The ongoing coronavirus outbreak has triggered a wave of cancellations to Italy and caused a sharp drop in bookings to Europe from international source markets, according to a new report from aviation analytics firm ForwardKeys.
According to the study, since China first imposed restrictions on outbound travel the week of January 20 until February 22, when the outbreak in Italy began, bookings to Europe from intercontinental source markets decreased by 23.7 percent. However, in the final week of February (February 23 – 29), the situation worsened, with the overall number of new flight bookings to Europe falling by 79.0 percent.
The first coronavirus case was confirmed in Italy on January 31, ForwardKeys said, when two Chinese tourists tested positive in Rome. This event led to an immediate but temporary dip in bookings to the country; however, after a cluster of cases was detected in the Lombardy region on February 21, and Italy recorded its first coronavirus deaths the following day, bookings to the country began to fall rapidly. During the final week of February, bookings to Italy fell by 138.7 percent, meaning that the number of cancellations exceeded the number of bookings.
Breaking it down by source market, Europe saw a double-digit decline from every region of the world during the last week of February. Bookings from the Americas fell by 68.1 percent, while bookings from the Asia Pacific region fell by 114.2 percent, with cancellations exceeding new bookings. Bookings from Africa and the Middle East fell by 49.9 percent.
Looking at the numbers by sub region, in order of least- to worst-affected, bookings from North Africa decreased by 30.4 percent, from Sub Saharan Africa, by 33.3 percent, from Central America by 63.6 percent, from North America by 63.7 percent, from Middle East by 66.1 percent, from the Caribbean by 66.5 percent, from Oceania by 81.5 percent, from South Asia by 85.9 percent, from South America by 87.1 percent, from South East Asia by 133.2 percent and from North East Asia by 133.5 percent.
While the analysis of bookings shows people’s travel plans, the analysis of arrivals shows how many actually traveled, ForwardKeys said. Looking back over the first two months of the year, visitor arrivals in Europe have shown a two-phased decline as a consequence of the outbreak.
Initially, intercontinental visits to Europe tracked collectively 1.3 percent above 2019 levels in the period from the start of the year to January 28. The first phase of decline in Europe began on January 29, nine days after the beginning of the outbreak in China, when European destinations started to suffer, and arrivals decreased by 17.6 percent from January 29 to February 23. The second phase began with the sharp slump in visits which happened in tandem with the explosion of virus cases in northern Italy. During this phase, arrivals in Europe dropped by 25.9 percent between February 24 and 29 alone, leaving the year to date results 10.5 percent below the same period last year.