Attracting high-spending tourists from Asia and the US will be a difficult task for European destinations this summer, despite borders starting to reopen from last week. Survey data suggests APAC customers are looking for safer, shorter journeys over the next few months with the luxury destinations of Paris, London and Milan not on the list for most.
New European Union recommendations published last week said member states should start opening their borders to visitors from 14 countries including Japan, South Korea and Thailand. China and the US are not on the list, due to a lack of agreement on reciprocal access with the former and the still-soaring infection rate in the latter. The UK said that visitors from a list of 50 countries would no longer have to quarantine on arrival from this week onwards.
These changes mark small steps towards normality for the network of luxury retailers with stores in city centres reliant on international visitors for significant portions of their revenue. In reality, it is likely to be many months before tourist flows return to anything like pre-crisis numbers, analysts say. By the time that happens, both the cities and the priorities of the tourists visiting them may have changed significantly.
“Every sector, be it luxury or budget, is going to be severely impacted by the current situation,” says Tom Jenkins of the European Tourism Association, an industry body representing tour operators across the continent. “The best we can hope for is a kind of spontaneous decision for people to come travelling.”
Safety is the top concern for tourists across the globe. A recent report by Google Trends Asia and popular APAC booking platform Trip.com showed that the most popular search queries related to tourism tended to be about the risks and current restrictions on travelling. McKinsey data from late April showed that most Chinese residents are not thinking about taking a trip until September and, when they do, it is likely to be within China.