Bleak outlook for city breaks for rest of 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted demand for city breaks as tourists now seek destinations away from crowds and urban hotspots. City breaks were globally the third most popular holiday type in 2019, among respondents in GlobalData’s Q3 2019 global consumer survey*, but their choices are expected to shift to prioritize green, outdoor spaces for leisure.  With iconic cities across Europe re-introducing lockdown measures, closing bars, pubs and attractions, demand for the city break will be further decimated for the remainder of 2020, says GlobalData, leading data and analytics company.

Johanna Bonhill-Smith, Travel and Tourism Analyst at GlobalData, comments:
“Common motivators for choosing a city break are to explore a local destination through visiting attractions, dining out and to generally unwind and relax over a few days with loved ones or friends. Major European city destinations such as Paris, Madrid and Amsterdam are world-renown for their cultural and gastronomic pull, but with these activities are largely prohibited due to new COVID-19 lockdown restrictions, many are likely to lose tourism for some time.”

After the first wave of COVID-19, tour operators such as Airbnb, Expedia Group and Booking Holdings reported that travelers were already more commonly seeking short breaks away from urban hotspots, avoiding crowds and looking for green, open spaces. As Europe is now entering a second wave of infections, many major cities are re-introducing lockdown measures such as night-time curfews, the closure of restaurants and bars and, in extreme cases, restricted alcohol sales.

Bonhill-Smith continues: “While the restrictions across Europe are not planned to be in place beyond the foreseeable future, the increased desire to visit more open spaces rather than urban hotspots is likely to be a longer term behavioral change. Quarantine measures across Europe continue to change regularly and this, in itself, acts as a deterrent. Travelers that take the gamble to venture away are still likely to avoid city destinations, as, even though restrictions may ease, the fear of crowds, cleanliness and restrictive measures will continue to impact their experience.”

GlobalData’s latest consumer survey (week 8**) found that only 5% of UK travelers are ‘not concerned’ about COVID-19. Compared to the same survey conducted in June 2020(***), this has only increased by 2% and, therefore, concern among UK individuals has stayed more or less consistent thoughout this period. Even as local restrictions began to ease in June, concerns remained high, generally leading tourists to seek less crowded and high populated places.

Bonhill-Smith adds: “Low-cost carriers such as Ryanair and easyJet have typically benefited from UK travelers seeking international getaways across Europe. Both domestic and regional carriers such as these were deemed as the first likely to benefit as travel began to recover post COVID-19. The threat of a second wave however exposes an uphill struggle as the demand for city breaks looks bleak for the remainder of 2020.”

*   GlobalData Global consumer survey Q3 2019 – 29,744 respondents
** GlobalData COVID-19 UK recovery consumer survey week 8 (16 – 18 Sept 2020) – 505 respondents
(***) GlobalData COVID-19 UK recovery consumer survey week 1 (10 – 14 June 2020) – 549 respondents

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