Analysis: EU Announces Possible Plans to Reopen to US Tourists for Summer

Following news that the EU may reopen for US vaccinated tourists by summer 2021, the travel app, Hopper examined flight searches from the US and saw a 47% spike in airfare searches to Europe, following Ursula von der Leyen’s announcement.

Adit Damodaran - Apr. 27, 2021

Summary:

  • Following Sunday's announcement that the EU may reopen to fully vaccinated US tourists this summer, airfare searches spiked 47% to EU member countries specifically, and 47% to Europe as a whole. This is a 22% spike above the weekly rolling average (average # of searches in the last 7 days). 

  • Denmark (+84%), Poland (+72%), and Portugal (+60%) were the EU countries that saw the largest percent increase in daily searches since Sunday, April 25th. Some partial EU members such as Switzerland (+63%) and Norway (+62%) also experienced a spike in searches.

  • Countries that have already opened, and thus were already up quite a bit since the beginning of the year, experienced more modest rises. Croatia and Greece, which were already up the most among all EU countries since the beginning of the year, saw more modest (yet still sizable) 31% and 21% increases respectively. Iceland, which is a partial EU member, also saw a 22% increase. 

  • The most searched EU destinations in the past two weeks are Paris (#1), Barcelona (#2), and Frankfurt (#3)

  • A “good deal price” for round-trip airfare to Europe will average $760 for summer 2021, down 11% from the beginning of April. Typically we see airfare rise into the summer for trans-Atlantic flights, but this year airfare is getting cheaper heading into May. 

  • Hopper estimates airfare to Europe will bottom out at $700 round-trip around May 25th, before rising towards $775 around mid-June. For those planning to travel to Europe over the summer, book before the last week of May to score the best deals on flights.

The head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, told the NYTimes in an interview on Sunday, April 25th, that the bloc would potentially allow fully vaccinated American tourists to visit over the summer.

This prompted the research team at travel app, Hopper to examine search demand to the 27 Member States of the EU on Tuesday, April 27th, which includes the latest data from Monday. Searches are up 47% to EU member countries specifically, and 47% to Europe as a whole. This is a 22% spike above the weekly rolling average (average # of searches in the last 7 days). Hopper receives 25 to 30 billion airfare price quotes every day from flight searches happening all across the web (not just in the app itself).

Searches from US to EU Countries
Data from April 27th, showing the spike in searches yesterday following news that the EU may reopen to vaccinated U.S. travelers this summer. The spike in the prior week was upon news of Greece reopening.

European Countries* up the most in Searches since Sunday, April 25th 

*With the announcement, searches for flights across various European countries rose substantially.  As a result, the largest percent increases tended to be for small countries with lower search volumes. We filtered for countries with at least 100,000 daily shops from the U.S., which better represents which major European travel destinations are up the most.

Scandinavian countries and western European countries saw the largest increases in daily search volume. Mediterranean countries, such as Spain, Italy, and Portugal, also fared really well. 

EU Rankings
Figure 1: Countries that saw the largest increase in searches following the announcement on 4/25

Countries that have already opened, and thus were already up quite a bit since the beginning of the year, experienced more modest rises. Croatia and Greece, which were already up the most among all EU countries since the beginning of the year, saw more modest (yet still sizable) 31% and 21% increases respectively. Iceland, which is a partial EU member, also saw a 22% increase. 

The UK, which recently left the EU, saw a 30% increase in searches. 

Daily Searches for Round-Trip Flights
Figure 2: Here we’ve normalized searches on the y-axis to clearly depict the trends. Countries that have already reopened (Croatia and Greece) saw more modest spikes, while countries that haven’t saw larger spikes.
Screen Shot 2021-04-27 at 1.08.42 PM
Figure 3: Shows the trends among the top most searched European countries (not exclusive to EU member states). The UK, which recently left the EU, saw a 30% increase in searches and is the most searched country for US to Europe travel. Spain, France, Italy, and Germany are in the cluster below.
Top 10 most popular EU destination in searches
Top 10 most popular EU destination in searches

Recent Demand Trends Following Reopening Plans

Countries who recently announced reopening plans have already seen a strong surge in summer travel demand.

  • Portugal - saw a massive 77% spike following an announcement in the first week of March that it hoped to welcome back tourists from the UK starting in mid-May, joining Cyprus and Greece.

  • Iceland - saw a 93% spike in searches after announcing it would fully reopen to all vaccinated travelers (including U.S. travelers) on March 17th – the biggest surge in search traffic we’ve seen to-date in 2021 for reopening internationally.

  • Greece - saw a 42% increase in round-trip searches from the U.S. on April 20th, following its reopening plans to U.S travelers announced on April 19th. Searches for flights to Athens have also shot up 75% since March 9th. Reykjavik ticked up a substantial 87% in search traffic since it announced it would reopen to vaccinated tourists on March 17th.

  • Lisbon - saw a 63% spike in searches during the first week of MarchAirfare to Europe

Airfare to Europe - What will this mean for flight prices?

Right now, Hopper expects a "good deal" price for airfare to Europe to be around $760 round-trip, down 11% from the beginning of April. Given that demand appears to be rising, why is airfare falling? 

As travel restrictions are eased, carriers are able to operate increased capacity to the re-opened destination. Amid piecemeal easing of travel restrictions, unless demand spikes rapidly enough to outpace the increase in supply, flash sales can be found as airlines attempt to entice travelers to return. 

US To Europe Airfare Pricing
Figure 4: U.S. to Europe airfare for summer departure dates (June 1st to August 31st), based on the date of booking. Typically we see airfare rise into the summer for trans-Atlantic flights, but this year airfare is getting cheaper heading into May.

We saw this occur previously with Iceland, which fully reopened to all vaccinated travelers (including U.S. travelers) on March 17th and saw a 93% spike in searches. But since March 17th, round-trip airfare from the U.S. has dropped from $697 to $550, a 21% decrease. 

We estimate airfare to Europe will bottom out at $700 around May 25th, before rising towards the $775 level around mid-June. For those planning to travel to Europe over the summer, we recommend booking before the last week of May to score the best airfare deals.

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