Men in a suit in front a world map and a starting plane. Travel Sector Snapshot: EMEA

Travel Sector Snapshot: EMEA

In Blog by Janin

Each fortnight, the HRS team examines our proprietary booking data to learn how traveler behavior changes as the global industry adapts to the COVID-19 pandemic. What does the landscape look like now, and what does that mean for travel managers and hoteliers?

As the world navigates the concept of “safe travel” during this unusual time, the travel industry is adjusting to the changing needs of travelers.

Our data delivers unique insights into booking behavior, allowing us to provide travel managers and hoteliers with advice and recommendations about the evolving landscape.

This week, we begin with a global overview and then focus on the EMEA region, to see how the industry there is adapting to its new normal.

The global story right now

This week, the global market saw a 24% rise in new bookings on the previous week, a positive sign that interest in corporate travel is on the rise. New bookings made up nearly 71% of all booking statuses this week, a 7% rise on the week before and the eighth consecutive proportional rise. This continues to demonstrate that, as the world contemplates opening up for business once more, appetite for hotel stays and travel is growing.

Bookings remain largely domestic in nature, with 85% of them internal. Inbound and outbound bookings have remained stable for five consecutive weeks (7% and 8% respectively), indicating that travel managers are keeping corporate travel within their respective nations until more is known.

Concurrently, booking cancellations have dropped, and now account for only 26% of all booking statuses. Representing the lowest share since mid-February, and more than half the share seen even three weeks ago (53%), this is a strong indication that travel managers are feeling more confident about the stays they are arranging.

Focus on the EMEA region

According to our data, the number of new bookings rose 38% on the week before in the EMEA region, a promising sign of future interest.

Of all the bookings made this week, 56% were new – a rise of 9% in the share of bookings when compared to the week before.

Most heartening still, this is the first week since 23rd March – the crux of the lockdowns in Europe and the first date of lockdown in the UK – that new bookings have represented more than half of all bookings or alterations made.

Cancellations are still occurring, representing 40% of all booking alterations being made, but this week marked the eighth consecutive proportional drop in cancellations since the end of February.

The vast majority of the new bookings recorded were made for the European area, with few changes seen across Africa and the Middle East. From the data, we can infer that confidence in making bookings is steadily rising, particularly in Europe. Bookings are still being made for the near future, but travel managers’ interest in booking into the later months of the year is slowly rising. In response, the travel industry is working on providing competitive offers and flexible options to attract bookings for the coming months.

Travel Sector Snapshot with focus on EMEA, graphic that shows current figures: 38 % rise of new bookings this week; 59 % increase in pre-booking for July onwards; 81 % of bookings are domestic, with Europe recovering faster than Africa and Middle East.
Travel Sector Snapshot: EMEA

What factors lie behind the rise in EMEA bookings?

The key factor in the steep rise in bookings for the EMEA region is that countries are cautiously beginning to open up again, supported by increasingly positive backing by governments for national and international movement.

In Europe, countries are moving towards the end of their self-imposed isolation. In COVID-stricken Italy, one of first to lockdown, the situation has improved significantly, with the country due to open its borders to all travelers within the European Union and the Schengen area on 3 June. No self-quarantine will be required.

France has also recently stated that the 14-day quarantine for European residents will be lifted. The Baltic states’ “travel bubble” has been in place for six days, and should set a precedent for other neighboring countries if it remains successful.

By comparison, Africa and the Middle East remain stable but reluctant to make new bookings. The African region, though it has so far sustained comparatively fewer cases of COVID-19 than its European counterparts, has remained one of the most cautious, given its relative lack of access to more expensive pharmaceutical solutions. Some countries, such as Ghana, have begun easing their restrictions on air travel internally, but are still keeping their borders closed. But for the majority of nations on the continent, the African countries’ ban on international flights means bookings are likely to remain low until further progress is made.

In the Middle East, badly affected nations such as Iran are still wary of potential increases in infection, but are progressing towards the end of their lockdown with “low-risk” economic activity. Across various other nations in the region, the end of the period of Ramadan and advent of religious holiday Eid-al-Fitr represents a new danger as citizens congregate to celebrate. In response, governments have imposed harsher restrictions across their nations to ensure a new wave does not occur. With internal travel banned, hospitality leaders believe that a full recovery in the area is unlikely to be seen until the later parts of 2020 or early 2021. Unless there are significant changes to nations’ policies, bookings are likely to remain low for this region until more is known.

As of yet, domestic bookings still dominate across the EMEA area with 81% of the share. Inbound bookings from abroad and outbound bookings to other countries take 8% and 11% respectively. This suggests that though borders may be gradually opening in Europe, travel will likely rise internally first across the wider EMEA region while the reintroduction of cross-border flights remains suspended.

Positively, however, with the number of cancellations dropping, we believe that the situation in EMEA is stabilizing. Unlike earlier in the year, cancellations continue to drop, indicating that a commitment to bookings is on the rise.

What do these insights mean for travel managers and hoteliers?

For travel managers looking to book in Europe, the movement towards international travel easing will likely lead to a steady increase in flight and hotel room availability. As always, we recommend that travel managers utilize safe and trusted travel partners that can deliver high standards as regards duty of care and hygiene protocols.

Given the potentially changeable nature of the wider EMEA region, which may see short lockdown restrictions imposed due to upcoming religious holidays, travel managers interested in EMEA should keep abreast of changes and look for flexible options. They should also focus on streamlining operations and consolidating suppliers while there are attractive rates on offer.

For travel managers reviewing their MICE options, a consideration should be given to booking rooms to hold them for events taking place in the later part of 2020 or early 2021. As the lockdowns cease and travel begins again in earnest, prices will rise and booking availability will become more scarce.

For hoteliers in African and Middle Eastern locales, until more is certain, bookings may only see positive movement when the initial danger – or the danger of a second wave – has passed. However, this period can provide a respite from the daily needs of servicing travelers, so allowing for improvements in premises, staff training and hygiene standards.

For all hoteliers across the EMEA region, the data suggests that travelers and travel managers are seeking flexibility, security and competitive rates for bookings in the near and distant future. Offering attractive options will help to generate business when restrictions start to be lifted, particularly as hotels will need to stay competitive with customers’ reduced travel budgets. Lower-priced hotels may become more appealing to travelers than more expensive options, meaning flexible offers and good rates will help to secure interest.

For further advice and recommendations for corporate travel and hotel partnerships, please get in touch.