Consumer research suggests heatwaves in Europe could affect travel plans

Latest consumer research suggests a significant minority of holidaymakers may think twice about visiting the hottest parts of Europe in peak summer following last year’s heatwave.

A survey of UK adults’ holiday intentions by market researcher Kantar found 28% of those planning a holiday this year agreed with the statement: ‘I am less likely to take a holiday in southern Europe due to the extreme weather conditions in recent years.’

One in five (22%) of those who had visited southern Europe in the last 12 months also agreed. Kantar Media director Charlie Gordon said “this was a new question” in a regular survey, explaining: “We saw striking scenes of heatwaves and flooding in 2023, particularly in southern Europe, and thought it interesting to consider whether it would start impacting how people feel about what they do.”

He said: “I don’t think we expected to see numbers that strong. We should couch it by saying over a third didn’t think it was a factor. But over a quarter of people are asking, ‘Is it a good idea to book if it’s going to be 45 degrees?’

More: Demand for alternative destinations rising amid Southern Europe heatwave

We’ll certainly want to keep an eye on that.” Gordon noted: “Those who agreed were younger and less likely to cite [good] weather as an important factor when booking a holiday.” He suggested: “We’re beginning to see a generational gap in what people look for from holidays.” Agents reported few signs of consumer concerns about extreme weather affecting booking trends for this summer.

Sandra Corkin, managing director of Northern Irish agency chain Oasis Travel, said: “We did get clients changing their destination and time of travel at the time of the wildfires [last summer], but this is less apparent now. Some families have chosen Scandinavia to avoid extreme heat, but these are the minority.

For peak summer, the usual destinations are proving most popular.” Seaside Travel brand manager Richard Lowrey-Heywood said: “Our weekly reports from shop managers have no mention of anything to do with extreme weather.” Inspired Travel managing director Kate Harris said: “I’ve not had any clients saying they are worried about the weather.”

The Advantage Travel Partnership chief commercial officer Kelly Cookes said price was driving more consumers to book in the shoulder seasons rather than climate, with the Mediterranean, Canary Islands and Greece expected to remain this summer’s top sellers. Heidi Evans, director of Oasis Travel Worldchoice in Stoke-on-Trent, agreed: “People are going where they can with their budget.”

Barrhead Travel president Jacqueline Dobson urged the industry to monitor climate-related booking trends but said consumers were currently choosing holidays based on where they “genuinely want to go” rather than for cooler weather.

However, a survey of 2,000 UK adults on behalf of Travel Counsellors in autumn last year found 40% said record summer temperatures in southern Europe in 2023 had affected their summer 2024 plans, with younger respondents most likely to agree.

Travel Counsellors chief executive Steve Byrne said: “We have seen similar data that shows people changing their plans to some extent. We’ve not picked that up [in bookings], but I think people will take it into account.”

More: Demand for alternative destinations rising amid Southern Europe heatwave

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