Research undertaken by ForwardKeys, the travel analytics firm, which analyses 17 million flight bookings and 7 million flight searches a day, has revealed that the most strongly trending EU destination for long-haul visitors this Christmas is Helsinki, with 29.6% growth in flight bookings over the period 15th December 2019 – 15th January 2020. It is followed by Budapest, ahead 29.3%, Bucharest, ahead 28.4%, Lisbon, ahead 27.2%, Porto, ahead 26.5%, Athens, ahead 22.0%, Copenhagen, ahead 18.5%, Madrid, ahead 18.3%, Prague, ahead 16.5% and Amsterdam, ahead 14.4%.
As of 12th November, Christmas bookings to EU countries from outside the Union are 11.0% ahead of where they were at the equivalent point last year. As Christmas is the peak time of year for the retail industry and tourists are keen shoppers, the findings are likely to be welcome news for stores based in the most popular malls and shopping streets across the EU. However, not every destination is ahead; bookings to two of Europe’s most picturesque cities on the water, Stockholm and Venice are behind, 23.1% and 6.5% respectively. Stockholm is suffering since SAS stopped direct flights to and from Hong Kong last November and Venice has experienced a stalling in bookings from South Korea, the US, Russia and China; however, with the recent floods, a further slowdown is likely. Jérôme Goldberg, Global Retail & Travel Retail Director, ForwardKeys, said: “One has to feel great sympathy for the people of Venice. It is a city that relies on tourism and images of St Mark’s Square under water are bound to deter visitors.”
Helsinki’s growth is mainly attributable to great growth in festive forward bookings from China and Japan, driven by a substantial increase in capacity. Budapest’s strong booking position is due to notable capacity growth on routes from New York and Tel Aviv. Bucharest’s boom is due to notable capacity growth over the last two years. Lisbon is benefitting from a new route, operated by Asiana, from South Korea and Porto is profiting from an increase in flight capacity from Sao Paulo, Brazil’s commercial capital.
The EU’s largest, city destinations by market share are currently all showing very healthy bookings for the Christmas period. The no.1 destination is London, with a 16.2% share and bookings 10.2% ahead of where they were at the equivalent point last year. It is followed by Paris, which has a 13.6% share and bookings 12.9% ahead. The next most visited cities will be, in order, Rome, Madrid, Barcelona, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Lisbon, Milan and Munich.
Looking at the most important origin markets for global shoppers in order of size, coming to the EU, there is extremely healthy, above inflation, growth from six of the top seven. Forward bookings for the Christmas period from the USA are 7.0% ahead, from South Korea, 15.1% ahead, from Brazil 29.3% ahead, from Russia, 1.6% ahead, from Japan, 15.8% ahead, from China, 19.5% ahead and from the GCC countries 3.6% ahead.
Jérôme Goldberg, Global Retail & Travel Retail Director, ForwardKeys, concluded: “Travel to EU countries over the Christmas period is currently well ahead, which is encouraging news for retailers. Our data does not only show the relative attractiveness of different cities, we can also analyse visitor profiles and arrival peaks and troughs. The high spots for an influx of visitors are just before Christmas on 21st December and just after it on 27th December. However, there are some critical nuances; for example, the Chinese market peaks on the earlier date, the US market on the latter date. Therefore, retailers who do good business with tourists might want to bear this in mind when considering things like the optimal timing and geo-targeting of marketing campaigns and the language profile of frontline staff on certain key dates.”