Belgium and Germany move up consumers’ Airbnb wishlist

Airbnb says Europeans are looking to alternative destinations for their getaways, driving a surge in bookings for Belgium and Germany as the EU readies a Covid vaccination certificate to ease travel across the bloc.

The short-term rental provider said the number of customers in the EU looking for stays in other countries in Europe was by up to a third in the week to May 24 compared with the same week in 2019.

Belgium had the biggest jump in interest, with searches climbing 31 per cent, followed by Germany, which was up 28 per cent compared to 2019 levels, and France at 15 per cent.

Airbnb said that in the week to May 22, searches by people in EU member states were at the highest levels since the pandemic began, in a sign of consumer confidence that vaccinations and testing will cause the pandemic to recede.

“We are preparing for what we believe will be the travel rebound of the century but travel will look different,” said Emmanuel Marill, regional director of Airbnb in Europe. “Europeans are visiting more places, staying longer and are more flexible on when they go.”

Data drawn from Airbnb bookings by the analytics firm AirDNA show that consumers are also opting for more luxurious stays thanks to high levels of savings built up during lockdowns and a desire to make up for holidays lost to the pandemic.

Demand for luxury lodgings, which represent the top 15 per cent of its listed properties by price, had recovered to 87 per cent of 2019’s levels in March this year, while demand for budget stays was just 51 per cent.

Airbnb said bookings for accommodation that it classed as “unique”, such as trullos in Italy or castles in Spain, were up 94 per cent in the four months to the end of April 2021 compared to the same period in 2019. Rural locations trumped urban destinations, it added, with places such as Var in Provence being booked more than Paris.

Travel across Europe has been much slower to recover than in the US, which has had a faster vaccine rollout and less strict lockdowns. In a bid to boost travel around the bloc, the European Council last week approved regulation for a digital Covid certificate to be developed that will show a person’s vaccination status or whether they have had a negative test result.

The certificate is due to be implemented from July 1 with a six-week phasing-in period. The European Tourism Alliance warned that member states should avoid delaying its introduction as “sectoral resilience is at its limit”.

Dana Dunne, chief executive of eDreams Odigeo, Europe’s largest online travel provider, said that across the continent countries were beginning to return to near 2019 booking levels with the exception of the UK where, despite nearly 60 per cent of the population having had at least one jab, the government has introduced a strict traffic light system of travel restrictions.

Dunne said that for travel companies this had made it “more difficult to figure out what’s going on” and had also resulted in “a heightened level of scariness for the consumer”.

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