of the most disruptive events such as terror
attacks. The booking behaviour appears to be disproportionate, as parts of
Europe other than Italy are experiencing very substantial declines in visitor
European Cities Marketing resident Petra Stušek, concluded:
“When it comes to tourism, we should bear in mind that the more people travel
within Europe, the more stable the travel economy will be. It is important to
stay calm, not to overreact and work to keep ourselves and our communities
safe, but also functioning, until the recovery.”
In Asia, the inbound travel trade sector worries that the massive drop in bookings to Europe will force airlines serving long haul routes to reduce services to Asian cities. Flights and seat capacity will dip, and this will impact on two-way travel flows between Asia and Europe.