Can the rebounding travel industry handle the heat of a Euro summer? 


Global travel security and safety expert Rodger Cook explains how to make the most of doing business during the busiest tourist season in three years 
Image: Getty

Europe, it’s so hot right now. And not just in the heatwave sense. A whip around the boardroom or scroll through social media reveals the northern hemisphere, well in summer’s searing grip, is attracting every type of traveller, from singles and couples to families and those doing business (with a side of leisure) amid the peak season. 

With predictions that travel during this European summer will be the busiest since 2019 becoming a reality, there are many things business travellers need to consider when planning and embarking on a trip.  

Ongoing inflation and persistent staff shortages are sending costs for flights, accommodation and rental cars sky-high, with reports of surges of 50 per cent or more in some regions in just 12 months. 

Traveller assistance cases are also rocketing, with an 80 per cent increase in cases from March to July. This upswing is expected to continue throughout the peak season. 

Plan well, book early 

As the mercury rises and tourists and business travellers alike descend on already-heaving destinations, supply and demand come into play. This starts well before those aircraft wheels lift off the tarmac.  

While the sale of airfares are naturally a great opportunity for businesses to reduce costs, there is no guarantee supply will meet demand, or that sales will provide flights that meet travellers’ needs.  

As with much of the travel industry sectors, it’s a case of throwing out the old rulebook, circa 2019, in favour of a new, more changeable and unpredictable, 2023 version. Longer timeframes than before for making bookings must apply, especially for business travellers needing to arrive within a specific timeframe. Travellers may also need to be prepared to spend a little more money to give them a greater chance of arriving at their destination on time.  

With an anticipated increase in the number of travellers across all of 2023, prices are expected to maintain their upward trajectory over the next 12 months, with demand outstripping supply in every necessary aspect of travel.  

Despite this, travel numbers are expected to surge when compared to the previous year and this will drive continued inflation until the industry is able to refit, restaff and resupply in line with 2019. 

While the industry has progressed from being dramatically under-prepared, under pressure and overwhelmed when travel resumed last year, airlines continue to struggle to fill certain jobs, and the hospitality sector and associated supporting roles are similarly seeing difficulties replacing staff in the wake of the pandemic. 

Expect the unexpected 

Despite a return to relative normalcy in the post-pandemic travel environment, many countries still maintain some travel restrictions. Whether a ban on entry for certain people or additional travel requirements, there are still extra protocols travellers must follow when they arrive in their destination.  

The reopening of travel gateways – blocked for the past two years – meanwhile, is causing a marked decrease in restrictions and requirements, making processes simpler and more streamlined. 

While the industry is readjusting to the summer influx of travellers, delays and strikes are becoming more common across Europe and the UK – with the recent UK Customs and Border Force officials’ strike an example of the major disruption this can cause to those wanting to exit or enter a country. Travellers with no backup plan can quickly be left in limbo.  

For those doing business, with schedules to keep, it’s vital to check for any planned strikes across all transport systems including road, rail and air. In France, for example, Air Traffic Control staff strike regularly, and travellers can be stuck for days with no options.  

Europe’s internal transport systems, including trains, underground, buses and ferries, are normally well equipped for extra travellers during summer but may feel pressure due to the sheer number of visitors anticipated this year. 

Uber and taxis, popular options for business travellers worldwide, may also be harder to book, with long waiting times expected. 

Political events, elections, campaigns, or planned protests can also impact travel plans in certain destinations. Knowing what is happening and when – especially in the case of protests, which can turn violent – can help avoid becoming caught up in unrest.    

Stay vigilant on safety 

With four times more visitors expected in Europe during the warmer months compared to the off-peak season, opportunistic criminals experience rich pickings – it’s their peak season, too. 

Low-level crime was already on an upward trajectory as summer began, with pick-pocketing and muggings the most common offences, in addition to assaults/sexual assaults, low-level fraud, ticket scams and ATM scams.  

Business travellers, toting laptops, additional equipment and sensitive data, need to be particularly vigilant in bigger cities, and busy tourist areas. 

Takeaways for cooling the heat 

Europe has always been popular during summer – and the continent is well used to pressure across general infrastructure and the tourism industry, especially as many travellers usually come from afar, visit several countries in the one trip, and often don’t plan, leaving bookings to the last minute. 

However, as travel continues to bounce back, it is likely shortages across accommodation and transport, as well as delays, will persist. The demand could be too high to handle, too much too soon, meaning the best approach is to plan ahead to beat the heat, however you define it. 

Rodger Cook is the General Manager – Global Security Services – for Cover-More Group’s global traveller assistance business, World Travel Protection, with 30 years’ of experience working in high-risk destinations supporting travel risk management programs. 

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