While the winter season is getting off to a flying start for ski resorts, sun destinations are struggling more to win back the hearts of the French. The desire to travel again seems to be present, but the lack of visibility of certain destinations in terms of health still hinders the return of tourists.
“We are late compared to the 2019 winter season”summarized with The gallery the president of Travel Companies Jean-Pierre Mas. “For December 2021, bookings with travel agencies are around 20% below their 2019 level”he explains, “and this delay is 60% for January”.
However, the trend is not homogeneous. Some sun destinations are soaring again, and are even recording higher levels of bookings than in 2019. Eager to get a change of scenery and recharge their batteries, the French are rushing to two long-haul destinations in particular: the Dominican Republic and the island Mauritius.
Top 2 long-haul flights: the Dominican Republic and Mauritius
For the Christmas holidays, the Dominican Republic is THE most popular destination, registering a level of reservations “twice that of 2019” from travel agencies. For its part, Mauritius recorded a level of reservations “20 to 30% higher than in 2019”according to the President of the Syndicate of Tour Operating Companies (SETO) Rene-Marc Chikli. This situation can be explained in particular by the high vaccination rate of the population (69.4%), and the total vaccination of all tourism professionals on the island.
On the long haul, come the United Arab Emirates, which registers with travel agencies “double bookings for December compared to 2019”, according to Jean-Pierre Mas. Order intake is also very strong for this winter in the Seychelles and the Maldives.
Another destination with the wind in its sails and which has just re-entered the long-haul market: the United States, very popular with French tourists. “It is picking up very strongly”remarks the president of SETO, who notes that on this destination, “we are more on small volumes but higher expenses”. According to him, “It’s a rather upscale clientele, generally families, who want to spend Christmas in the United States, mostly in New York or on the West Coast”.
Finally, Tanzania is a country that is recovering its pre-covid level of attractiveness for this winter: “Tanzania is a destination that has always done well and is picking up very well”testifies René-Marc Chikli.
The Canary Islands: number one in medium-haul
For medium-haul, Spain comes first, with the Canary Islands, which are number one, far ahead of the other destinations. Only downside: the eruption of the volcano, which somewhat cooled tourists by creating a zone of uncertainty, but did not prevent the Canaries from catalysing the bulk of reservations abroad on the medium-haul.
Next comes Finland, famous for its Santa Claus village in Lapland, which is “faithful to herself” and “continues to attract massively for the December holidays”according to SETO President René-Marc Chikli.
On the Maghreb side, Morocco and Tunisia continue to attract again, but the recovery is relatively slow compared to the situation in 2019. In Egypt too, tourist activity is picking up ” calmly “, according to René-Marc Chikli. It remains to be seen whether these destinations will attract more tourists for the months of January, February and March, for which Tunisia or Egypt generally attract tourists.
Because for now, the general trend for sun destinations is clearly towards last-minute bookings: “we anticipate less distant holidays”, notes Jean-Pierre Mas. And to add: “the level of reservations is quite high for the month of December, but very low for the February holidays”. According to him, reservations “take place in the very short term”and in the event of border closures and therefore cancellation of their holidays, the French “immediately report to another destination”he confides.
Asia and South America: the major absentees
Some destinations are also noticeable by their absence, such as Asia and South America.
Asia is one of the sun destinations that attracted massive numbers in 2019 and for which the recovery is more complicated; only exception: Thailand, which should leave but “is not yet a clearly legible destination from the point of view of health restrictions”explains René-Marc Chikli.
South America is also one of the big absentees for this winter, with tourists more reluctant to stay there due to a high rate of contamination but also political problems, as in Cuba or Mexico.
The French West Indies in a delicate situation
Finally, the French West Indies are also in a delicate situation: the low vaccination rate and the tense social situation seem to be leading to a dive in reservations, as noted by the president of Les Entreprises du Voyage Jean-Pierre Mas: “bookings in the West Indies tend to dip, except for affinity trips”he analyzes.
In general, a trend is being felt both in sun destinations and in skiing: the lengthening of the average length of stay for the Christmas holidays, which has gone from six days before the crisis to eight days now. Another trend: the French, some of whom saved during the crisis, are allocating a larger budget this year to their winter holidays: “we see an increase in the budget for these winter holidays, knowing that tourists who go to the sun or ski only represent 30% of the population”concludes the President of the Travel Companies.