Belgium 19.01.2021

How will the travel market evolve during winter and post-covid era?

The global pandemic is still going strong and affecting all our daily lives. This also has a major impact on a very big sector in our economy, the travel sector. They have suffered immensely under the strict conditions and closing of borders all around the world. Every day we hear news about the growing popularity of staycations, consumers cancelling their trips, travelers choosing for different transport methods, … It quickly became clear that the summer of 2020 couldn’t be saved, but now the winter season is also very much under pressure. The data of a joint study between GfK and Abto also support this. Abto – or the Association of Belgian Travel Organisers – is an association that represents and defends the interests of travel organisers on a national and international level. In the study, we saw that trips in July dropped with -32%, in August we saw a decrease of -31%. And it’s becoming worse.

In September, the drop increased to -51%, in October to -59%, in November -51% and in December we even expect a drop of -72%! Our Becommerce study also indicated that the total spending for package travel dropped with -52% in the first six months of the year, compared to the same period last year. For plane tickets and accommodation bookings, the decrease in spending was -41%. Given these trends and the fact that winter travel consists of a lot of inside activities (think about the après-ski), it’s clear that the sector will still be suffering extremely in the coming winter months. A lot of countries are already closing the ski areas, so this season will also probably not be saved.

However, the question is also: “What will happen in a post-covid era?” Will consumers still want to travel? Will they stay closer to home, now they saw what our own country and the neighboring countries have to offer? A study in cooperation with Abto and the Garantiefonds Reizen (conducted on a quarterly base, with the last wave in November) indicates that Belgians still have a hunger to travel. The vast majority of the consumers is still planning to travel in the coming 12 months, even considering the current situation.

However, our Consumer Pulse Study (conducted mid-July) indicates that these trips will be different compared to normal travel behavior. Consumers indicate that they will especially avoid crowded places like cities, renowned venues – 65% agreed with this statement. Around 60% also says that they will stay closer to home and travel with car to avoid airplanes, trains, ships, etc. This trend also had the effect that hotels became less popular, while we saw an increased interest in other types of accommodation like vacation houses and apartments. This data would suggest that the travel behavior from this year will continue also for 2021 and maybe even further in the future.

The question now of course also raises whether the introduction of the vaccine will have an impact on the travel sector. Will this lead to a feeling of more security with travelers? Or will they still be afraid of the virus? In that case, it will be crucial for the travel operators, the accommodation and transport providers to make sure travelers feel safe and at ease.

Although it’s clear that next year will still be affected greatly by the pandemic, we still don’t know how it will evolve in the longer term. In the past, we also saw a disruption in the travel sector with the 9/11 attacks. This led to a fear to travel with airplanes in the shorter term, but after some time this fear disappeared with the consumers. They fell back to their old habits and could rationalize their fears again. It will be very interesting to see whether this will also be the case in this situation. Will the vaccine be the trigger to go back to normal patterns? Or is this shift here to stay and will travelers discover the local treasures more often? It will be crucial to keep a close eye for the travel sector, to make sure to remain relevant for their clients.


Article by Laura-Ann Merckx.


About GfK Consumer Landscape

The information in this article is based on our GfK Consumer Landscaping. GfK's Consumer landscaping provides a highly accurate view of market dynamics, size, share and landscape, so you can evaluate your brand’s performance compared to your competitors or evaluate the viability of moving into a new market. If you want to know more about GfK's Consumer Landscape, do not hesitate to contact