Worried, Belgians adapt their holiday intentions to the context of COVID-19

According to a survey carried out by Ipsos for the Europ Assistance Group1 , 82% of Belgians say they are going on holiday this year. Among them, 59% intend to leave this summer.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting health measures have had a significant impact on the Belgian way of life. Their travel plans have been compromised since March. The easing of measures and the reopening of our borders go hand in hand with the realisation of travel plans for some of them. However, COVID-19 strongly influences the behaviour of holidaymakers, as well as their travel intentions. The survey conducted in June by the Europ Assistance Group and carried out by Ipsos among 11,001 people on three continents, including 1,000 in Belgium, highlights certain clear trends. We are particularly interested here in the results for Belgium.

Impact of COVID-19 on the Belgians

We know that COVID-19 had a direct and significant impact on the population. Indeed:

  • 72% of Belgian respondents said they were concerned about the risks that COVID-19 might have on their health;
  • 30% said they had been financially impacted by the crisis;
  • 20% have been affected by the disease themselves or one of their relatives.

What are the fears of Belgian travellers regarding COVID-19?

Belgian respondents expressed a variety of fears that could impact their stay. The main fear expressed is that of a resurgence of the COVID-19 epidemic during their trip (for 34%).
The other fears put forward concern:

  • the possibility of quarantine (33%);
  • falling ill during the trip (26%);
  • the inability to carry out planned visits, activities and leisure activities because of COVID-19 (25%);
  • inability to return home (21%);
  • the possible closure of bars, restaurants and hotels due to COVID-19 (20%);
  • the need to cancel the trip (18%);
  • the effectiveness of the medical infrastructure in the country visited (12%).

How do Belgian holidaymakers plan to adapt their behaviour?

Travellers who have actually made the decision to go on holiday this summer have taken COVID-19 into account and will prefer to avoid restricted areas and crowds. Thus, 72% of Belgian respondents with a travel plan say they will avoid certain particularly affected countries and crowded places and 62% will favour places from which they can easily return. 54% will avoid planes and airports.
This is reflected in the means of transport favoured by Belgians during their holidays:

  • 69% will prefer to go by car this summer (compared to 55% in 2019)2 ;
  • 61% will avoid cruises;
  • and only 26% plan to go by plane this summer (against 43% in 2019).

This summer, the car seems to be the means of transport in which the traveller feels safest and which allows him/her to reach his/her destination (and return quickly). These precautions go hand in hand with the purchase of insurance and assistance in order to be prepared for any eventuality. Thus, 93% consider it very important to have good medical coverage, 87% to have cancellation insurance and 83% to have luggage insurance.

Which destinations and types of accommodation will Belgians choose this summer?

The survey conducted in June revealed that 23% of Belgians had already booked their holidays this summer and 14% were planning to do so soon.

  • 23% intended to travel to Belgium or to staycation (compared to 18% in summer 2019);
  • 64% in Europe (of which a majority in France);
  • 8% hoped to be able to travel outside Europe.

Compared to previous years, the types of accommodation favoured this summer are also impacted by the crisis. Hotels, which are usually very popular, are chosen by only 38% of Belgian holidaymakers this summer compared to 53% in 2019. Private rentals and campsites also remain popular (respectively 35% and 15% against 35 and 13% in 2019).

What kind of holidays are Belgians looking for and how long are they staying?

Contrary to the results of 2019 (47%), holidays spent with family and/or friends no longer seem to be the preferred formula since only 18% of respondents plan this type of holiday for their next stays. The majority will leave with their family "bubble". Furthermore, 27% say they want to go to the beach, 15% to the countryside and 11% to the city.

Long-term stays are still popular, with 48% of Belgians surveyed planning to leave for 2 weeks or more during the summer of 2020. On the other hand, only 6% of those surveyed plan to go away for a weekend, compared with 14% for 3 or 4 days.

What budget will Belgian households spend on their next big trip?

The average budget that Belgian households say they plan to spend on their next trip (in the summer or later in the year) is also affected by the crisis, rising from 2,242 EUR last year to 1,788 EUR this year. The effect of the crisis on the incomes of some people and the prudence and uncertainty of the current situation probably explain this decline. Nevertheless, the Belgian budget for holidays is higher than the European average of 1,604 EUR.

At the Belgian level, French-speaking households (Brussels and Wallonia) would be prepared to spend more on their holidays than Dutch speakers (Flanders), respectively 1,886 EUR and 1,690 EUR.

Access the global report

Online survey conducted by Ipsos at the request of Europ Assistance among 11,000 individuals (nationally representative samples of 1,000 people per country) in Europe (France, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Spain, Italy, Poland and the UK), in Asia (China and Thailand) and in the USA. This survey is an updated version of the annual Europ Assistance & Ipsos Holiday Barometer, which was getting underway when the general lock-down began. The goal of this survey is to ascertain how the Covid-19 epidemic has altered holidaymakers’ travel plans and aspirations, in order to assist the various players in the tourism sector in preparing for the “post-Covid world”.