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Spring holidays: the desire to travel at its best

The epidemic context, the war in Ukraine and inflation are all factors that are likely to have a strong impact on the Spring holidays as they are fast approaching. However, travellers are not ready to give up, as shown by the latest studies published by Atout France and ADN Tourisme, VVF, Opodo and Airbnb. A first report supported by data from MKG Consulting on the whole of France and by region. Which destinations have the highest booking rates? What are the differences compared to 2021? How is the context reflected in holiday plans?

France still appeals

Atout France has carried out a survey in collaboration with ADN Tourisme in order to draw up an overview of holiday desires in France in spring 2022. This survey concerns French customers but also international customers wishing to visit France during this period. It is a fact that after two years of constraints, the French want to travel more than ever. Seventy percent of them plan to take one or more trips between April and June 2022, and there are many opportunities to do so, with the Easter weekend, the spring holidays, the Ascension and Whitsun holidays.

The Spring holidays are in the lead with half of those wishing to travel during this period which starts on Saturday 16 April. Between April and June, French tourists plan to make an average of 2.2 stays and will spend a total of almost 10.6 days away from home. Hotels are the most popular form of accommodation with 29% of stays planned, followed by stays with family or friends for 23% of travellers, 16% choose furnished accommodation and 9% will stay on a campsite.

The coast and the countryside remain the preferred destinations again this year, but urban destinations are gaining ground. In fact, a quarter of planned holidays will take place in cities. The Ile de France is the leading destination for bookings in April and May, followed by more natural destinations such as the Pays de la Loire, Hauts-de-France and Brittany. For the month of June, the Pays de la Loire region is leading the way for the time being, but booking rates may still change between now and then and upset the rankings. 

Even if France remains the preferred destination in 2022, 11% of stays should take place abroad, an increase of 6% compared to May 2021. France is once again attracting foreign tourists in large numbers, particularly American, Belgian, Italian, British and Spanish tourists. British tourists are among those with the strongest desire to travel in the coming weeks, with more than two thirds of them planning a stay by June 2022. A percentage of them are planning to spend this holiday overseas however 7.4 million British tourists are planning a stay over the Easter holidays on their own territory. The majority are planning a short stay such as a 3-day weekend, a similar trend to France. VisitEngland estimates that all these trips are expected to generate £1.8 billion for the country's tourism economy. 

It's great to see so many people planning a holiday in the country for the Easter weekend, getting out and exploring the great accommodation, events and attractions here on our doorstep, whether they're enjoying a trip to the seaside, the countryside or a city break. This is the first Easter since 2019, before the pandemic, that the sector has been able to be fully operational and this long weekend will be vital in providing businesses and destinations with much needed cash to kick-start the season. Our tourism businesses will be delighted to welcome you back.

Patricia Yates, CEO VisitEngland/VisitBritain 

SNCF Voyageurs has also revealed the booking figures for the spring period and the finding is unequivocal: the French want to travel. In total, more than one million tickets were sold for the Easter weekend, a level similar to 2019. And for the Spring holiday period as a whole, 7.2 million passengers are expected to board the company's trains. This is up 3% on the pre-Covid period and three times higher than in 2021. The most popular destinations include Saint-Malo, Caen, La Rochelle, Biarritz, Bordeaux and Arcachon. The west coast is therefore very popular for this holiday period.

The Logis Hotels Group also shares the booking trends it has observed over the last few weeks and the constant is that the Easter holidays will see many tourists come and go. The domestic clientele remains predominant with a 52% increase in bookings from French tourists but the British clientele is also increasing with +12% during this period. The group's turnover jumps by 37% for the Spring 2022 holidays compared to the same period in 2019. Three regions are doing well, notably because of their rich cultural and natural heritage, namely Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, Occitanie and Grand Est. 

The latest survey published by YouGov confirms the trend of domestic tourism, with 60% of French people saying they want to travel to France in the next 12 months. According to the survey, age could be a determining factor in the choice of travel, with 63% of the over-55s wanting to travel to France, while 51% of the younger generation prefer international destinations. Nevertheless, all age categories combined, domestic travel predominates. The other nationalities questioned in the study show a more pronounced interest in international travel, particularly tourists from the United Arab Emirates and Singapore.

A more or less favourable context

Nevertheless, certain factors are obstacles to a possible stay in the coming months, with 1 in 5 French people explaining that they do not want to travel before the summer. Financial constraints come in first place with the current inflation, which is reflected in the soaring price of petrol. For 18% of them, the health situation prevents them from planning a trip in the next three months. Finally, many of them explain that they do not feel the need or desire to go away or that they prefer other periods to plan a holiday.

In its survey, VVF also looks at the impact of current events on the French people's holiday plans. The geopolitical, health and economic context thus encourages 75% of respondents to plan their next holidays in France rather than abroad. Among those who have planned to travel abroad, 48% prefer to wait and see how the conflict evolves before deciding whether or not to maintain their plans, while 40% say they do not want to change them. Only 12% have decided to change their plans for the time being.

The main factor impacting on French people's holidays would be the drop in purchasing power for 31% of respondents, followed by the rise in the cost of petrol for 29%, the health situation for 21%, the war in Ukraine for 14% and finally the presidential and regional elections for 5%. In total, 52% of respondents said they had changed their holiday plans as a result of the rising cost of petrol, with 2% going so far as to cancel them. The war has less of an impact, although 39% of respondents said they were still waiting to see how the situation develops. Elections have a lesser impact on holiday decisions, although one percent of holidaymakers have decided to cancel their trip in order to vote.

A need for exoticism 

Opodo unveils the most popular destinations for the French for the Easter holidays and no surprise, they are all looking for sun and escape. The southern European destinations are the most popular and Morocco is back in the top 5 after having closed its borders to international tourists for many months. The top of the list of destinations most booked by the French is composed of : 

  1. Lisbon 
  2. Porto
  3. Rome 
  4. Madrid 
  5. Marrakech

The top destinations are relatively similar, with the exception of Madrid which is replaced by Barcelona. For the 2022 Spring holidays, it seems that the French are no longer content with a simple weekend break. Indeed, 48% of bookings concern trips lasting at least 7 days and 29% concern bookings for extended weekends, i.e. 3 days.

Airbnb draws the same conclusion: after more than two years of pandemic, the French want to travel outside their territory again. Far-off destinations are particularly popular as the Easter holidays approach. In particular, the major urban destinations are making a comeback, as shown by the top 10 most popular international destinations: 

  • Málaga 
  • New York 
  • Valencia 
  • Madrid 
  • Dublin 
  • Montreal
  • Seville 
  • Barcelona
  • Palermo
  • Porto

And for this holiday, French tourists are planning to travel with their families more than ever. Airbnb notes that the number of nights booked by families for the spring holidays is ten times higher than last year at the same time. This makes them the fastest growing category of travellers, ahead of couples and solo travellers. Unlike the rest of the travellers, families prefer French destinations such as Guadeloupe, South Corsica, Savoie or Finistère.

The latest study published by the European Travel Commission (ETC) confirms the strong desire to travel among all European countries. Three out of four Europeans (77%) intend to travel between April and September. Respondents from Italy, Spain, Poland, the UK and Germany are the most optimistic about travelling. Domestic travel wins 31% of the vote, while 56% of respondents say they plan to visit another European country. Travel intentions increase with age, rising from 69% among Generation Z to 83% among Baby Boomers. Spain remains the most popular destination, followed by Italy, France, Greece and Portugal.

Summer prospects

Whereas in May 2021, 72% of French people were planning to go away in the summer, 71% of them already had summer plans in mind at the end of March 2022. Contrary to last year when the health context was still relatively anxious and restrictive, thus encouraging tourists to stay in France, this year marks the return of holidays abroad for the summer period. In 2022, fewer tourists will be looking for French destinations or less crowded areas and cancellation conditions will therefore be a much less important criterion. On the other hand, 68% say that their budget will be reduced due to inflation and 42% are waiting to see how the Ukrainian conflict will develop before booking.

The Logis Hotels Group confirms the return of foreign customers over the summer period, with varying degrees of growth:

  • +41% for the British
  • +11% for Belgians
  • +8% for Germans
  • +5% for the Dutch 

Siblu has also just unveiled its survey on the desires of the French for their summer holidays, with 58% of those polled saying they want to book their holiday as soon as possible. Unsurprisingly, 90% of those surveyed prefer the beaches and the 3 most attractive French regions remain New Aquitaine, PACA and Occitania. France is still on a roll this year, with 50% of French people saying they want to discover all the regions of France in the next few years. The Bassin d'Arcachon is the most popular spot this year at 42%, followed by the Dune du Pilat, the Ile d'Oléron and the Calanques de Marseilles all tied at 33%. If the holiday location is of great importance in the eyes of French tourists, the price is just as important for 57% of them as the quality of services for 42%.

On the other side of the Atlantic, the desire to travel during the summer is just as strong, as the new survey by The Vacationer shows. Thus, 81% of Americans have planned to take a trip during this period, and more than 44% even declare that they want to leave more than once. This is a significant increase on last year when 67% wanted to travel. Despite the unstable geopolitical context, 20% of them plan to travel to distant destinations. However, almost 36% say they feel less safe than before to travel because of the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Road trips are popular with Americans this year, with almost 7% of them feeling ready to drive more than 1,600km. Air travel is also regaining popularity with over 50% of American travellers planning to take it at least once this summer. The "revenge travel" trend is confirmed by this survey, with 46% of respondents saying they want to travel even more than last year. 

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