Travel to Europe stalled during high season

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Ireland arrivals were up 18% this summer, according to ForwardKeys. Pictured, part of Blarney Castle.
Ireland arrivals were up 18% this summer, according to ForwardKeys. Pictured, part of Blarney Castle. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Long-haul travel to Europe decreased this summer, according to travel data company ForwardKeys. 

ForwardKeys analyzed the period from June 1 to August 31, and found that long-haul arrivals to Europe declined 0.9% from the previous summer. While that drop is minimal, the period includes late June and early July, when arrivals actually grew by 7.9% coinciding with the UEFA Euro 2016 soccer tournament.

However, following the July 14 attack in Nice and July 15 coup attempt in Turkey, travel to Europe dropped 4.3% in the subsequent three weeks, ForwardKeys reported.

Among the top five European destinations for long-haul travel, four saw lower arrivals this summer, including the U.K. (down 1.3%), France (down 9.6%), Italy (down 2.6%) and Germany (down 4.1%). Only Spain saw growth over the same period, with a 10% bump in arrivals, according to ForwardKeys.

The countries with the most serious declines this summer were Turkey and Belgium, down 26.7% and 21.4%, respectively. Turkey has been hit with multiple bombings during 2016, including the Istanbul airport attack in late June, and a coup attempt in July. The Brussels airport and metro were attacked in March. 

Meanwhile, some second-tier destinations registered strong growth over the summer, including Ireland (18.1%), Russia (19%) and Poland (26.1%), which hosted World Youth Day in late July. Long-haul travel to Iceland increased 46.9% this summer compared to 2015. 

Origin markets around the world were split, with departures to Europe from North and South America increasing by 2.5% and 4.6%, respectively. However, the Middle East, Asia Pacific and Africa were all down. While travel from four out of the top five source markets were up, including the U.S. (1%), Australia (1.2%), Canada (4.3%) and India (5.3%), departures from China were down 3.7%.

Departures from secondary markets South Africa, the United Arab Emirates, Brazil and Japan dropped significantly.

“High-profile events such as UEFA’s European Cup and World Youth Day in Poland could not offset the damage caused by security concerns. A spate of bombings in Turkey and terrorist incidents in France have evidently deterred tourists from visiting major European countries,” said Oliver Jager, ForwardKeys co-founder and CEO. “However, there has been a surge of interest in second-tier destinations.”

The decline this summer comes after five years of strong growth during which inbound travel to Europe has increased an average of 6.2% annually. In the short term, ForwardKeys expects the decline in arrivals to continue. Bookings to Europe for Sept. 1 to Oct. 5 are currently down 1.4%.

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