• Domestic tourism is rebounding in Europe as countries ease restrictions.
  • Unique “experience” holidays and “staycations” are reporting buoyant bookings.
  • This is in contrast to the global picture: the OECD forecasts the international tourism economy could decline 60-80% in 2020.
  • World Travel & Tourism Council says 10% of jobs worldwide are in tourism, generating 10.3% of global GDP.

Tents in trees, “watermelon” cabins, going off-grid. These are just some of the unusual ways people are spending their longed-for summer holidays in Europe, with quirky retreats reporting brisk business.

And as the continent’s lockdowns lift, some booking sites have reported record sales, buoyed by surging demand for “staycations” amid continued foreign travel restrictions.

A survey in Ireland found 94% would prefer to holiday at home this year.

It’s some good news for the beleaguered global travel industry – a huge employer whose airlines and millions of staff face an uncertain future. According to OECD forecasts, international tourism could decline by between 60% and 80% in 2020

‘Experience’ holidays

"It's hanging free in the air, relating to your childhood dreams, building a hut in your tree."

This is how Dutch artist, Dre Wapenaar, describes his teardrop-shaped tents that hang from trees. They have become a popular alternative holiday destination in Belgium, and can also be found in France, the Netherlands and the United States. He says the tents have been booked up faster than usual this year.

Coronavirus holiday covid leisure aviation flights travel vacation stay camping glamping sleep hotel experience sun beach coast river getaway idea creative interesting china virus health healthcare who world health organization disease deaths pandemic epidemic worries concerns Health virus contagious contagion viruses diseases disease lab laboratory doctor health dr nurse medical medicine drugs vaccines vaccinations inoculations technology testing test medicinal biotechnology biotech biology chemistry physics microscope research influenza flu cold common cold bug risk symptomes respiratory china iran italy europe asia america south america north washing hands wash hands coughs sneezes spread spreading precaution precautions health warning covid 19 cov SARS 2019ncov wuhan sarscow wuhanpneumonia  pneumonia outbreak patients unhealthy fatality mortality elderly old elder age serious death deathly deadly
Watermelon-shaped cabins are proving a popular retreat in rural Spain.
Image: Reuters/Jon Nazca

Similarly eccentric and beguiling are the watermelon-shaped cabins at "Villa Sandia" in southern Spain. Made out of pottery and shaped like vegetables and fruits, they’ve also seen an upswing in bookings, according to the campsite owner.

Coronavirus holiday covid leisure aviation flights travel vacation stay camping glamping sleep hotel experience sun beach coast river getaway idea creative interesting china virus health healthcare who world health organization disease deaths pandemic epidemic worries concerns Health virus contagious contagion viruses diseases disease lab laboratory doctor health dr nurse medical medicine drugs vaccines vaccinations inoculations technology testing test medicinal biotechnology biotech biology chemistry physics microscope research influenza flu cold common cold bug risk symptomes respiratory china iran italy europe asia america south america north washing hands wash hands coughs sneezes spread spreading precaution precautions health warning covid 19 cov SARS 2019ncov wuhan sarscow wuhanpneumonia  pneumonia outbreak patients unhealthy fatality mortality elderly old elder age serious death deathly deadly
Many people expect to travel abroad less after COVID-19, favouring ‘staycations’ instead.
Image: Statista

Rural retreats

The popularity of remote rural getaways appears to be reflected elsewhere on the continent.

In the UK, alternative getaway sites like Host Unusual – which offers “unique and unusual places to stay” – have benefited from the appetite for seclusion.

Coronavirus holiday covid leisure aviation flights travel vacation stay camping glamping sleep hotel experience sun beach coast river getaway idea creative interesting china virus health healthcare who world health organization disease deaths pandemic epidemic worries concerns Health virus contagious contagion viruses diseases disease lab laboratory doctor health dr nurse medical medicine drugs vaccines vaccinations inoculations technology testing test medicinal biotechnology biotech biology chemistry physics microscope research influenza flu cold common cold bug risk symptomes respiratory china iran italy europe asia america south america north washing hands wash hands coughs sneezes spread spreading precaution precautions health warning covid 19 cov SARS 2019ncov wuhan sarscow wuhanpneumonia  pneumonia outbreak patients unhealthy fatality mortality elderly old elder age serious death deathly deadly
This former chapel in Cornwall, south-west England, is now a secluded holiday home.
Image: reida And the Moon

“People are looking at holidays that involve less travel overall, not necessarily just avoiding airports and ports,” Host Unusual director Alex Wilson tells Bristol Live.

“The desire to go somewhere safe and switch off from the panic of current affairs has seen a marked rise in off-grid places.”

Bright spots

These stories of growth in tourism are welcome developments for a sector that the World Travel & Tourism Council estimates accounts for around 10% of all jobs worldwide and generates more than 10% of global GDP.

And while Europe’s airlines are expected to make huge losses this year, with painful consequences for jobs, skies are also clearer – and cleaner.

However, it remains to be seen whether these trends will continue when (or if) the pandemic is finally defeated.

Aviation

What is the World Economic Forum doing to reduce aviation's carbon footprint?

As other sectors proceed to decarbonize, the aviation sector could account for a much higher share of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by mid-century than its 2%-3% share today. With the number of air travel passengers expected to double by 2035, there's a strong urgency for the aviation industry to act to ensure it can meet this demand in an environmentally sustainable manner.

Sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) can reduce the life-cycle carbon footprint of aviation fuel by up to 80%, but they currently make up less than 0.1% of total aviation fuel consumption. Enabling a shift from fossil fuels to SAFs will require a significant increase in production, which is a costly investment.

Launched in September 2019, the Forum’s Clean Skies for Tomorrow (CST) Coalition is a global initiative driving the transition to sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) as part of the aviation industry’s ambitious efforts to achieve carbon-neutral flying.

Run in collaboration with the Energy Transitions Commission and the Rocky Mountain Institute, with the Air Transport Action Group as an advisory partner, CST brings together government leaders, climate experts and CEOs from aviation, energy, finance and other sectors who agree on the urgent need to help the aviation industry reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Learn more about the Clean Skies for Tomorrow Coalition's impact and contact us to find out how you can get involved.

Pre-coronavirus, the aviation industry was responsible for about 2% of global carbon emissions, and the sector is more than a decade into a strategy to play its part in reducing climate change, according to industry body the IATA.

As the world looks towards a Great Reset after the crisis, experts say there is a fresh opportunity for governments and industry to cooperate on projects to create the systems and tools we need to fight climate change and build sustainable growth.