Like the rest of the world, the Eastern Europe region has not escaped the COVID-19 pandemic, although each country’s government response has differed, according to Phocuswright’s latest travel research report Eastern Europe Travel Market Report 2020-2024.
Bulgaria was among the hardest hit by COVID, and still required proof of vaccination, recovery from COVID or a negative COVID test to enter the country as of July 2021.
Conversely, in Greece, where 20% of the population is employed in the tourism sector, most travel restrictions were lifted in spring 2021 and inbound visitors from 53 approved countries could enter the country without having to quarantine.
Domestic travel has, in fact, been a lifeline for several Eastern Europe travel markets, where COVID vaccination rates remain stubbornly low.
In Russia, Bulgaria and Ukraine, for example, less than 20% of each country’s population had been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by early August 2021. With a history of living behind the Soviet Union’s “Iron Curtain,” many Eastern Europeans have a strong desire to travel despite the risks.
OTAs will lose ground to travel suppliers, which will combine pandemic-based government subsidies with technology investments to improve the ease-of-use and functionality of their websites and mobile apps.
As a result, supplier share of the online travel market will expand from 58% in 2020 to a projected 59% in 2024 (see figure below). OTAs will maintain an edge in Eastern Europe’s fragmented hotel market, but struggle to keep up with government-backed suppliers in the airline and rail segments.
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