Chaotic airports or congested roads? How Europe will travel in 2022
With several parts of the world reopening to tourists, summer 2022 is touted as the season travel will recover from the pandemic. We asked Europeans if they plan to go big or stay home to find out whether this summer will be travel chaos or travel chill.
Whether you’re scrolling through social media or having a conversation with friends, travel is on everyone’s minds this summer — if that wasn’t already clear from the recent chaos at airports across Europe. According to research* conducted by TomTom, close to 78% of Europeans are planning to embark on a summer holiday.
To no one’s surprise, the loosening of COVID-19 restrictions and relaxation on testing for tourists is a major catalyst. "Last year, you had to perform multiple tests to travel. This year, those tests aren’t needed anymore," says Andy Marchant, Traffic Expert at TomTom.
However, while travelers around the world splash out on international trips as a way of 'revenge travel' — to make up for travel opportunities lost to the pandemic — 4 in 10 Europeans say they don’t feel the need to partake in this trend.
Instead, about 56% of those traveling this summer plan to stay within their own country. 42% say they will venture out but stay within Europe. And when it comes to how they’re going to get to their destinations, motor vehicles are the preferred choice for an overwhelming majority of Europeans. Hopefully the scenes we're seeing at airports won’t become the story of the summer.
A majority of Europeans are planning a summer getaway this year, but their plans signal a shift in the way they view travel.
Traveling with freedom and ease
In the summer of 2021, we conducted a similar survey and found that 51% of respondents claimed they would’ve traveled abroad had it not been for the pandemic. However, now that international travel is easier than it was last year, fewer than 10% of the respondents plan to travel abroad. This signals a shift in the way Europeans view travel, with 58% confessing they have an increased appreciation for destinations close to them. Even while on their summer trip, a fifth of Europeans plan to treat a single destination as their base and venture off on spontaneous excursions or day trips nearby.
When it comes to their choice of transport, they want to take it equally easy. A whopping 87% of travelers say a motor vehicle is part of their travel plans. In contrast, only about 20% are looking to travel by air and a paltry 6% by train.
There are a few reasons for Europeans ditching planes and trains in favor of road trips. More than three-quarters (77%) of those surveyed prefer driving because of the freedom it affords them. 46% also cite health concerns during the pandemic as a reason to choose their own vehicles over public transport like flights or trains.
Most Europeans plan to drive on their summer getaway for a variety of reasons.
Obviously, as Marchant puts it, there’s another reason for this reliance on driving. "In places where it's simpler to drive between countries, I think there will be a large volume of people who drive somewhere for their holidays."
When hitting the road, 75% of drivers rely on sat navs to guide them, while close to 22% choose navigation apps.
In recent times, rising fuel prices have made people in Europe reconsider their preferred mode of transport, even in daily life. But when it comes to travel, close to half of the respondents say their plans remain unaffected, while about 31% say they’ve had to keep fuel costs in mind while making plans.
As Marchant observes, however, "Domestic holiday locations, camp sites and holiday parks have also significantly increased their prices over the past couple of years mainly to try and recover lost revenues from cancellations and restrictions due to COVID-19."
It remains to be seen whether this, coupled with high fuel prices, will make road trip loyalists reconsider their plans, or if their love for the open road trumps all else.
Summer traffic: A cautionary tale
It’s not uncommon for travelers in Europe to spend hours in traffic while on the way to their summer holiday. Yet almost 62% of vacationers say they’re not worried about getting stuck in summer traffic this year.
It remains to be seen whether factors like rising fuel prices and congested roads cause Europeans to reconsider their summer road trip plans.
Some respondents did say that they prefer traveling on weekdays due to "less traffic, lower stress and places being open on weekdays." Marchant recommends further caution and advises people to rely on a good old pre-pandemic travel hack. "Travelers should consider midweek to midweek trips, therefore avoiding the worst of the traffic, which usually occurs between Friday and Monday."
Are road trips here to stay?
Despite relaxed COVID-19 restrictions and rising fuel prices, it looks like many Europeans are gravitating towards driving on their summer holidays. And no matter how unbothered they might be, summer traffic shouldn’t be taken lightly if one wants to have a carefree road trip. With reliable traffic information, drivers can predict the conditions they might encounter on the open road and escape congestion.
This is not to say that access to live traffic information will help clear the roads and avoid the possibility of traffic jams altogether. Every traveler venturing out on European roads this summer should be wary of slow-moving traffic and busier roads, especially considering the chaos at airports might lead even more people to choose driving over flying.
In the past two years, we’ve seen massive changes in the ways people travel. Some trends that look like they’re here to stay: an appreciation for places close by and an affinity for convenience and freedom while on the go. Instead of overloading their itineraries with several things to check off, Europeans seem keen to take it slow and be more flexible with their holiday plans.* Research by TomTom, which surveyed 350 adults in France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain and the UK about their holiday and travel intentions for summer 2022.
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