France reopens its borders & British bookings boom: Is there light at the end of the tunnel?
France has officially lifted travel restrictions for British tourists and, within a few days, bookings and searches have risen sharply. This trend began to appear in the first few days of 2022, when the European news reported a rumour about a possible easing of restrictions between France and the United Kingdom, but confirmation of the rumor has caused a boom in flight searches.
The evolution of the ongoing pandemic made the French government decide to amend the travel restrictions, allowing fully vaccinated British travelers, with a negative PCR test, to enter France as of January 14, without needing to justify their presence or having to quarantine.
The news has had a very strong impact on British travellers, who, even in the days preceding the official announcement, began looking for flights and hotels in tourist destinations across the Channel. The increase, recorded by various sources, was very strong and shows how eager the British people are to travel again.
The positive reaction of the market to the lifting of restrictions is a scenario that we have already seen and analysed in several cases but, in this specific case, the reaction of British tourists is being watched very closely. Today, the UK is the first western country to have reached and surpassed the peak of Omicron infections, and the rest of Europe is watching it closely (as well as other countries worldwide) to see the outcome of this decision.
SKI RESORTS ARE MOST POPULAR
“We have seen an immediate and dramatic spike in bookings, with volumes since the Government announcement heading towards pre-pandemic levels, which demonstrates just how much demand is out there amongst people wanting to get away for a much-needed holiday,” said Steve Heapy, Jet2 CEO, commenting on the market turnaround.
Data from Lybra, which collects flight searches from all airlines, also reports a sharp increase in recent days: the number of flights from the UK to France increased by 86% during the past week, almost a doubling of the previous week's searches. After the news of the official lift of the ban was published, British travelers began to search for flights on booking engines more frequently, with a peak of 87,500 searches on January 12, 2022. Spain, which until a few days ago was the number one French market, also increased its demand for travel, but only by 29%; the domestic market also increased by 26%.
It seems that the biggest demand from the British is for travel to ski destinations: “EasyJet reported that it had seen a 600 per cent increase in the number of people choosing to travel to popular winter sports destinations and a 386 per cent increase in flight bookings.” According to tour operator TUI, “ski bookings have doubled after the official announcement of the lifting of restrictions”. According to Lybra data, the most searched airports for Brits in the last week are Chambery (+278%) and Grenoble (+251%), airports, which are near to popular ski resorts such as Val Thorens, La Rosiere, Sainte Foy and La Grave.
CITIES OF ART & SEASIDE DESTINATIONS ALSO DID WELL
Not all British tourists want to go skiing: many tourists want to travel to the big French cities and, as always, Paris is in first place. Around 60% of all British searches are for flights arriving in the capital and demand has grown by 98% in the last week. Demand for the cities of Lyon (+175%), Toulouse (+104%), Bordeaux (+75%) and Nantes (+73%) are also growing strongly.
Other British travelers prefer seaside destinations: 14% of British tourists intend to travel to the Mediterranean coast (especially to Nice and Marseille); 7% of them prefer the ocean coast while 3% are looking for flights to Corsica.
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