The impact of the coronavirus outbreak on the travel industry

Mihai Cristea 13/03/2020 | 13:56

The travel industry is one of the most affected by the coronavirus global outbreak. How did the market and customers react? Which markets have suffered the most and which have fared better? Experts from the online travel agency eSky have looked at these questions and tried to find the answers.


The outbreak of the coronavirus began in China where the interest of traveling to this destination among Europeans continued to grow at a high rate this year. In the 4th week of January after the information about coronavirus appeared in the media, the situation started changing with the number of bookings decreasing significantly.

With the drastically increasing number of sick people in China, the situation was getting worse. The airlines decided to limit flights to infected regions. Customers also began to massively give up their travels to many Asian countries, in particular to China, where in February the number of bookings decreased by 81% compared to January. Other Asian countries such as Thailand which was recently very popular among EU travellers have also suffered a decrease.


Situation in Romania

The outbreak of coronavirus in Asia did not have a big impact on the number of bookings on eSky. The number of all flight bookings from Romania after the epidemic was announced in China decreased by around 7% week to week, however the next week an increase of 10% was recorded. The news of the virus reaching Europe in the 3rd week of February resulted in a sharper decrease in the number of bookings – about 23% week to week. Still, this decrease has not yet affected the year to year sales growth of the company, which is a bit above 15% for the first 2 months of 2020.


Flights to Italy

In 2019, Italy was ranked second, after Great Britain, in terms of popularity among European travel destinations of Romanians. In January 2020, the number of bookings to Italy increased by 24% compared to the same period of 2019. The situation changed in February, when the coronavirus outbreak occurred in Northern Italy. At the end of February, the number of bookings to this destination on eSky decreased by 33%. The biggest drop is observed in the past 10 days, however Italy is still holding the 4th position for flight bookings after the UK, Germany and Spain.


Airlines under pressure of time and customer expectations

The responses of airlines vary. Many of them are forced to close routes and are facing huge amounts of travel cancellations. Some of them may not be able to cope with the situation – a recent example is the regional British airline Flybe, which declared bankruptcy on Thursday, March 5.

The risk particularly applies to companies who already have financial problems. The situation is more optimistic for strong industry players. Some of them are taking different measures to secure their financial situation: lower prices, free and more flexible options for changing flight dates, etc. So this moment could be good for customers to plan their trips for later periods, benefiting lower prices and better conditions.


Impact on travel industry is inevitable

People travel more and more and love visiting new places. It is normal to expect that as soon as the spread of the coronavirus is under control, customers will return to planning their trips as usual. It’s hard to say when but one can base some assumptions on similar situations from the past. The epidemic of bird and swine flu or SARS for example – such crises usually last several months.

At the moment all travel companies are in crisis – both due to low sales and cancellations. Not all players can withstand the pressure. Certainly after the crisis the industry will be on the wave of growing sales. However, it all depends on how long this situation will last. Now being in the phase of development one cannot expect a quick return to “normality”.

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