Europeans traveling more often, but trips are shorter, cheaper

EUROPE Europeans are ramping up their frequency of travel heading into 2011, but they are shortening their trips and cutting down on spending, according to the latest ITB World Travel Trends Report commissioned by IPK International.

The number of trips taken by Europeans rose 1% from January to August 2010, but the number of room nights dropped 2% and spending was 3% lower. Thanks to slightly higher growth in the third quarter, IPK predicts full-year growth of 1% to 2% for Europe’s outbound market.

Short-haul travel to Europe destinations is stagnating, but long-haul travel is growing well at 5%, reflected by a 2% drop in car travel but a 2% rise in air travel. Water-based travel is continuing to boom, with a 10% rise for cruise and other ships.

At the same time, Europeans are taking shorter trips. IPK data for the first eight months of 2010 show that the average length of stay declined 7% to eight nights, with a 10% rise in the number of short trips (one to three nights). Europeans are thusly spending less on their holidays, as pre-trip spending is down 4% to €874.

There are wide variations in terms of major outbound markets. UK outbound travel posted a 6% decline through the first eight months of 2010, and German outbound travel remained stagnant. France, Spain and Italy posted low growth of 2% to 4%, but the Nordic markets were stronger, with 5% to 8% growth.

Destination winners with growth of more than 8% from Europe include Germany, Netherlands, Egypt and China, but countries with stagnant or lower European visitor numbers include the United Kingdom, Spain, Greece and the United States.

Late bookings soared this year, with a 25% increase in bookings made less than one week before departure. The number of Europeans booking travel online rose 17% and is now approaching the 50% level, according to the report.

Looking ahead to 2011, the IPK Travel Confidence Index sits at 101 points for Europe, indicating 1% to 2% expected growth this year. Most optimistic for 2011 are Russians, Austrians, Swedes and Belgians, while Germans and British are the least confident among major outbound markets. The financial crisis will continue to impact the travel behavior of 65% of Europeans next year. The largest proportion (44%) plan the same amount of travel in 2011 as this year, while the number of people planning to travel more or less is virtually identical at 22% and 23%. A majority (57%) plans to spend about the same on travel next year, while 37% plan to reduce travel spending. Russia, Germany and Spain are the most price-cautious markets.